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The Bend Magazine

7 Most Beautiful Women: Inside & Out

08/30/2018 05:00AM ● By Kylie Kinnett

By: Kylie Kinnett

Photos by: Jason Page

Hair: Courtney Pollard, James Stanley Salon

Makeup: Alex Merritt, Alex Merritt Beauty

Wardrobe: Julian Gold Corpus Christi

Locations: Cosmopolitan of Corpus Christi, The Bay Jewel, Art Museum of South Texas


There is a certain stigma surrounding women standing up for what they believe in. No matter the cause demanding their voice, sometimes it is drowned out by what society decides it should sound like. However, we need not forget women are bold; women are beautiful; women are brave. It is that very reason as to why there are seven different women featured within the next ten pages. Seven women, seven charities, three months, and one purpose. That purpose? To shine a light on various philanthropic organizations in our community. To raise awareness and funds for diverse causes in the Coastal Bend. Lastly, the purpose of 7 Most Beautiful Women is to celebrate the women who are champions of those without a voice, commend their efforts for leaving the world better than they found it, and, at the end of the day, reminding each of them just how beautiful they truly are, both inside and out.

Cheri Sperling: The Island Foundation

A lot can be said of Cheri Sperling. She is a no-nonsense kind of gal who knows how to get the job done. However, she is also one of the kindest souls you will ever meet, and she knows how to have fun.  She tells us stories of her “cabana boy” (her Roomba) and it instantly becomes the running joke of the day. Her wit is charming and her sense of humor is uncanny. Between her husband, her six children, 13 grandchildren, owning Coastline Properties on Padre Island, and constantly pouring herself into her community, she has her hands full on most days.

Tell me a little about your charity.

The Island Foundation has evolved over the years, since 1994, and today serves as the governing body of Seashore Learning Center Charter School. The Island Foundation is committed to raising the funds necessary to meet current and future needs for facilities, thereby ensuring the success of Seashore Charter Schools and contributing to the prosperity of the Island.

How did you first get involved with The Island Foundation?

As the Seashore Charter School system has grown, so has my philanthropic involvement. Today Coastline Properties is a major sponsor of the school's largest money-making function every year, Whoop It Up! Not only do we serve as sponsor, but our office donates items to the silent & live auctions, raising thousands of additional dollars that go directly to the schools.  

What initially drew you to this charity?

When I see and hear how children are thriving at Seashore Charter Schools my heart is full and I'm so very proud to be a very intricate part of this fine school system. As cliché as it sounds, the children ARE our future, and to me, there is no investment more important.

Favorite memory while working with them?

Our favorite, every year, is to be a major part of the annual Whoop It Up function, which raises additional dollars that go directly to the schools.

What does beauty mean to you?

This is true: physical beauty will fade over time, but true beauty is timeless. Beauty to me is happiness...and helping bring smiles to faces I see. That makes me happy inside and out.

What does a regular day look like for you?

My day starts at five a.m. every single day, seven days a week. My dad always told me, “the early bird catches the worm.” He was so right. I eat, sleep, and dream about my very very busy career — and love every single step. Life is meant to be lived...not slept through. If you walked in my shoes you'd end up in some stranger’s home, giving a listing presentation. How fun!

Between a busy work schedule, family, and philanthropic endeavors, how do you get it all done?  

Keep movin'. Don't be embarrassed by a failure of some sort, learn from it and start again. Keep movin'.

How do you spend your free time?

My husband and I love to do things together, whether that’s going to a Hooks ball game or just cruising in our boat up and down the canals on Padre Island. I don't give myself much free time, so our time together means the world to us both.

What inspires or drives you?

I was once told, “to give real service, you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.” This is always my goal. If I make something look simple or easy...then I did my job right!

What is one piece of advice you wish someone would have given your younger self?  

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. Teenage years, I really thought it was all about ME.  So, glad I've learned otherwise over the years.

What would your spirit animal be?

Alaskan Malamute



Angelica Vela: New Life Refuge Ministries

Poise, style, and grace. Those three words help paint a picture of Angelica Vela. While she has a quiet exterior, she is filled with compassion and a heart of gold — constantly finding new ways to use her strengths for others’ gain. Advocating for women and children is what she is most passionate about. She cares for the world we live in and believes in spreading the love and kindness you wish to see in your life. “Every situation is a perfectly planned opportunity to be an example of love and beauty,” she says. “It’s a beautiful thing to showcase our love, strength and forgiveness for everyone to see.”

Tell me a little about your charity.

New Life Refuge Ministries has a purpose to educate the community about child sex trafficking, to partner with other organizations in the fight against modern-day slavery, and to provide a refuge of hope and healing for child survivors. Our vision is to end child sex trafficking. They are an organization that prays, educates, and provides specialized recovery for survivors.

What initially drew you to New Life Refuge Ministries?

Sexual violence isn’t glamorous to discuss, it’s difficult and often goes unmentioned. I have witnessed bravery in this organization and have realized that addressing the issue is the first step, and a big one, toward reform. Several people are shocked to learn that human trafficking is in Corpus Christi. Since I’ve announced NLRM as my charity for this event, I have heard many personal stories from men and women about how human trafficking has reached the lives of those around us.

Favorite memory while working with this charity?

My dear friend introduced me to this wonderful organization by inviting me to a denim drive at her home. I brought over a few pairs of denim and began to learn about the almost 80,000 children being trafficked in the state of Texas alone.

What does beauty mean to you?

We can all agree that beauty goes beyond the surface. Beauty is sincerity, it’s loving and tending to our garden, the plot of this universe that is ours.

Between a busy work schedule, family, and philanthropic endeavors, how do you get it all done?

I take it day by day, if not hour by hour, if not minute by minute…I’m not gonna lie, it’s a lot. But that’s life. We have to do our part to help each other. I’m very intentional about planning my activities and meetings. Typically, I prefer things well planned-out and on time. Punctuality is kind of my thing! Also, drink plenty of water! Writing down notes throughout the day of ideas or little reminders really helps me, too.  

How do you spend your free time?

I love reading. I love live music and being outdoors. I also love to volunteer — it really is an excellent way to get to know your community.  

What is one piece of advice you wish someone would have given your younger self?

I was lucky, I had lots of people looking out for me when I was little. One thing I learned early on was to be ready for opportunities. They are going to come around so be ready to recognize them and grab them before they’re gone.  

What is something you are most proud of?

I used to prefer to be alone in my thoughts or sit quietly and observe situations and learn about others that way. I lean more toward being an introvert. But, I didn’t want to be that way. I wanted a life full of experience and relationships. Being a mom makes being an introvert challenging; I had to find balance between being alone versus having a home full of children and their friends. So, in true Angelica fashion I threw myself into situations that forced me to become a better communicator and a better mom and I found healthy ways to cope with the anxiety I would feel. I learned to breathe. By doing so I have been able to speak publicly, travel alone despite nerves, and fundraise for charities that help women and children.  I’m now able to mentor others by passing along what I’ve learned.

What would your spirit animal be?

There is a wonderful lesson to be learned from the way an eagle approaches a storm. When the storms of life come upon us, we, too, can rise above them. We can lift ourselves above adversity by setting our minds and our hearts higher.  We can all achieve our goals by tapping into our nature’s example of the eagle. Plus, I do a pretty good bird call.




Kallia Shook: Paws and Claws

Upon meeting Kallia Shook, a cheery voice and a big smile are most likely what is in store for you. Positivity flows off of her, and a certain comfort level sets in. You feel as though you have known her for years, even though you only met her 10 minutes prior. She is warm and inviting. Simple things in life such as laughter and mimosas on a Sunday bring her happiness. Her heartstrings are tied to helping animals and educating others on how to be the best pet owners they can be.

Tell me a little about your charity.

Paws and Claws is an auxiliary to the Gulf Coast Humane Society, so all of our charitable efforts go directly to them. The Gulf Coast Humane Society is the largest no-kill animal shelter in South Texas.  They house and adopt out hundreds of dogs and cats throughout the year and have been dedicated to providing the best care possible to these animals while in search of their fur-ever home. Our mission is to save lives one at a time, and to place homeless animals into loving homes. We strive to promote responsible pet parenting and the humane treatment of all animals.

What initially drew you to this charity?

Animals have always been a big part of my life. My family was the family on the block that had many dogs and cats, raised baby birds, squirrels and possums and picked up whatever hurt animal we saw. In life, you should help those who cannot help themselves. Our parents taught us this at an early age and I have always followed this with both people and animals. “What a beautiful world it would be if people had hearts like dogs.” Someone said that once and I couldn’t agree more.

Favorite memory while working with Paws and Claws?

Visiting the shelter and seeing the difference we make in the lives of the animals we are striving to care for. The dogs and cats we are helping are all innocent creatures that have not been treated or taken care of as they should have been. Seeing these poor, helpless creatures come in scared and wary of humans and then become sweet and loving after being shown a little kindness is the most rewarding feeling.

What does beauty mean to you?

I think beauty is an open heart, sympathy toward others, and an understanding of what life really is.

What brings you the most joy in life?

Seeing the people I love and care for smile and laugh. Life is way too short to take everything seriously, and life is way too serious to not laugh it off. I love that the people in my life all love to laugh, enjoy life, and take every opportunity to have a good time.  

How do you spend your free time?

Spending time with family, friends and my pups, enjoying the outdoors, traveling, scuba diving, snorkeling, and of course enjoying a glass of wine on the patio with the setting sun.

What is one piece of advice you wish someone would have given your younger self?

Life’s short, eat up every day like it’s your last. Order that dessert at a special dinner, stay that extra 20 minutes at the party, go to that concert, book that vacation, and go to that happy hour even if you’re tired.  

What is something you are most proud of?

I am proud of where I am in my career and the experiences that it has allowed me. I am proud of the charities I am currently involved in, and the help I have been able to provide. I am proud that I am willing to help others (people and animals) and speak up, even if it is the more difficult route. I am proud (probably actually lucky) that I have gathered the group of people I have in my life.  

What would your spirit animal be?

A honey badger or Meerkat.



Tiffany Montemayor: The Council on Alcohol + Drug Abuse Coastal Bend

When asked to give us a little insight into her life, Tiffany Montemayor gives an answer true to form. “I always tell people three amazing things came from Corpus Christi: Selena, Whataburger, and me.” She is George Strait’s number one fan; her cat, Miss Kitty, has an Instagram account; and she has a knack for making people laugh. Her exuberant spirit, bold presence in any room, and passion for helping others make for one hell of a woman.

Tell me a little about your charity.

The Council on Alcohol + Drug Abuse Coastal Bend is a nonprofit organization that offers hope and healing to those in need by providing a continuum of care in substance use prevention, intervention, outpatient treatment, and recovery for youth and adults. They never turn anyone away. If a person can’t afford services, The Council has funding for them. If someone needs something The Council doesn’t provide, they will refer that person to someone who can help them.

What initially drew you to this charity?

I realized that substance use problems don’t just affect one person. They affect the whole family, the whole community, and the future of the community. So, being able to work with a nonprofit that I know is going to have impact on everything from education, to health, to employment, to quality of life, won me over.

What does beauty mean to you?

Confidence. Beauty is confidence. Having the confidence to say “yes,” to say “no,” to say “I can and I will,” is the most beautiful thing someone can have on their face and in their heart. They say that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. That’s because confidence shines in all of those shapes, sizes, and colors. And that kind of beauty works both ways.

What inspires or drives you?

My family inspires and drives me. Specifically, my younger family members. I am the oldest child and also the oldest grandchild, so I know they all are watching me. I try my best to make good choices and create new traditions, so that they know anything is possible and it doesn’t matter how much money you have or where you grew up.

Between a busy work schedule, family, and philanthropic endeavors, how do you get it all done?

My planner, coffee, my fiancé, and keeping people around me who believe in me and tell me I can get it all done.

What brings you the most joy in life?

Laughing. I LOVE to laugh. The books I read are funny. The movies I watch are funny. The friends I have are funny. Laughing is the thing that can bring me joy even when life is bad. If I can laugh, especially with those I love, life is never bad for too long. Also, laughing is usually free and who doesn’t like free?

What is something you are most proud of?

I am most proud of graduating from college. Statistically speaking, being born to low socio-economic teenage minority parents didn’t bode well for me. Most of the people in my family didn’t graduate from high school, so even just going off to college was a huge deal. Being away from family, working two or three jobs at a time, and missing out on holidays at home because we couldn’t afford for me to travel was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

What would your spirit animal be?

My spirit animal is the Honey Bee, and as much as I’d love to say I’m the Queen Bee, I am the worker bee.



Katia Uriarte: Triumph Over Kid Cancer

Her face is one we might all be familiar with. Her heart, however, along with her passion and unique ability to make you feel as though you are the most important person she has had a conversation with all day, are features of Katia Uriarte one might not know simply from seeing her on a television screen. She is warm and inviting. She is a fiercely loving mother, a loyal friend, and a woman who makes things happen.  

Tell me a little about your charity.

So, the mission of Triumph Over Kid Cancer is to improve the lives of children with cancer by raising their spirits, raising the public’s awareness, and funding research to improve the treatment and survivability of pediatric cancers. James Ragan founded TOKC. He was diagnosed in 2006, at 13 years old, with Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that ended up spreading to other parts of his body. Four years ago, at young age of 20, James passed away. But he was passionate about improving the lives of children with cancer by raising their spirits and funding research to improve the treatment and survivability of pediatric cancers.

He was very vocal about pharmaceutical companies investing research dollars into cancers that are rare and considered unprofitable.

How did you first get involved with TOKC?

I used to do news stories about James. We would always put a spotlight on TOKC fundraisers. Now, as a mom, TOKC touches my heart. I’ve had friends whose children have been diagnosed with cancer and I just want to be a vessel to help fund research.

What does a regular day look like for you?

My schedule changed drastically (and for the better) in the last few months. So, now a typical day

consists of waking up no later than six a.m., making lunch for my son and I, grabbing breakfast along the way and getting my son to school before the doors close! Then, I head to work. And work, by the way, is always different. There are always different stories to cover and you never know what the day holds and you never know who you get to help out. It’s one of the perks of my job.

Between a busy work schedule, family, and philanthropic endeavors, how do you get it all done?

I have great support, and by the grace of God! There’s no stopping and asking, “How can I get this done?” It just gets done.

How do you spend your free time?

My son is five, so my free time is devoted to him. We ride bikes along the seawall, go swimming, play at home, go to parties. It’s always filled with something to do. We try to sneak in naps when we can.   

What is one piece of advice you wish someone would have given your younger self?

Don’t take life too seriously. I look at interviews of James Ragan and he was so full of life. He was passionate and just seemed like he didn’t take anything for granted. I would tell my younger self to live like him. With passion. With purpose. And with lots of gratitude.

What is something you are most proud of?

I’m most proud of my son, most definitely. He’s my greatest joy. He’s funny. He’s kind. He’s smart. God has blessed me with the greatest child.

What would your spirit animal be?

A kangaroo. Because, I just want to carry my son everywhere I go and If I had a pouch it would make it much easier, ha!




Pooja Bindingnavele: Women’s and Men’s Health Services of the Coastal Bend

Simply put, Pooja Bindingnavele is a light. She is a source of optimism and inquisitiveness — always looking for ways to better her surroundings. “Does anyone even know this Men at Work song?” she exclaims when something other than Down Under plays from the television. She tells a story of her first cassette deck in her car and how Def Leppard doesn’t have a bad album. She is full of surprises. As a mother of 4.5 children (she says 4.5 because her dog weighs more than three of her children), and a loving wife, she is constantly going the extra mile. She is currently working towards her Masters in Nutrition, is becoming a Registered Dietitian, and is fueled by her passion of helping others improve their health and well-being.

Tell me a little about your charity.

The mission of Women’s and Men’s Health Services of the Coastal Bend (WAHMS), is to provide and promote preventive health services to improve health outcomes in South Texas. WAHMS provides access to healthcare for people from all walks of life — low income, no income, do not have a primary care physician — WAHMS is there for all of us. WAHMS believes in a healthy and educated community being a stronger community, and that parenting and building strong families leads to this.

What initially drew you to WAHMS?

WAHMS provides support to people and their families and helps families to make safe, healthy choices. They provide free or very low-cost health care and have mobile clinics making themselves even more accessible. They also provide STD testing at the college campuses to educate students.  Good health and good health education is near and dear to me, as I am raising four children.

Favorite memory while working with this charity?

Shortly after I joined, at one of our board meetings, I had an opportunity to get to know one of the WAHMS educators very well. I asked her questions about how to approach different topics with my children as they grew and it gave real meaning to what we do at WAHMS.

What does beauty mean to you?  

Beauty is defined as a combination of qualities such as shape, color, or form that pleases the aesthetic senses. This definition is inherently flawed because it is subjective. I believe beauty is in the sense of the beholder and it begins with a smile, because perceiving beauty brings about a smile. What one person perceives as beautiful another may not. Beauty is what you choose to perceive as beautiful. I try very hard to find beauty in the world around me and tell people about it. We need to choose to find the beauty in the world around us. 

What inspires or drives you?

If I had to pinpoint one thing that inspires me, it’s my children. I want to live a life that they would be proud of. And, I want to be the change you want to see. Our philosophy is to try not to complain but to find a solution by which to drive a change.

Between a busy work schedule, family, and philanthropic endeavors, how do you get it all done? 

You just do. People ask frequently, “Oh my gosh, you have four kids how do you do it?” and the answer is: you just do. We each do it in the way we can and none of us know if we’re doing it right, but we all give our best shot and that’s good enough. I will say that my life is a balance of organized chaos. I provide the organization, they provide the chaos.

How do you spend your free time?

I have been a Classical Indian Dancer (Bharatanatyam) for the past 30 years. I guest teach a class at TAMUCC each semester and a few years ago, I began teaching Bharatanatyam to young children of the Coastal Bend. I also love to read and play board games with my family.  

What would your spirit animal be?

My husband said a weaver bird because it’s very industrious, makes very pretty things and takes very good care of its family. You can tell I have difficulty extolling myself in an essay — I almost wanted him to fill this out. I pick a she-wolf — fiercely protective of her family, fairly intelligent, and a pack animal who sometimes needs a moment alone.



 Lisa Greenberg: VA’s Homeless Veterans Initiative

Lisa Greenberg is a force to be reckoned with. She exemplifies all the characteristics of a boss woman. Lisa is a Criminal Defense Attorney by day, but her fight doesn’t stop there. Whether it is for her family, her clients, or those less fortunate, she is constantly standing up for what she believes in and providing for those around her. Her wit and sarcasm, along with her ability to laugh at herself, make her a joy to be around. “I try to be positive and believe the world is generally full of kindness, if you look for it,” she says, in regard to her worldview. She definitely embodies that same kindness in all she does.

Tell me a little about your charity.

The Veterans’ Association Homeless Initiative program was designed to assist low income and homeless veterans. The case management that is provided assists the Veteran with their psychosocial needs in order to maintain successful housing. The case managers are licensed clinicians who provide home visits, advocacy, counseling, and referrals for programs within the VA and in the community. Due to veterans’ low income, assistance with gift cards are sometimes provided to assist veterans with household needs that veterans have difficulty purchasing. In addition, homeless veterans come to the VA to register for healthcare and meet with the Homeless Program staff to obtain assistance for temporary housing, such as shelters.

How did you first get involved with your charity?  

I am the wife, daughter and granddaughter of US veterans. I’m very proud of that. I think veterans fought so that we could exercise our rights and we owe them and need to honor them. My heart breaks when I see veterans suffering from the effects of war. I have seen first-hand many criminal cases where soldiers had not dealt with their internal wounds and were self-medicating or acting out. I want to lend a hand to those who deserve it the most.

What does beauty mean to you?

Beauty can be so many things, but strength, kindness and confidence stand out for me.

What inspires or drives you?

Standing up for the little guy, the one the world has forgotten. Being the voice for someone without a voice. That is my calling.

What does a regular day look like for you?

I wake up at five a.m., head to the gym where I lead a class two days a week or workout with friends, I head home and shower, wake kids up, rush out the door to court. Typically doing makeup in the car or dropping a child off, hoping I remembered deodorant. Then, I dash from courtroom to courtroom and back to the office to try and take care of my clients’ needs. I come home and cook dinner and then usually try not to move for a while! Except with kids that’s impossible.

What is one piece of advice you wish someone would have given your younger self?

Stop trying to fit in and stand out. Oh, and don’t use box dye on your hair!

What is something you are most proud of?

Besides my children, the people I’ve helped as a lawyer, those who no one had listened to before.

Between a busy work schedule, family, and philanthropic endeavors, how do you get it all done?

I don’t! I think I don’t even strive for perfection anymore! And, I always own that I can be a bit of a mess sometimes.

What brings you the most joy in life?

Coffee, rum, my family, and buffalo wings.

What would your spirit animal be?

Ha! My family would say dragon! I would say mama bear.





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