The phoenix tattoo Tamara Plant has on her forearm closely resembles the one used in the branding for this year’s FIERCE Awards, themed Rise Up. Tamara refers to FIERCE as an extension of who she is, and it’s clear from the beginning that this is not your average function.
In FIERCE, as with Tamara herself, there is little pretence or fluff. While she uses words like “inspire” and “empower” frequently to describe what she hopes the organization she founded will accomplish, you can tell it’s sincere and coming from a place of strength and determination. These words are used in a deliberately aggressive way, not as a platitude but as a call to action. FIERCE dares you to be fearless, to champion others and to become your best self.
The FIERCE Awards are gearing up for their fourth year. In 2010, there were 25 nominees and 75 in attendance at the event. This year, they are drawing from a nominee pool nearly three times as large and expecting approximately 300 people to gather for the gala at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre on October 28th.
Tamara cites the amazing women whose stories were begging to be told that she encountered during her career as a journalist, and as founder of the now-defunct MOM Magazine as the inspiration for the FIERCE Awards.
The nominees are Albertan men and women who champion others in a variety of ways: Through mentorship, through entrepreneurial efforts and through giving back to their communities and families.
There are 5 categories: Fearless, Influence, Empower, Resilient, Champion and Essence. Fearless is for the every-day woman, the heroes who might otherwise go unsung.
Influence is specific to women in the business community.
Empower is reserved for leaders and teachers.
Resilience honours those who have come through adversity to become pillars of strength for those around them.
Essence is for any woman under 30 who embodies everything that FIERCE is about, and is well on her way to becoming as bad a bitch as the rest of the nominees.
For the first time, one of the categories is also open to men. The Champion award celebrates those who believe in true equality and fight passionately for the cause of egalitarianism.
“The men involved in FIERCE from the beginning have always been behind the scenes but they’ve always been there, whether cheering on their wives, girlfriends, colleagues, whatever and I thought that this year that we really needed to be more inclusive,” she says. “The overall tone of the event is always going to be to champion women, with the inclusion of great men that champion FIERCE woman.”
Tamara speaks of being blessed with many great men in her life with respect, particularly of her husband, her son and her grandfather, who sadly passed away a few months before the first FIERCE awards were scheduled. She insists that while obviously she would never want her seven year old daughter to feel inferior to men, she cares just as deeply about making sure her 11-year-old son is equally empowered.
One of the men nominated for the Champion category is Kristopher Wells, co-founder of the LGBTQ* Camp fYrefly. April Weins is also nominated for her incredible contribution of providing a foster home for 30 children over the past 14 years, all the while running a couple of businesses.
An overall winner for each category is selected, but keeping with the tone of the event, the top three nominees are called onstage together to receive awards, and every single one of the nominees is commended and honoured. FIERCE has, after all, nothing to do with winning, rather with sharing stories and having them be heard. In fact, Tamara is planning to compile a book of the nominees experiences for the 2014 event.
“FIERCE has attracted amazing people, empowering people, people who really believe in the philosophy that you can champion someone else without wanting to see them fail,” she says, noting that this quality is quite rare.
These men and women don’t only want to see other succeed, but also to have the chance to celebrate their successes. The FIERCE Awards provide the right mix of positivity, edge and camaraderie for this gathering.
And, if one chooses to get a little wine drunk in the afternoon along the road to empowerment, that’s FIERCE too, for as the FAQ states: “Don’t be fooled, this isn’t a rah-rah, fluffy, rainbows and unicorns community. There will be swearing, lots of wine and lots of laughs.”
Tickets for the gala can be purchased on the FIERCE website. A portion of the ticket sales are going to the YWCA of Edmonton in support of their work to empower young women.