by Jessica Taylor
Southern Louisiana is known for its unique culture, ambition in life, and the women who make this happen.
From fitness to art, the women at play in Louisiana show their strength by bringing something special to everything they do.
Jenny Lafont, fitness instructor at the Nicholls State Recreational Center and Thibodaux Wellness Center, is one of those strong women. A former collegiate swimmer at Texas A&M University, Lafont has a genuine love for fitness, and she is inspired by Olympic swimmer, Janet Evans.
“Evans was the only person who truly inspired me to continue to swim competitively,” Lafont says. “I admired her and her commitment.”
Nowadays, Lafont spends her time sharing her passion for fitness by teaching yoga, core, and spinning class every Monday and Tuesday.
“I wanted to do something like coaching, but in fitness. I got certified to teach, and fell in love with helping others,” she says.
Like Lafont, the women in South Louisiana are independent and motivated.
Deborah Cibelli, professor of Art History at Nicholls State University, talks about the strong-willed women of South Louisiana. She compares the women of South Louisiana to the women in the film “Steel Magnolias.”
“Since I started living here, I’ve noticed women in South Louisiana are much more ambitious and determined than women in other areas of the United States,” she says.
Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Cibelli moved down to South Louisiana for her teaching job. She holds a doctorate in art history from the State University of New York at Binghamton. At Nicholls, she teaches courses on Ancient Art, Non-Western Art, the Italian Renaissance, and Women in the Baroque, art between years 1600-1750.
“In college, I studied foreign language and always came back to art. I was attracted to art from different countries and when I figured out art history was a concentration, it seemed appropriate for me to do,” Cibelli says.
Besides teaching, Cibelli is currently the director of the University Honors Program and Assistant Dean of the College of Arts. Cibelli is able to share her passions and possibly inspire young women to follow her path into the art world. Art plays a major role in the culture of South Louisiana.
Art is also a big part of the life of Juliana Pennison, owner of Peony Photography. Pennison’s business is based out of Thibodaux, La., but she was raised in Galliano, La.
Pennison always has a camera around her.
“My mom was a family photographer and she taught me all the fundamentals and took me with her to every shoot she did,” she says.
At 16 years old, Pennison was approached to do a small wedding, and her career took off from there.
Pennison explains the moment she knew she was destined for wedding photography was when she got a call from a bride whose grandfather passed away a month after her wedding.
“The bride wanted to thank me for getting one last professional picture of him dancing with her and she was going to cherish it forever,” Pennison says.
Then it clicked.
“I am documenting incredible, once-in-a-lifetime memories for so many people. The high-energy pressure of my days and the beauty and love we get to witness reminds me this isn’t just a job, but the best career I could have hoped for,” she says.
Pennison is able to capture one of the most important moments in some women’s lives and turn it into something that will last forever. She shares her passion with couples around the bayou region and can serve as a model to other young women. Pennison proves that hard work and determination breed success.
Lafont, Cibelli, and Pennison have a certain drive and ambition that is unique to women in Southern Louisiana. So, “Look at This” to learn more about the women at play who bring something special to the bayou region.