Gina Grant, founder of Women That Soar, as photographed in The Dallas Morning News studio on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. 

Gina Grant, founder of Women That Soar, as photographed in The Dallas Morning News studio on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. 

Ashley Landis/Staff Photographer

Gina Grant's vision has come to life.

After working in the entertainment industry and as a publicist for years, she felt burned out. She also felt a calling to move on to something more personal, something more rewarding. She wanted to give back, if only for one night.

And so one night in 2007 has turned into this year's 11th annual Women That Soar Awards on Nov. 10 in Dallas.

After watching Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball, "well, I was so inspired," she said about the program honoring 25 black women that aired in 2006. "I knew this is what I was supposed to do all along and it's based on my own story of being a single mom. I was pregnant at the age of 17, a senior in high school. By the time I was 19, I was pregnant again, with twins."

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But her story kept going. Her parents encouraged her to go to college and said she would "become an accountant." And so with Women That Soar, she shares her story with others.

"I tell them that once you find your true purpose in life, you can do anything," she said. "You can soar. So it's really my own journey. I didn't plan this. This is God's plan for me."

The black-tie event, complete with a "red-carpet experience" will be Saturday at the Statler Hotel. Multi-hyphenate entertainer Tyra Banks will host, with a special appearance by hip-hop advocate Common, and performances from American Idol winners Kris Allen and Fantasia, among others. 

Even the board of the organization is stellar. Along with Grant as CEO and founder, it includes Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president -- and former honoree -- Cheryl Boone Isaacs and iconic casting agent and producer Reuben Cannon. They're all also producers of the show.

"When I was 20 years old, I used to always say, 'I'm going to meet Reuben Cannon one day and I'm going to work with him'," she said. "In 2016, two days before the show, one of my producers emailed me and said, 'Can I invite Reuben Cannon to come to the show?'

"I said, 'the Reuben Cannon'? He flew in, he saw the show," she said. "I told him 'I know I'm supposed to work with you, you're supposed to mentor me and help take this thing to the next level." 

And that was that.

The star producers are only fitting for an award show that has become a star itself. The awards will be filmed on Saturday night to be aired later. The Women That Soar Awards started in 2012 and aired on one channel. Just six years in and, according to Grant, this edition will air in March (Women's History Month) across 65 channels.

The awards were started in order to publicly acknowledge women like herself who have overcome obstacles to reach success, said Grant. The awards reach into show business, activism and more: Honorees have included Tina Knowles, Wynonna Judd, Amy Poehler and Clarice Tinsley.

The awards are the culmination of the mission of the Dallas-based media organization that's also called Women That Soar. The brand is about so much more than the show, said Grant.

"Our goal is to continue to create content that is about empowering women," she said. "We have a documentary coming up, we have other shows that we're producing and the plan is to be that brand, but all things women."

This year's honorees fit the bill. They include business award honoree, author and TV host Zainab Salbi; entrepreneur award honoree, fashion and interior designer Kathy Fielder; global activist award honoree, UN ambassador Jaha Dukureh; humanitarian award honoree, photographer Nancy Borowick; entertainment award honoree, director Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3); mentorship award honoree, Ghana executive director of Touch a Life Nana Amoako; and community outreach award honoree, 29 Acres founder Debra Caudy.

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