In celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, A Man About Town joyfully shifts its focus to spotlight remarkable women who have defied stereotypes and excelled in traditionally male-dominated fields. Through a series of enlightening interviews, we delve into the inspiring narratives, profound insights, and delightful anecdotes shared by nine trailblazing women at the forefront of their industries. Before we dive in, it’s essential to clarify: this isn’t a male-bashing piece. At A Man About Town, we wholeheartedly embrace and celebrate all genders. 

As a column by a man, I’ve been fortunate to have incredible women in my life who’ve shaped and supported me, from my grandmothers to my BFFs (best female friends), always standing behind me and making me a better man. This interview not only celebrates the achievements of remarkable women but also underscores the importance of recognizing and championing their contributions in fields historically dominated by men. Through their unwavering courage and determination, these trailblazers not only challenge societal norms but also pave the way for future generations to lead with confidence and conviction. 

Meet the Trailblazers


(Mary Fehr/Contributed)

Tonia Trotter Price

With a diverse background in communications and fine arts, Tonia began her career as a curator and gallery director in Nashville, Tennessee, managing prestigious collections and fostering educational partnerships. Transitioning back to her hometown of Birmingham, Tonia excelled as a creative director, stylist, and nonprofit communicator before making a full leap into the design industry as a commercial lighting representative for Sesco Lighting. Passionate about supporting local artists and makers, Tonia serves on the board of Magic City Art Connection and sponsors the Birmingham chapter of Ladies Wine & Design. Her true passion lies in connecting with people, whether through her work, family, or community involvement.

RP:  Let’s dive into our discussion about breaking barriers in male-dominated fields. Tonia, I’d love to start with you. What initially drew you to pursue a career in the lighting industry and were there any particular challenges you faced in entering this field?

Tonia Trotter Price: I didn’t initially see myself working in the lighting industry or making a leap into something so niche in my late 30s. My interests have always centered around art, design, and style — and for most of my career, I have worked in those fields specifically. Lighting does, however, cross over into all of those territories and has always been one of my favorite elements of interior design. I was recruited by Sesco Lighting, and I will say that the challenges I’ve experienced have been around the technical elements of lighting — the engineering and electrical theory. There is a steep learning curve, and technology is constantly changing. While that is really exciting to be a part of, I struggled with imposter syndrome early on because I felt like I wasn’t an “expert “ in my field — especially since I work with a lot of folks who have decades of experience in this industry. But I realized that my cumulative experience in design, marketing, and communications had allowed me to cultivate a lot of transferable skills that have helped me excel in my current field.


Mani Kukreja

Dr. Mani Kukreja, MD, MPH, IIN, is an integrative health and wellness expert and the Founder/CEO of Livagewell. With extensive experience in optimizing lifestyles to support gut health, immune health, and healthy aging, Dr. Mani is also a health, wellness, and lifestyle influencer, biohacker, and health advocate. She is dedicated to bio-optimizing health for a balanced and sustainable life, serving as an ambassador for the health-optimizing supplement brand Rho Nutrition. Dr. Mani has authored several high-impact publications in peer-reviewed clinical research journals, further solidifying her reputation as a leader in the medical and wellness field.

RP: Mani, considering your expertise in integrative health and wellness, what advice would you give to women in this field?

Dr. Mani Kukreja: Always Remember, we all have the power to create our own path and redefine success. So, Stay true to your passions, goals, and values, and don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams with determination and resilience. Believe in yourself, and build a strong network for continuous learning and guidance. Embrace your uniqueness and use it as a strength to stand out to make a positive impact.


Tina Liollio

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Tina Liollio graduated from Spring Hill College with a bachelor’s degree in integrated communication and a minor in marketing. She is the founder of Local Link Bham, LLC, a company that connects nonprofits and corporations to Birmingham’s most trusted vendors in the hospitality and event industry. Tina’s passion for executing seamless functions and cultivating lasting relationships led her to establish Local Link and, more recently, Tina’s Market, featuring Mediterranean meals inspired by her Sicilian and Greek heritage. Tina’s dedication to her community and culinary expertise continue to leave a lasting impact on Birmingham.

RP: Tina, reflecting on your journey in the hospitality and event industry, what has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?

Tina Liollio: Last year, I became a member of the local chapter of Les Dames Escoffier.  It’s an honor to be a part of a non-profit group made up of so many talented women in the food and beverage world. Whether networking about the industry or helping with fundraisers, standing alongside so many local role models in the hospitality industry has truly been an incredible memory for me. Learning from them and sharing experiences has been so fun and invaluable.


Rae’Mia Escott, Ph.D.

Dr. Rae’Mia Escott is an Assistant Professor of English, Rhetoric, and Writing at Berry College in Georgia, where she shares her passion for early modern British Literature, Shakespeare, Critical Race Theory, and Women’s and Gender Studies. A recipient of LSU’s HSS Diversity Committee—Excellence in Teaching Graduate Student Award, Dr. Escott is committed to fostering an inclusive and equitable learning environment. Beyond academia, she engages with a wider audience on TikTok as @dr.shakesfeare, making The Bard more accessible and comprehensible in a humorous manner.

RP: Rae’Mia, as an Assistant Professor of English, Rhetoric, and Writing, what are some misconceptions or stereotypes surrounding women in academia, and how do you challenge them?

Rae’Mia Escott, Ph.D.: Women are often viewed as weak or timid and when walking into these primarily male-dominated spaces or standing in front of a class where male students challenge you, it is easy to fashion yourself into this submissive role out of fear or to refrain from being labeled as difficult. I had to realize I was committing a disservice to myself because I was refusing to be my authentic self. If a man is commended for his authoritative demeanor and assertive presence it is absurd to think those same actions make me angry or presumptuous and I refuse to perpetuate that narrative.

I also refuse to allow someone to make me feel uncomfortable or afraid in a space where I was hired to do a job based on my qualifications and credentials. Women professors are often disregarded, even in 2024 there still exists a pay disparity between men and women at various Universities and Colleges across the nation. Even though women have proven that they work equally as hard, if not harder, and are essential to the institution’s growth and development, we historically and continuously receive lower salaries. While this truth is disheartening, I know that without myself and other women in this field advocating for equal rights and pay, progress will never come to pass and if we cannot make our situation better; hopefully, we can improve the academic setting and conditions for the next generation of women professors.  



(Autumn Robertson/Contributed)

Gina Tollese

Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Gina Tollese discovered her love for DJing after noticing a gap in the local music scene. Since then, she has become a prominent figure in the industry, spinning at major festivals and events fueled by Porsche, Shea Moisture, and the W Hotels. Gina’s eclectic style, rooted in Southern hip-hop classics and danceable tunes, has earned her recognition and admiration both locally and nationally.

RP: Gina, as a DJ making waves in the music industry, what strategies have you employed to overcome obstacles and establish yourself as a leader in a male-dominated field?

Gina Tollese: This question is interesting because I don’t really see myself as a “leader,” but a couple of things that I practice come to mind. One is speaking up for sure. If a price or anything else isn’t fair or if me and a client aren’t aligned on expectations then I am very direct about it. Transparency has definitely played a huge role in getting me where I am now. The power of saying no is essential too. If you continue to be a people pleaser or just agree to things that don’t make sense for your brand or where your passion lies then you’ll look up and be totally off course from your initial goal.  


Kimberly McNair Brock

Chef and Owner of Bitty’s Living Kitchen, Kimberly McNair Brock is on a mission to help people rediscover the joy of cooking real, whole food. Her plant-based recipes, crafted from fresh, local, and organic ingredients, aim to promote vitality and longevity. Beyond cooking, Chef Brock offers wellness classes, holistic coaching sessions, and therapeutic blends of sea moss gel and cold-pressed juices, empowering individuals to #HarvestHealthyHabits and #HealThruFood.

RP: Kimberly, as a chef and owner of a holistic living kitchen, what advice would you give to other women aspiring to pursue a career in the culinary world?

Kimberly McNair Brock: Get as much experience as you can. It’s also a good idea to shadow chefs regardless if it’s male or female. I would just say try to learn all you can while maintaining a level of respect for the person that you’re sitting under. Don’t always be so quick to move on before learning more than technique, sometimes what makes their career successful is longevity. Now, while I say that, it is also important to not stick around too long and stunt your growth.  I think there is a balance and there needs to be a constant inner assessment of, am I moving on for the right reasons? Is this the right time? Is this new opportunity a stepping stone to reach my goals only or will I be leaving my current position too soon possibly hindering the situation once I leave? Sometimes it doesn’t matter how skilled you are, if you are unwilling to sacrifice and work with a team, a negative reputation will follow you.


(Robins & Morton/Contributed)

Elizabeth Russ

With 15 years of experience in construction, Elizabeth Russ is an accomplished project manager and estimator specializing in commercial and hospitality construction. Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Elizabeth currently serves as a Project Manager for Robins and Morton in Birmingham, Alabama. Her expertise in value engineering and project management has solidified her reputation as a leader in the industry, working collaboratively with contractors, subcontractors, owners, and architects/engineers to deliver successful projects

RP: Elizabeth, reflecting on your journey in the construction industry, what are some key accomplishments you’re most proud of and what goals do you have for the future?

Elizabeth Russ: I have been working in the hospitality and commercial sectors of construction for years now, and every complete project I view as an accomplishment.  It is an amazing feeling to only build a structure, but we are building an “experience” for years to come. To complete a project that serves as a getaway for families on vacation, hosting a wedding, and making memories at a dinner table; that truly is the largest accomplishment I personally connect with.

I have served as Project Manager on three projects within the Birmingham area – Birmingham Orthodontics’ new Hoover office, The Valley Hotel in Homewood, and Tower on Tenth renovation project in Birmingham; each being awarded by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Alabama with Excellence in Construction and I am currently working on-site managing the new build of an Embassy Suites hotel in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  I spent many years vacationing in that same area with my family growing up, so it is extremely rewarding and heart-warming to know that I have a hand in building something where families can come and make new memories just like I did when I was a child.  I want to continue to grow within Robins & Morton, the industry, and become a role model for any young women who want to pursue a career in the construction industry. If I can do it, they can too!


Lynsey Weatherspoon

Lynsey Weatherspoon’s first photography teacher was her late mother, Rhonda. Like her mentor-in-her-head Carrie Mae Weems, that first camera – a gift – delivered purpose. Her career includes editorial and commercial work that has been inspired and powered by her first teacher’s love and lessons. The #blackqueergirl is a photojournalist and portraitist based in Atlanta and Birmingham. Using both photography and filmmaking as tools to tell stories, Weatherspoon’s work has been featured in print and online in such publications as The New York Times, USA Today, NPR, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Time, ESPN, and ESPN-owned The Undefeated.

As a member of a modern vanguard of photographers, she is often called on to capture heritage and history in real-time. The Equal Justice Institute’s Bryan Stevenson. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The Legacy Museum. Ronnie the shoe repairman in downtown Birmingham. The people of the Gullah-Geechee Corridor. An entire family infected with and affected by a pandemic. Demonstrators with raised fists and sad, vulnerable eyes. The sons and daughters of history. The mothers of children who died making history. The majesty of Mardi Gras. The loving hands of family caregivers. Lynsey Weatherspoon’s work has been exhibited at The African American Museum in Philadelphia and Photoville NYC. She is an awardee, The Lit List, 2018. Her affiliations include Diversify Photo, Authority Collective, and Women Photograph.

RP: Lynsey, As a woman in a male-dominated industry, what strategies have you employed to overcome obstacles and establish yourself as a leader?

Lynsey Weatherspoon: The best strategy I consistently use is standing firm on who I am as a Black queer Southern woman in the field of visual arts, specifically photography. Some may try to talk you into exploring other roles in the field, but when it comes to knowing exactly who you are and your purpose as a creative, it gives you even more reason to push back on the idea that women can’t progress. Women, womxn, and trans women in this space are capable of pushing against the noise and creating work that embodies just what the world encompasses: creativity and dignity.


Tammy Williamson

Tammy Williamson, owner of BuildHER Birmingham, is a licensed builder and realtor who flips houses throughout the Birmingham Metro Area, along with client home renovations. Originally from Mississippi, Tammy moved to attend college at UAB, where she completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Currently, she resides with her beautiful wife and daughter in the Liberty Park Community of Vestavia. 

RP: Tammy, as a woman in the construction industry, what are some of the key misconceptions or stereotypes you’ve encountered, and how do you challenge or address them?

Tammy Williamson: Ah, Randall, where do I even begin? One of the most prevalent misconceptions is that you need to fit a certain mold to succeed in construction – you know, the burly-bearded man scratching his balls on a construction site. But let me tell you, that’s far from the truth. In reality, anyone, regardless of gender, can thrive in this field as long as they’re willing to roll up their sleeves and get the job done. Construction is all about teamwork and collaboration. It’s about acknowledging when you’re right or wrong, taking responsibility, asking for help when needed, and owning your actions – qualities that have nothing to do with gender. By surrounding myself with the right team players, both male and female, I’ve been able to challenge these stereotypes and succeed in an industry that’s often seen as a man’s world.


These trailblazers epitomize resilience, determination, and bold passion. Their stories inspire us to challenge norms, break barriers, and pursue our dreams relentlessly. As we honor Women’s History Month, let’s amplify their voices, champion inclusivity, and reshape traditionally male-dominated fields for a more equitable future.

Raise a glass and celebrate the achievements of Alabama’s Boss Babes with some real talk from a panel of the state’s most badass modern women. Sip off a curated cocktail list and take in all the mic-drop moments from this collection of true contenders and inspirational fierce female leaders. And did we mention we have DJ Dolly bringing all those smokin’ beats to the party? All proceeds benefit The First Light Shelter in Birmingham. Tickets to the event are live for $40 each on the Red Mountain Theatre website.