Montebello Woman Wins Business Achievement Award

From make-up classes to political activism, local woman’s efforts earn her honors.

By Nancy Martinez, EGP Staff Writer

She has organized Montebello’s Heritage Festival and Parade, an Annual Betty Boop Festival, and most recently she is providing free Halloween make-up demonstrations throughout the month of October. Now, Denise Hagopian, a local businesswoman who opened her store in the City of Montebello nearly 30 years ago, is being honored for her personal achievements and contributions to the city.

Denise Hagopian, owner of Heavenly Choice in Montebello, was chosen for the “Woman of Achievement” award for her community contributions to the City of Montebello. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Hagopian owns Heavenly Choice, a retro shop in Montebello that specializes in floral and balloon arrangements, sells a variety of memorabilia and gifts, and hosts numerous workshops and fun-filled events. The East Los Angeles-Montebello Business and Professional Women organization, whose membership includes some of the same women Hagopian says were among her first customers, will present her with the “Woman of Achievement” award at a dinner to be held Oct. 24 at the DoubleTree Hotel.

“Its nice to be acknowledged, especially by such a dynamic group of women who really have led the way but never got recognized, they were ahead of their times,” Hagopian told EGP about the local women’s group.

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Linda Wilson, public relations chair for the East Los Angeles-Montebello Business and Professional Women, told EGP the organization chose to honor the Montebello resident, whose store will be celebrating its 30th anniversary next year, because of her achievements as a businesswoman and for her volunteer work dedicated to the City of Montebello.

“We chose her because of her part in the community,” Wilson said, and “All of the volunteer work she has done and for her business work.”

The Woman of Achievement award honors businesswomen who have impacted their community. Last year the group honored Nancy Acuri, publisher and editor of Monterey Park’s online newspaper, The Citizen’s Voice.

“They look at women throughout their career and look at what they’ve changed,” what impact they have had on their community and the business world,” Hagopian told EGP. “I didn’t think of myself as being old enough to get an award like that but when I look at all the things that I’ve done, I’m like ‘yeah you really impacted the community.’”

Hagopian’s contributions to Montebello include efforts to resurrect the Heritage Festival and Parade, which due to city budget cuts has not taken place since 2006. Hagopian plans to use her experience organizing events to bring the Festival and Parade, which celebrated arts and heritage, back to the city.

“I didn’t really realize how much it impacted people.” Hagopian said. “They all had that one thing in common, their families, their kids were achieving something and I gave them that platform to show off.”

The Betty Boop expert also organizes the Annual Betty Boop Festival in Montebello, which takes place in July at the Heavenly Choice parking lot on 534 North Montebello Boulevard. The festival includes a look-a-like contest for girls under 5 as well as other Betty Boop contests and memorabilia.

Most recently, she helped organize the “March for Montebello,” a local youth movement that last July held a march that went from Heavenly Choice to the Shops at Montebello as part of a campaign to raise awareness about the importance of shopping locally.

“We took teenagers and we activated them and made them learn why they need to be active,” Hagopian said. “We educated the teens, why they need to control where their money is spent, why they need to be involved in their community and involved in politics.”

This month, Hagopian has been holding a series of make-up classes in her store, where she demonstrates how to create Halloween-themed effects like scars, vampire bites and zombie makeup. The classes will, some of which are free, will continue until Oct. 27— there is a fee to take part in more hands-on classes like her Dia de los Muertos makeup workshop.

Hagopian told EGP she put these workshops and demonstrations together to help participants put together a costume for Halloween that does not come from a package and looks like what thousands of other people are going to be wearing.

It’s about creating memories, she says. “You remember your favorite Halloween, you remember when your mom painted [your face], because you used your own creative talent, ” Hagopian said. “I’m teaching moms who are going to create that moment in time for their kids.”

Hagopian began her career working at Sam’s Liquor’s store in Montebello, operated by her father. That’s where she discovered her interest and talent in creating basket arraignments. After graduating from Montebello High School in 1972, she attended FIDM Fashion Institute of Los Angeles and received her A.A. in Merchandising.

An interest in ethnography in 1978 earned her a spot on the US Soviet Dialogue Committee under the Carter administration, where she traveled to Armenia, Georgia and the Caucus region to study the traditions and customs of the native people.

As a soloist in Armenian dance ensembles, she performed in theaters throughout California and was recognized for her talent by former Los Angeles Assemble Member Michael Woo who appointed her to the Los Angeles Arts and Culture Commission in 1977.

The combination of these successes, in both the business arena and as an active, engaged member of the community, is what earned her the “Woman of Achievement” award, according to the business group.

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October 18, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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