During this year's Over 40 & Fabulous! contest, you voted these contestants as the most fabulous of Atlanta's over-40 crowd. They're fitness studio owners, nonprofit CEOs, doctors, moms and more. Meet them all – and the contest's Advisory Board members – on the next pages!
Michelle Fabulich Hodgson
As the mom of five kids, 42-year-old Michelle Hodgson has full hands and a fuller heart. She's also the CEO and founder of the nonprofit organization Children Helping Children, which she began in honor of her third son, Cole, who passed away in 2007. CHC's ongoing service activities include assembling and donating "Be Well Bears" to support other local children, holding a teen-led service-based festival each October, and encouraging children to identify the ways they can share their unique gifts to help the community. Michelle's loving attitude pervades the organization and the rest of her life, which includes fun family adventures and a focus on the truly important things in life.
"True youth comes from a youthful spirit. I still act like a kid – take risks, learn new things as much as possible and remember the joy of feeling alive."
What is the best thing you've learned about yourself since turning 40? It's more important to be peaceful than right. Ultimately even the most aggressive problems have spiritual and peaceful solutions.
How has your perception of this age changed since you were younger? Forty did seem so old when I was young, but true youth comes from a youthful spirit. I still act like a kid, take risks and learn new things as much as possible.
What is your favorite way to work out? Marathon running, surfing and yoga. My workout goal this year is to be half as good at rock climbing as my older son is.
What is your favorite healthy meal? Constantly changing concoction of raw vegetables, fruits and nuts blended in my Vitamix.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? Pretty much any organization that supports children, women, education, human and civil rights, animal protection and the environment tugs on my heartstrings. But Children Helping Children definitely gets the lion's share of my attention. Children Helping Children inspires kids to give back to other kids in Atlanta, and our roots are based deeply in diversity and celebrating the uniqueness of each child. We connect children from different socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures, religions and abilities and put them in the driver's seat by providing a platform for their ideas that ultimately create service projects that benefit nonprofits in Georgia, such as Kate's Club, Camp Sunshine, Atlanta Mission, Stand Up For Kids, CHOA and Emmaus House to name a few.
What is your favorite getaway? Surfing at the beach, silent retreats, Jeep excursions, camping, hiking and getting lost in nature.
How do you maintain the balance between self-care, family and work responsibilities, and giving back? I can write on and on about multitasking, delegating, exercise, eating right and being organized, but the irony is that all of those things can fill up a day and create their own kind of chaos. There is only one true way for me to find complete balance, and that is connecting to source. If I do that, the rest of the day is in harmony.
What advice do you have for someone who isn't yet over 40 and fabulous? Live every day fully in the moment. Pretend like it's your last day on the planet. We come from love, so be love and give love. Love is really all there is.
Not one to stop working when she clocks out, Debora is always striving to realize her next vision. She is the founder and CEO of Twice as Nice Uniforms, a company built on a better concept for medical scrubs, and the co-founder of The CPR Sisters. She’s 55 and doesn’t plan to slow down any time soon!
“I can accomplish anything I set out to do. Life continues to get better and better!”
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? My son, Jordan, is by far my best accomplishment. He is an Eagle Scout, graphic designer and a wonderful young man who is wise beyond his years.
What is your favorite healthy meal? Salmon and asparagus with a nice glass of Cabernet.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? I have been a leader in CPR/AED education for over 15 years, and I volunteer my time educating the public about the necessity of AED placement in the community and the importance of learning basic life support skills. I have been a volunteer with the Nader Parman Memorial Fund. Nader was a young boy who suffered sudden cardiac arrest at the age of 7 and did not survive. His mother, Sherri, is very active in educating people as to why we need AEDs wherever children play.
Another passion of mine is working with adults with disabilities. In college, I worked to devise toothbrushes that physically handicapped people could use. In the dental practice that I currently work in, I have patients with both physical and mental disabilities, and they are all a true inspiration to me.
What makes you laugh? The funny things my pug Miriam does, fun nights out with friends, and a really smart joke!
What is your favorite quote? “An optimist is someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, but more like a cha-cha.”
What advice do you have for someone who isn’t yet over 40 and fabulous? Be mindful of your diet, exercise daily, take very good care of your skin and put your family first. These are very hard things to do when you are younger, but the earlier you learn this, the happier you will be.
Desireé McCarthy-Keith, MD
This 43-year-old fertility specialist works with Georgia Reproductive Specialists to build families and educate women about their health. She is also helping launch the local chapter of Fertility for Colored Girls this spring to improve fertility education and awareness for women of color. Desireé is also a mom of two who uses creative workouts and plant-focused meals to stay healthy and energized.
"Create your own definition of fabulous, and don't be afraid to show your authentic self."
What is the best thing you've learned about yourself since turning 40? At over 40, I have truly gotten in touch with who I am and what I want out of life. I feel healthier and more beautiful than ever in my life!
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? I am most proud of my two sons. They are smart, funny, polite and compassionate boys who are going to change the world.
What is your favorite book? "Beloved" by Toni Morrison
What is your favorite way to work out? I do 400 reps with my weighted hula hoop a few times a week. It's great for my core. I use a body bar for upper body, choose stairs over elevator and roller skate with my boys every chance I get.
What is your favorite healthy meal? I start my day with a green smoothie of spinach, chard, avocado, flax meal and banana. I love to cook, and I can veganize almost any dish!
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? I am a huge advocate for women's health education. So many women tell me that they wish they had been educated about their reproductive options at a younger age, and I want to increase that awareness. I devote my time to health fairs and speaking engagements whenever I can, and I am excited to help launch the Atlanta Chapter of Fertility for Colored Girls support group this spring.
Name something on your bucket list. Meet Stevie Wonder, make a guest appearance on Sesame Street, and go on an African safari with my sons.
Where do you see yourself in 20 years? I will still be working hard in my practice and living each day to the fullest. It is such a privilege to help build families through my work, and I look forward to watching my babies grow up in the coming years.
At age 45, Nancy Nusbaum serves as an assessment coordinator at GIVE Center West Campus, Gwinnett County Public Schools. Outside of school, though, she's an open-water swimmer and a triathlon coach for underprivileged kids.
"You are only as old as you feel. Defy age expectations!"
What is the best thing you've learned about yourself since turning 40? I've learned to stop apologizing. I'm comfortable in my own skin and the way I live my life. Also, you are only as old as you feel. Defy age expectations!
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? Whether counseling and assisting students in being successful or coaching children to compete in their first triathlon, empowering children to realize their full potential is my best accomplishment.
What is your favorite book? "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho. It reminds me not to discount my journey and that what I seek may have been under my nose the entire time.
What is your favorite way to work out? My favorite workout is open water swimming, preferably in the ocean.
What is your favorite healthy meal? Right now, a heaping salad of organic greens and veggies topped with a salmon is my go-to meal.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? As head swim coach of Tri Kids Atlanta, I have collaborated with the other coaches and conducted the Tri Kids swim workouts the past five years. The organization provides training, equipment and financial support to kids interested in competing in triathlons. I have also volunteered with Urban Perform, chaired the Ovarian Cycle annual fundraising event and worked with Team Legacy Youth Triathlon Camp. I get inspired by seeing others succeed at something they thought was impossible.
Where do you see yourself in 20 years? Diana Nyad swam from Cuba to Florida when she was 64 – so the possibilities are endless!
At age 53, Michelle is a health and fitness coach and a mom to 11-year-old Trey. As a volunteer with multiple organizations, she works hard to share the love and empathy her family instilled in her, and she takes great care of herself along the way.
"I've learned to focus my time and energy on the truly valuable things in life: faith, family and friends."
What is the best thing you've learned about yourself since turning 40? The value of material items pales in comparison to the things that really matter.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? My greatest accomplishment has been giving birth to a healthy son after being told my chances of conceiving after 40 were slim-to-none. He is now a healthy, happy 11-year-old.
What is your favorite way to work out? Kickboxing and weight training three to four times per week.
What is your favorite healthy meal? Grilled fish and veggies with a salad or rice.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? I regularly host cooking classes to teach women how to integrate nutrition into their lives. I further pour into the
hearts of women and children through my volunteer service with The Atlanta Women's Foundation, The C5 Foundation, Jack & Jill and AAMO boys (African American Manhood Organization).
What is your favorite quote? "When your desire to change is greater than your desire to stay the same, great things happen."
Where do you see yourself in 20 years? Hopefully I can inspire Best Self to create a new competition: "Stunning over 70!"
At 47, Trina works with her husband at Flawless Painting and is a regular volunteer at the Aflac Cancer Center. Inspired by her own mother's cancer journey, she's always on the lookout for ways to support cancer patients and keep herself healthy along the way.
"Life is precious, and every day is a gift!"
What is the best thing you've learned about yourself since turning 40? There are several: I cannot change another human being. I am growing and developing into the best version of myself. Happiness is a choice.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? My daughter, Kalea, is my best accomplishment and greatest, gift for sure! I raised her as a single parent 14 out of 22 years – challenging, yet incredibly rewarding.
What is your favorite book? "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brené Brown. It encourages each of us to embrace being beautifully imperfect and living wholeheartedly. My copy is all marked up, dog-eared, circled and starred with my favorite parts!
What is your favorite way to work out? With my trainer Julian at SFX Fitness. He reminds me I'm capable of more than I realize.
What is your favorite healthy meal? Grilled fish and my husband's delicious Brussels sprouts.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? Every Wednesday since 2006, I volunteer at the Aflac Cancer Center. I give blankets and pillows to the children, play games with them, grab Starbucks for the parents, transport patients in wheelchairs or be a shoulder to lean on – basically whatever needs to be done that day. My philosophy is to treat every family the way I would want to be treated if my daughter was the patient. My daughter and I also created a business called Bead a Blessing, and we donate 10 percent of our sales to help meet the practical needs of families going through cancer.
What inspired you to do this particular kind of charity work? Experiencing my mom's cancer journey forever changed my life and the lives around me. Life is precious, and every day is a gift!
At 55, Julie is the owner of Fit: To Be fitness studio and a supporter of local Urban Perform, which provides fitness programs to underserved children in Atlanta. Her journey of self-acceptance and living life to the fullest has culminated in her own fitness studio and all-around healthy lifestyle.
"I used to be so hard on myself, but the truth is that I'm just fine the way I am."
What is your favorite way to work out? My favorite workout is the one I developed in my backyard – seriously – and what I teach: it is a combination of what I've learned over the last 20 years and what works for me.
What is your favorite healthy meal? A delicious green smoothie makes me feel great.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? I donate 100 percent of the proceeds of one Fit: To Be class per month to Urban Perform, which provides fitness programs to help fight obesity in underserved Atlanta neighborhoods. I think it's important to keep it local and to find ways to help people in our own communities.
What makes you laugh? John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Over the last 10 years, the most consistent laughs I've gotten are from those guys. Don't ask me how I feel about John Stewart retiring. OMG.
Who helps you be your best self? My wonderful Fit: To Be colleagues, especially Bryn Chafin, who is my right hand, and Karen Snider, Claudia Marcela, Marshall Harbison and Ashley Marrone, who bring their best and most innovative teaching to my studio. Above all, Kimberly Stewart. Not only is she my best friend and love, she believes in me. She challenges me to go for what I want most in my life. She inspires, loves and supports me, no matter what.
What advice do you have for someone who isn't yet over 40 and fabulous? Realize that you are good enough.
At 46, Jackie Madison is a lifestyle and weight management specialist. She provides her services through Southern Plastic Surgery, P.C., and her own business, Glamour Girl Fitness. She's also mom to two kids and an advocate for healthy living at every age.
"Age ain't nothing but a number. Embrace it!"
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? My best accomplishment is giving birth to a beautiful baby girl at age 43 after being considered high risk for my age. This inspired me to share my story and start my business/network Glamour Girl Fitness to motivate women particularly of a mature age to improve their overall health and fitness through a lasting lifestyle change.
What is your favorite book? "The Power of Your Subconscious Mind" by Joseph Murphy. It provides the tools you need to unlock your mind to obtain the things you desire in life.
What is your favorite way to work out? My favorite way to workout is with my husband doing cardio combined with strength training exercises.
What is your favorite healthy meal? I really love grilled chicken and broccoli.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? My favorite way to give back is participating in health fairs within the community by educating on lifestyle and weight management. I annually support and participate in Relay For Life, volunteer on my son's school council and work with the health and wellness ministry at New Life Church.
What is your most embarrassing moment? When I was supposed to be listening in on a conference call for a meeting, I accidentally unmuted my phone, and the other participants could hear me placing an order for fast food.
Name something on your bucket list. To appear on a nationally syndicated daytime talk show.
Kara Martin, MD
This 44-year-old doctor is an internist and lead hospitalist for the Kaiser Permanente hospitalist team at Piedmont Hospital. She is also a mom of two and a past pageant winner who gives back through the pageant organizations that gave so much to her.
"There are always ups and downs to every phase of life, and the ups of this age are fantastic!"
What is the best thing you've learned about yourself since turning 40? We all have a purpose, and my purpose has become very clear to me as I have become older, which has led to a sense of happiness and peace.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? My family. We have two children, a 7-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl, and my hope is to raise them to feel the same unconditional love that I grew up with.
What is your favorite healthy meal? I am particularly fond of breakfast and love starting the day with almond milk, gluten-free waffles and an egg.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? I love everything the Miss America Program stands for, and the scholarships I won through competing completely paid for medical school. Since winning Miss Georgia 1993 and placing first runner-up to Miss America, I have prioritized giving back to this fantastic organization whenever I can. I have judged numerous local and state pageants throughout the years. It is quite a time commitment, but I have met so many wonderful people.
What makes you laugh? When my children laugh, I laugh! We enjoy sitting down as a family and watching old "Three's Company" reruns.
Busy as a UXD / Customer Experience Consultant at Slalom Consulting by day, Kat Spivey still makes time to serve on the board of the Mark Carroll and Friends foundation and help organize toy drives and fundraisers each year. At 44, her adventurous spirit keeps life fun and fabulous.
"Being healthy and working hard are important, but so is eating your favorite dessert or staying up way too late with friends. It's all about balance."
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? My favorite way of giving back is during the holidays, helping to provide funds and toys for families in need. It breaks my heart to think of a child waking up Christmas morning without gifts or a family meal. I became a board member of the Mark Carroll and Friends charity the year I turned 40, and it has been some of the most rewarding work I have ever experienced. Last year we raised 2,000 toys and $42,000 dollars that we donated to various organizations to help those families in need. With Mark Carroll's vision, our goal is to double that in 2015.
What makes you laugh? Jimmy Fallon and Ellen DeGeneres – no one makes me laugh like those two.
Name something on your bucket list. Number one item on my bucket list is to meet and spend time with an elephant. I am intrigued by their high intellect, beauty, grace and the emotional connection they have with people.
Who helps you be your best self? I enjoy Core Fusion classes at exhale Spa and weight training at LA Fitness. Alyson at Vis-à-vis Salon is my amazing hair colorist, and Rachel Jenniges at Coleman Alexander Salon is my fabulous hair stylist. I enjoy facials and skin treatments at Blue Med Spa.
Where do you see yourself in 20 years? I see myself traveling all over the world with my siblings and my dear friends.
Fabulous Five Contest Winners
This year's nominees were so wonderful and the contest itself so close in votes that we couldn't stop at the top 10. Here are the next fabulous five winners, who teach fitness classes, support Atlanta charities and look great doing it.
Jocelyn A. McCarthy
As an indoor cycling "Cycologist" at the new Cyc Fitness Buckhead, Jocelyn McCarthy is fit at 47. She's also an independent brand partner at Nerium International, a wife and mom of four who enjoys travel, giving back and staying active.
How has your perception of this age changed since you were younger? Now I realize that with every year I am blessed with, I gain exponentially. Wisdom is a precious gift that only comes with age.
What is your favorite way to work out? My favorite workouts have always involved a combination of intense cardio with focused strength training – and it has to be fun!
What is your favorite healthy meal? Broiled salmon, sautéed asparagus and wild rice. Yum!
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? Our family is keenly aware of the world around us. Being so incredibly blessed, we are always looking for ways to give back, especially to those less fortunate than ourselves. Together we've served at The Nicholas House (a transitional housing center for the homeless) and Sheltering Arms Early Education & Learning Center, and we regularly donate to nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping those in need such as Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Heifer International, Samaritan's Purse, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Vietnam Veterans of America and Hope House.
What advice do you have for someone who isn't yet over 40 and fabulous? Pay the closest attention to what goes on inside your own mind, heart, body and soul. Most of the answers we seek from others already exist within us.
As a wellness and lifestyle coach and musician at age 40, Claire Pearson is always looking for ways to stay passionate and give back.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? I learned to play the guitar in my 30s as a stress reliever and have since released two albums as Pearson Perry and started a songwriters group, Atlanta Intown Songwriters, that has over 500 members. I'm pretty proud of that!
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? I use my passion for music as a way to give back. I regularly perform at no charge or I donate 100 percent of the proceeds to nonprofit causes I believe in, such as Partnership Against Domestic Violence, Georgia Breast Cancer Coalition Fund, Children's Restoration Network and 500 Songs for Kids.
Name something on your bucket list. I'd really like to sing at least one song on stage with the Indigo Girls!
Collette L. McDonald
At 45, Collette McDonald is a single mom of two boys, a real estate agent, and neighborhood fitness instructor.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? Around the time the recession hit, my neighbor was overweight, had twins at home and couldn't afford to join a gym, so I decided to open up my workouts to a few people in the neighborhood. That is how our Fit Club started, and eight years later, they are still coming. I lead anywhere from 20 to 35 people in a 45-minute workout at 5:45 in the morning in our neighborhood for free. I'm thankful to have these amazing people in my life as workout partners and friends.
What is your favorite healthy meal? Sushi or a Caprese salad – simple and delicious!
What is your favorite quote? "In order to be irresistible, one must always be different." – Coco Chanel
As the founder of Hope's Yoga, Hope Knosher is a yoga teacher, writer, speaker and healthy living enthusiast. At 52, she is also a cancer survivor who finds her inspiration to give back in her own survival story.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? I have two beautiful teenage daughters that I am so proud of. As I made my way through cancer, I found myself in a yoga studio in the hope that it would in some way help me to heal. I felt directly called to teach, write and to share my story about how yoga and mindfulness, along with a healthy diet, can help others to live a more connected and meaningful life. That is when I founded Hope's Yoga and began teaching, speaking and writing. I consider both having my daughters and founding Hope's Yoga as callings from my heart. I am deeply touched and transformed by both.
What is your favorite book? "The Untethered Soul" by Michael A. Singer
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? I have had the privilege of working with the 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer for the past few years, and I will be leading a free yoga class on the lawn at Avalon on October 1 to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
At age 44, Karen is a commercial photographer and branding specialist. She and her husband are even expanding into filmmaking, with their debut documentary airing this month on PBA30. When she's not busy working, she volunteers as the photographer for Camp Horizon.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? My husband and I have volunteered for Camp Horizon as camp photographers for 16 years. Through this we learned that nearly 70 percent of children in foster care will be homeless or in prison in their lifetime. In more cases than I would like to believe, the only pictures some of these children have are the images I have taken of them at camp.
What makes you laugh? I love silly comedies like Monty Python.
What is your favorite quote? "Never look down on anyone unless you are helping them up."
What advice do you have for someone who isn't yet over 40 and fabulous? Do not worry so much about your age. Life gets richer with every year, awakening you to new experiences and a better self then you were before.
Thank you to everyone who supported this year's Over 40 & Fabulous! contest! From our Advisory Board members and prize package contributors to the people who made the photo shoot and party a success, we couldn't have done it without you.
2015 Over 40 & Fabulous! Advisory Board
- Dr. Dina Giesler, Atlanta Smiles and Wellness
- Madison James, B98.5
- Amanda Hair, Bob Steele Salon
- Diana Hofsommer, Camp Horizon
- Molly Hopkins and Cynthia Decker,
- Livi Rae Lingerie
- Dr. Brian Maloney, Maloney Center for Facial Plastic Surgery
- Dr. Tara Frix, Total HealthCare
Prize package contributors
- Escape to Blue Ridge
- Maloney Center for Facial Plastic Surgery
- Livi Rae Lingerie
- Bob Steele Salon
- Atlanta Smiles and Wellness
- Anderson Hair Sciences Center
- Beaty Facial Plastic Surgery
- Natural Health Solutions
- Slender Spa Med
- Dermani Med Spa
- Elements Massage - Buckhead
- Dermatology Specialists of Atlanta
- Gardner Dermatology & Med Spa
- Midtown Athletic Club
- Ballroom Dance Clubs of Atlanta
- 4 Ever Young Aesthetics & Wellness
Photo shoot contributors
- Host Venue – Le Fais do-do
- Photographer – Dan Sawyer,
- Sawyer Photography
- Stylist – Eboné Smiley, The Smiley Effect
- Hair and Makeup – Nyssa Green and Brandi Mallory from The Green Room Agency, and Alicia Benton, Noelle Boyd, Ashlenn Hollingsworth, Lauren Simpson and Alex Daniel from Aura Hair & Makeup
- Catering – Tammie Brooks, The Event Salon
- Host venue – Le Meridien
- Master of ceremonies – Madison James,