The Fascinating Woman Behind “One Hundred Fascinating Louisville Women”

By CHRISTIE LEIGH MUELLER
Copy Editor

For the well-known women in Nancy Miller’s latest book, “One Hundred Fascinating Louisville Women,” we’ve heard a lot of their stories before. While the professional PR-version of their lives are interesting, Miller wanted an insight into the more personal side and the more complex stories. Miller wanted to celebrate the spirit’s within this fascinating group of women.

Nancy Miller. Photo by CHRIS HUMHREYS | The Voice-Tribune.

Nancy Miller. Photo by CHRIS HUMHREYS | The Voice-Tribune.

In very much a collaborative effort, Nancy Miller, with the instrumental assistance of photographer John Nation and designer Hill Harcourt, set out to reveal the true nature of one hundred fascinating women in the Louisville community.  Her initial list, however, started out as roughly 30 women who all seemed to have another fascinating woman in the community whom they admired and Miller interviewed. Meeting her goal of one hundred non-household names of all ages, Miller had her collection of various political persuasions and a diverse group who had a story to tell.  After years of being a freelance writer, Miller had been privy to a plethora of stories and it was time the tales were told.

Limiting the greatness of Louisville women to a mere one hundred was a challenge. “We have some real trailblazers in Louisville. I wanted women who had a unique take on their own experiences. Of course, some of the stories they tell in themselves are very interesting, but I wanted to focus on how people live their lives,” says Miller. “There is a lot of joy in the book, but there is also a lot of sadness. People play out their lives; every person has a story to tell if we would only give people a chance.”

Perhaps choosing one story as the most influential was equally as challenging as narrowing it down to one hundred. “One woman said marrying her husband was her worst mistake. Mimi Ha escaped Vietnam the day before the Communists took over.  Cathy Bailey talks about losing her two grandsons in a fire and the Bibles she found in the rubble that gave her strength. Cathy Drane tells her story of going on a mission trip to Ukraine and adopting a little girl. Jeanne James was a former FBI agent; Lucille Allen couldn’t have her graduation party where she wanted to because blacks were not allowed.” Miller could have gone on and on. But then you wouldn’t want to buy this inspiring gem of a Louisville book, about Louisville, by a fascinating Louisville woman.

As the process of interviewing and photographing took off, Miller explains that she had a lot of fun, but she also “started to feel a real sense of responsibility to these women because they were sharing, in some cases, stories they had never told.” But Miller isn’t one to be serious all the time so she was sure to keep some light-hearted questions in her queue, the favorite being, “Aside from the people in your life, what is one thing you could not live without?”  If ever an interview had taken a solemn tone, this inquiry was bound to lighten the mood as Miller received answers from chocolate and a good book to attempts of over analyzing by asking for an extension to think about it.

While Miller has always been a fascinating woman herself, Louisville hasn’t always held the heart of Miller.

At thirty years old, Miller wanted to leave Kentucky, so she did. Miller headed to New York City where she was immediately in awe of the tall buildings knowing that somewhere within the skyline was an opportunity for her. For twenty years, Miller made New York City her home, the city where she came alive; the city where she made her mark in the PR and special events world; the city where her son was born; the city where her dreams came true; the city she decided to leave on September 11, 2001 when she felt she could no longer protect her son.

“It’s been 12 years and I’m still not quite adjusted [to Louisville]. I’ve only been back to New York once because it’s too difficult to be there as a tourist. I could own a block of downtown Louisville for what I could rent a small loft for in the city. But wonderful things have happened here.  I thank all 100 women for keeping here,” Miller reflects with a grin.

When asked what the common theme was with the one hundred fascinating women, Miller did not hesitate in saying that Louisville women are women of incredible strength – and humor. When asked if she would ever be in the Fascinating Women line-up, she humbly scoffed, “Oh heavens no. I would never be interviewed for that. I would hang up immediately. I would rather be doing the interviewing.”

Taking three and a half years to complete this project, Miller seems uninspired to create a second “Fascinating Women” book despite thinking she may have left a few people out and meeting more fascinating women since its completion.

Without letting her completely off the hook, we had to ask, “What could you not live without?” True to form of a meticulously organized author and event planner, Miller corrected me, “Well, you have to say, ‘besides the people in your life’ before you can ask ‘what could you live without?’” Semantics aside, Miller couldn’t live without entertaining, tablescapes and reading. “I love to entertain in my home, I couldn’t live without reading or writing books, cooking, or amusing myself with the idea to go back.”

Calling Louisville home for now, Miller also says she could not live without some sort of a creative outlet. She may or may not revisit the process of writing about another hundred fascinating women, but no one will be surprised if she follows her passion for entertaining and her love of New York—a city of epic entertaining tales, in a book about the skills and elegance necessary for hosting a delightfully prolonged evening at home.