Women-only seminar to empower attendees to take control of their life story

Transform Your Story

Cedar Rapids Public Library, Whipple Auditorium — Saturday, Aug. 13 at 1 p.m.

Catherine Cantrill during a speaking engagement --  photo by Danforth Johnson
Catherine Cantrill during a speaking engagement — photo by Danforth Johnson

The idea of making time for self-care can be daunting — in particular for women who’ve convinced themselves that the life they now lead is their deserved life. But CEO and owner of Vitality Fitness and Dance Studio Catherine Cantrill hopes to shift this mindset during a women-only seminar and cocktail hour this Saturday. Transform Your Story seeks to empower women to flip their lives around for a more desirable one with inspiration and tools from a series of personal stories told by a panel of women.

“So many women are telling themselves on a constant basis that, ‘This is my story and I can’t change it’,” Cantrill said. “What we’re trying to prove to women is that they have power to their story, no matter what their past is.”

Transform Your Story will begin at 1 p.m. in the Whipple Auditorium of the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Five speakers — Erin McGuire, Teri Studer, Catherine Cantrill, Akwi Nji and Nikki Burrus — are scheduled to share their experiences, with 25 to 35 minutes allotted to each. The goal, as stated on their event website, is to provide women with new tools for transformation, connections with other power-women and a safe space to ask questions.

The seminar is a direct result of Cantrill’s constant work with women — through her burlesque dance studio, confidence coaching sessions and speaking engagements — and their curiosity about how she created a better life for herself.

“These women wanted to know my story,” Cantrill said. “We all have this desire of wanting to know what made [someone] change from this certain path to who they are today.”

Cantrill’s journey began with a move to Iowa, where she knew no one, in 2006 with her husband at the time. After 15 years of marriage and one rainy night in her trailer home, Cantrill decided she wanted a divorce from her abusive, alcoholic husband. What came after was a process of re-discovering who she was, recognizing the difference between right and wrong and raising two children by herself.

“Women would come to me all the time for advice,” Cantrill said. “Women were amazed that I was living in a city where I didn’t belong, left my husband and was raising my children by myself. I realized I had a niche with [connecting with] women. Women came to me for permission to do the things that I was doing.”

Today Cantrill finds herself using every opportunity — and her studio — to give women “a safe place to come, a place where they can express themselves freely, love their bodies in current form and give them permission, as a woman, to do the things that they want to do for themselves.”

Saturday’s presentations will cap off with 45 minutes for questions followed by a cocktail hour at 350 on First Avenue, Cedar Rapids. Cocktails and appetizers will be an optional purchase.

Tickets for Transform Your Story can be bought online or at the door for $50.

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