AY’s 30th Anniversary: Pearls of Wisdom


By Vicki Vowell, CEO & Founder of Vowell, Inc.

In the spring of 1988, I fulfilled a dream to start a company. This month, I celebrate my pearl anniversary as founder of the “Grand Lady” AY Magazine. The journey has been challenging, to put it mildly, but so worthwhile. It’s an accomplishment to be Arkansas’ largest independently owned lifestyle magazine.

The definition of a pearl is a highly prized gem, a precious thing, the finest example of something. I think that description depicts AY Magazine to a T.

P. Allen Smith

P. Allen Smith

In honor of our anniversary issue, my creative team persuaded me to grace the cover as a Roy Lichtenstein-style portrait. Lichtenstein was an influential and innovative pop artist in the 1960s. I considered his work and determined that the magazine and the artist have many similarities. Just as the artist’s work influenced and created a pop culture movement, AY has influenced and educated folks about the people, places and history of our state. We have a deep love for Arkansas, with more than three decades-worth of stories woven into the fabric of our culture.

In addition to producing Arkansas’ premier lifestyle magazine and online platform, our company’s core values include being part of our community and thinking outside the box. We’re proud to be:


One of our platforms is to focus on quality health care in Arkansas. AY is known as a valuable resource when it comes to health information. In 2002, we expanded the platform and created Runway for a Cause, a powerful luncheon fashion show, featuring breast cancer survivors as models. We founded the event with several goals: to raise money and awareness for breast cancer causes, to celebrate survivors, to remember the women who lost their battle, to encourage women who were in treatment and to the celebrate the power of women by providing them a well-deserved runway on which to strut their stuff. After 10 ten years, and raising more than $1 million, we handed the reins to Susan G. Komen Arkansas. With a new name, Runway for a Cure, they continue the legacy.


The good-looking, well-put-together men and women featured editorially in our pages — including most of our fashion features — are real. We celebrate the average Joe and “Joanne,” whenever possible. We feature real women and men — wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, caretakers and more. We realize our responsibility is to portray life in all its glory, perfect and imperfect.


“You get a car, and you get a car …” OK, we’ve never had an Oprah-sized giveaway, but we’ve given our readers beachfront, Branson and golfing getaways. And with the help of generous sponsors and advertisers, AY readers have received roundtrip airline tickets, housewares from Viking and LeCrueset, gift certificates for massages, meals, manis and pedis, and a new lease on life, along with renewed confidence with our mini-makeovers and the Ultimate Makeover. Check out our online giveaways at aymag.com/contests.

Runway for a Cause


In February 2004, we launched Singles in the City, featuring two brave single professionals, Dawne Vandiver and Steve Woodson. During its run, a couple of people met and married through our features. We sponsored a singles event, raised more than $5,000 and gave the money to Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-South to grant a child a wish. We worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas on “singles” auctions to raise money, and we sponsored our own The Bachelor-style contest with B98.5 radio station.


AY is proud to have shed light on worthy organizations working to benefit others, such as Youth Home’s Eggshibition, Baptist Health Foundation’s Bolo Bash, Northwest Arkansas’ Saving Grace’s Butterflies and Blooms, St. Bernards Runway for a Cure, and more. We take great pride in having hosted events with, and to benefit, civic organizations such as Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-South, Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Arkansas Literary Festival and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas.


While many of our stories are informative and entertaining, we’ve not shied away from stories that point out blemishes in our state’s history. We featured stories about Tony Alamo, highlighted the 40th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High School. We’ve shared the stories of brave domestic abuse survivors, such as artist Theresa Cates and Vicky Williams, mother of D.J. Williams – former Razorback and Green Bay Packer and co-host on KARK Channel 4. We’ve spearheaded the movement to find Ebby Steppach, the young girl who disappeared in 2015, and told the heartbreaking story behind Arkansas’ anti-texting legislation Paul’s Law.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art


AY has enjoyed wonderful support from longtime advertisers, such as Gaston’s White River Resort, Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, University of Arkansas Medical Sciences, Dr. Lowry Barnes, Dr. Michael Spann of Little Rock Plastic Surgery, CARTI, Pinnacle Pointe Behavioral Healthcare, Sissy’s Log Cabin, Capital Hotel, Baptist Health, Snell Prosthetics & Orthotics and so many more.


Murder Mystery is one of AY’s longest-running features. Janie Jones, Letha Mills and Rhonda Owen have piqued the interest of our readers with stories about the Phantom Murders, Tent Girl, Kristin Laurite, Beau Ramsey, Nona Dirskmeyer, Tracy Altom Holloway, Bonnie and Clyde’s bloody Arkansas trail, John Markle and Ruby Stapleton. This year, Janie Jones is our official mystery maven.


Each month, we showcase a home — we’ve featured large and small, grand and quaint, classic and contemporary — and introduce the owners, designers, builders and concepts behind some of our region’s most unique dwellings. We partnered with Deltic Timber to feature the first-ever Southern Living home. We love a great garden, and with the help of P. Allen Smith, we’ve shown our family of readers how to nurture their green thumbs.



We’ve lent space for the intriguing, witty and wise reflections of several respected writers over the years. Our columnists and writers have included the late, great Richard Allin, Her Royal Highness Jill Conner Brown, outdoor enthusiast Steve Bowman, nature writer Mel White, garden guru P. Allen Smith, hometown wordsmith Sonny Rhodes, food aficionado Kat Robinson, storyteller Dwain Hebda and travel writer and columnist Joe David Rice.


And you tell us so, through your emails, letters and posts through social media. We love hearing from the AY family of readers. You let us know what you love and why. You also let us know what you don’t like and why… We thank you for the feedback.


We love being the first — and sometimes the only — publication to share information and entertainment. We’ve been the only magazine to bring you Arkansas’ interviews with celebrities such as Helen Gurley Brown, Paula Dean, Burt Reynolds, Reba McEntire, Al Green, Debbie Reynolds and author Kathryn Stockett; and features with difference makers such as Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes.

As Arkansas’ premier general interest magazine, it’s an honor to work with a team of professionals who aren’t satisfied with producing a good product but are determined to deliver a great one. I have been blessed to be part of a great company, and I can offer you some pearls of wisdom. Find what you love. Never give up. Believe in yourself and others, and be thankful. Here’s to the next 30 years.

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