A quick wit and a genuine love of all things Acadiana are two things that make British-born Aileen Bennett so charming.
Bennett juggles several projects all at once and keeps a full schedule, but she always manages to leave the people she encounters feeling better about who they are.
What exactly does she do for a living? When asked that question, she laughs, “It would depend… I think they call it the hyphen generation, and I’m a bit old to be in that generation. But it’s creatives that do lots of things.”
“Lots” is an understatement. Aileen describes herself as a business problem solver. Her illustrations could be considered masterpieces. She’s written two books and is currently working on another.
She hosts a weekly radio show, Out to Lunch Acadiana, featuring business people around the region and she’s reigniting another passion.
“I also am about to have an art exhibition in the fall. It’s like an art dance exhibition. I’m getting to paint which is not something I get to do very often,” she says.
Her activities keep her work front and center, but that’s not where Aileen prefers to be. As a matter of fact, she enjoys drawing attention to the talent and uniqueness of the Acadiana culture and its people. She says, “I want to help the creatives in town make money, so they live in a cooler place, so it’s selfish.”
One of her many talents is shining the light on other people and making them feel good about who they are. It’s something she does very well through a weekly article she writer for The Times of Acadiana called “Be You.”
Despite that, Aileen recently put herself under the “Be You” microscope, but she had already opened the door to her life a year before when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She took to social media to keep her friends and followers update.
“One, the honest reason, because I was gonna lose all my hair and there was no hiding that and it was easier to put up a photo on Facebook and say, here, stare at that this. This is what I look like right now. I also wanted people to know, really know, that there is nothing you can say to offend me because that’s my choice,” said Bennett.
“And so you get complete strangers coming up to you and talking to you. And I wish I was the kind of person who could put on a beautiful wig or a scarf. Like, I put on a scarf and 10 minutes later I look like a pirate,” she quips.
When asked if she realizes the number of people her work and contributions have impacted in Acadiana, she humbly replies, “It’s about people, one to one. It’s not about adding up how much you did, so it’s not really something I think about.”
She says going through cancer treatment for the last year underscored the philosophy she’s always tried to communicate.
“My message has always been just to be yourself. Because if you get to be you, then I get to be me, and we don’t have to pretend or be fake or play this silly game. It’s about being genuine and being kind.”
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