Tag Archive for: Erin santos

DWTS Blog #4: Why did I sign up for this again?

Written by Erin Santos, ISF Executive Director & President

My current state

Well, here we are.  Dancing With the Stars tickets are sold out, votes are rolling in and by this time next week, I will be back to a normal life.  All these weeks I have been saying that I am not too nervous about the actual dancing part.  That’s now a lie.  The anxiety is setting in and my stomach is in knots.  I didn’t start the week out that way – but as each day passed… the knot begins to grow.

Saturday – my Mom is in town and the plan was for her and Sophia to join me for dance practice.  In true Santos children style, they are bored with every cool experience I’m a part of because they have grown numb to it, so she chooses a morning on her iPad instead of heading to the ballet to watch.  Whatever.  My mom joins me and sits quietly in the seats and Juwan and I kick through the moves.  I notice she is taping a couple of the segments on her phone which I plan to watch later.  Turns out watching it as soon as we get in the car scares the shit out of me because some of the moves I’m doing just look straight stupid.  Yikes.  I’m two weeks out.  I’m better in my head than I am on stage.  

Tuesday – our normal Tuesday practice and we are fixing small pieces that aren’t working.  I’m still working on adding that flare that feels completely dumb when I do it, but I know it comes across better on stage.  I can tell Juwan is wanting more from me and I’m having trouble giving it for some reason.  It just feels weird at times.  We have a couple of tricks that we practice a couple of times to really get the feel of them.  One of the tricks is killing me and I’m not getting it right.  I’m finally nailing the backflip but I’m still doing it in tennis shoes.  We still don’t have shoes and I should be in them by now.  I’m stressing.

The AMAZING Whitley Hamlin

Friday – 12:30.  The AMAZING Whitley Hamlin (@thequeencitystyle) who has graciously agreed to help style me for the event with the help of Neiman Marcus meets us at Southpark to try on some gala looks.  My traditional look is a little short and a little tight and sometimes a little unprofessional and I love that she is taking me out of my comfort zone.  The first dress I try on takes an army to put in on me.  I’m not kidding… it’s a damn scuba suit and I almost pass out twice.  I get it on and take a look in the mirror.  It’s elegant and sophisticated and I love it.  It’s never anything I would ever wear, try on or even buy.  I turn and look at Whitley and my Director of Marketing, Rachel and it feels like I found the perfect wedding dress on the first try.  I try on about 10 more but I keep coming back to the same first dress.  I think we have a winner.  I also need to drop all alcohol, bread, sugar, and calories in the next week to pull this thing off.  2:15 practice time comes and goes and I’m super late.  The videographer from the Ballet is there to shoot some of our practice for our gala video and it freezes me up a little.  Why am I freezing up?  It’s just a week away!  I do however have a new haircut that is making me feel like a new woman – but having a stranger in the room is screwing with me.  Of course, when the camera starts rolling, I see Juwan transform into the performer he is meant to be.  He’s insanely good and at that moment I know he will carry me through this because he is professional.  He’s the best.  I have to feed off his energy.

Saturday – Just breezing through my email and see an email from the Ballet.  Turns out that Juwan and I are the show closers.  I may vomit.

Sunday – 6 more days.  After watching the video of us performing, Juwan levels with me and lets me know there are some parts that just aren’t working.  Here’s the thing.  I have to do a cartwheel twice in my performance.  I know what you are thinking… it’s a cartwheel.  But ask yourself honestly when the last time you DID a cartwheel.  Not just a cartwheel in your living room, but a cartwheel where you have to grab the back of someone’s thigh and do a cartwheel over the front of him.  Oh, and make it look graceful and point your toes and you are 42.  Juwan asks me to do a couple of cartwheels just on the stage to see if we can figure this out.  Cartwheel number one – I pull the back of my thigh and my groin right out of the gate.  I pull it so bad that I want to spend the entire rest of the practice in the tub with Epson salt.  Instead, Juwan keeps making me do them.  He is showing me how to do them with his legs that are like 5 feet long and he looks like a damn starfish but with a touch of a ballet dancer.  I’m not getting any better at them but it’s probably because I’m 42 freaking years old!  Ugh.  Okay, homework for the week – figure out how to be more flexible and also do 100 cartwheels.  Side note: the other women I’m competing against next Saturday… one is an ex-college gymnast and the other is an ex-Chicago Bulls cheerleader.  Bonus.  They are probably kicking out cartwheels for breakfast.  We run through the music a couple of times, videotaping then reviewing.  I’m gonna throw up.

My week ahead is dancing every day, finding shoes that won’t kill me, practicing in my actual dance outfit, dress fittings, dress rehearsals, primping, and anxiety.  God bless anyone that has to come in contact with me this week.  I’m going to be a disaster.  

For goodness sake – please go out and vote for me.  One vote is $1, and I would love the support this week.  

Go to gala.charlotteballet.org and select “Erin and Juwan”.  

Erin’s DWTS Blog #1

Erin’s DWTS Blog #2

Erin’s DWTS Blog #3


DWTS Blog #3: Seriously, why did I sign up for this again?

Written by Erin Santos, ISF Executive Director & President

Current status… not in last place.  I’m in second to last place.  Thanks to some sponsorship funds from Barings, DHG and Fifth Third Bank and some serious votes coming in from my friends at Levine – I have slowly moved to almost $47,000.  I’m a far cry from these 2 gentlemen who are well over $200,000.  (Which is honestly incredible.)   But I find myself being a little less depressed with my current number.  I have lots of people reaching out to me, asking how they can help.  Sadly, my answer is only to vote – because that’s all that moves my needle.  So, ask your friends, ask your friends who own businesses, or anyone really!  Every single vote counts.  

I also have 10 tickets still on hold, but I lose them to the general public  TOMORROW on February 14th.  So, all of you last minute people who want to come (and those ticket dollars count as votes), here are the instructions on how to get them.

Instructions for how to purchase from the held back tickets

1.    Please visit the website here and make a donation of at least $350 to equal one Gold ticket, $700 for 2 Gold tickets, etc. Once the transaction is received it will be recoded from donation to tickets.

2.    Within the guest names field please indicate “Gold Ticket Purchase” and the names of the guests using the tickets.

Day?  I have lost count… so now I will just ramble.

I love my drive up to DWTS rehearsal because I take the 30 minutes to blare the music in my car and walk through all the steps in my head.  Not to give anything away on my actual performance but today I’m playing the song “Baby Got Back” so loud my windows are shaking.  For those of you who know me, you know this was once my go to Karaoke song.  I absolutely HATE Karaoke and had such a horrible performance of this song maybe 8 years ago that I swore it off forever.  But this song has still been in heavy rotation in my house for years because I think it’s absolutely hilarious.  Now, if you ever look in my house windows – what you will find is probably me in the kitchen dancing to the most ridiculous songs.  My kids and I have always had no shame in busting out moves just about anywhere.  I dance all the time in the house, the car, the shower – everywhere.  And I’m raising kids that do the same.  My son is kind of an awesome dancer too and will break out today’s hottest moves on the sidelines of the football field, at a nice restaurant – anywhere.  Kind of like his mom.  Sophia has some moves too and we are constantly trying to get her to quit the Dab.  I find that her moves tend to be a little too sexy for her age too.  Yikes.  I’m probably to blame for this.  

But this Sir Mix a Lot song brings me back to my other child.  Bless her heart.  Isabella was quite possibly the WORST dancer of all time.  This girl had a beat in her head that was nothing like what was actually playing.  However, she didn’t give a damn.  This bald child in a dress would dance and dance, all while carrying a tune that was so off key that it was difficult to be around.  But one thing is for sure – dancing made her so happy.  We would have garage parties with our neighbors, blaring the most child inappropriate songs over the speaker with bottles of wine around us.  Occasionally one of us would get up and bust a move, but she would always trump us with her horrible white girl moves.  We would cheer her on and giggle under our breathe and she ate it all up.  It makes me chuckle just thinking about it.  So, while you may think a 42-year-old Mom from the burbs of Charlotte, dancing on stage to Baby Got Back is weird.  Just know all these songs have meanings and memories of a little 7-year-old girl that knew every word (even though she shouldn’t) and danced her little heart out beside me in the kitchen as the songs played through my house.  I think she would have loved me being up there on stage and really make a total ass of myself.  But she would also sit in her seat and find a beat with her foot on the ground and probably laugh knowing these are all the songs we would dance to in the kitchen as I made dinner too.  

Now on to the dancing… or at least what kind of looks like dancing.

Day 12

It’s time to start piecing this routine together.  I can do each little 30 second part but now Juwan is making me add a song or two together.  Wait one minute of straight dancing?  After a full 60 seconds I find that I’m winded.  Wait add another 30 second piece?  After 90 seconds of this routine, my heart is beating out of my chest and I collapse to the floor at the end of each round.  How do these dancers to do this?  Juwan tells me to kick my cardio up a gear – which I take in stride.  My birthday was February 2nd and I can honestly say that my cardio has been on a sliding scale the past week as my alcohol consumption has increased.  I mean you only turn 42, once right?  Ok ok… back to Orange Theory.  

Day 13

Here we go on putting the entire routine together.  Luckily Juwan cuts me a break and tell me that we will just walk the routine a couple of times in its entirety until my body just goes into muscle memory so I don’t get scared.  I find that this is becoming easier.  I don’t have to think about the steps, my body is just doing it.  I’m doing so well that we start practicing with the music.  Okay, now I’m winded but it’s actually happening.  Great.  Now instead of skipping all the stunts, we are actually going to do them too.  Holy crap.  Each time we go through the 3 ½ minutes – I’m getting better.  Sure, there are mistakes, but Juwan just yells – KEEP GOING!  I just keep going, each round has less and less mistakes.  Hmmm…. This is actually coming together.  Still winded.  

Day 14


Thankfully, the most awesome stylist in town Whitley Hamlin (Queen City Style), has agreed to help style me for the gala.  I love this because sometimes it can be hard for me to crank up the sophistication.  Her peeps at Neiman Marcus have stepped up to help and we start chatting about possibilities.  The fact that I don’t have to think about this piece is really saving me.  Juwan and I have been chatting about performance outfits for a while and have been coming up empty so taking this off my plate helps.  I decided to sit down at my computer and start ordering stuff online.  Let’s pray when it arrives, something speaks to us.  It’s also an added difficulty when you and your partner are trying to match.  Did I mention that I’m a 5’5 mom and he is like an 8-foot-tall ballet dancer?  Yeah… 

Day 15

It’s Saturday night and we have a birthday dinner organized with some friends uptown.  Juwan has a performance that night but has assured me that he and his fella will meet us out after.  I drag my crowd to Dandelion Market where we are WAAAAY too old to be.  I care zero.  I want to dance like I’m 22 and I’m not leaving until they turn on the lights.  Juwan shows up around 11 with his man and I’m so happy I can barely stand it.  We dance and dance and dance like no one is watching until my boyfriend (who dances ZERO), finally pulls me out my arm a little after 1.  I haven’t had a night like this in so long and I loved every minute of it.  Now, while we weren’t necessarily practicing our routine, this night of dancing took me to another level of being comfortable with Juwan.  It’s hard to dance in front of someone – it took a while for me to loosen up with him.  But we are becoming little dance partners – I may even say he is my favorite dance partner ever.  And this is exactly where I wanted to be with him at this point.

Day 16

I got the routine down.  Now it just needs flare.  It’s one thing to have the steps but it’s another to dance the steps as good as Juwan does it.  We may have spent 20 minutes having him walk me through how to get my ass to “twerk”.  I still don’t have it.  I may have googled it when I got home that night and worked on it in my kitchen.  I’m less winded, it starting to not look like a mom from the suburbs.  I’m doing moves and Juwan is saying, “YES!  YES!  That’s it!”.  Confidence is building.  We are laughing, it’s working and I’m loving it.. minus the twerk.

Now I know rehearsing in an empty studio is one thing, on stage is another.  Next week he stops allowing me to watch myself in the mirror and will start picking at every little thing.  He’s going to eat my “twerk” alive.  I will continue to practice in my kitchen.  Also, my kids are starting to learn my routine.  Grant may have it better than I do.  Where is Isabella when I need her???

More performance outfits arrive.  One is baller – and I think we may have found it.  Now time to accessorize.  How is this performance just 2 weeks away.

And vote already.  I’m twerking and that’s got to be worth something right?

Erin’s DWTS Blog #1

Erin’s DWTS Blog #2

Event site: gala.charlotteballet.org

Revealed! Here are the 2019 honorees in CBJ’s Women in Business awards program

Originally published on Charlotte Business Journal

For more than 20 years, the Charlotte Business Journal has recognized outstanding local businesswomen through the Women in Business Achievement Awards program — and the time has come to reveal our 2019 honorees.

This signature awards program recognizes 25 female business leaders in the Charlotte region who’ve made significant contributions to their companies, industries and communities over the previous year.

A Lifetime Achievement Award honoree will be announced in the days to come. She will be someone who’s made an impact over the course of a distinguished career, joining past recipients such as Susan DeVore of Premier Inc. (NASDAQ: PINC) and Cathy Bessant of Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC).

CBJ will honor the members of the 2019 class at an awards event Feb. 25. As was the case last year, that program will take place in tandem with our Bizwomen Mentoring Monday event, which offers brief, one-on-one coaching sessions and networking opportunities. A cocktail hour, seated dinner and awards presentation will follow.

Each honoree has been asked to share a yearbook photo of herself and to consider this question: “What were you thinking at that moment when the photo was taken, and what advice would you give her today?” Those responses will be part of the program.

The honorees also will be profiled in a CBJ special report Feb. 15, with additional coverage and photos to come after the awards presentation.

Check out last year’s special section here to learn more about the program, and check out the photo gallery below for scenes from the 2018 event.

Congratulations to the 2019 winners:

  • Zelleka Biermann, city of Charlotte
  • Sarah Taylor Brigham, Sycamore Brewing
  • Tina Craft, Albemarle Corp.
  • Ruby DuBay, Blythe Construction
  • Caroline Dudley, Accenture
  • Carla Eustache, Style Perfect Events
  • Jada Grandy-Mock, Fifth Third Bank
  • Kim Henderson, Novant Health
  • Diane Honeycutt, Team Honeycutt/Allen Tate Realtors and Cabarrus County commissioner
  • Pat Jones, Carowinds
  • Elizabeth Jordan, Deloitte
  • Kathleen Kaney, Atrium Health
  • Cathie McDonald, OrthoCarolina
  • Rima Mehta, PNC Bank
  • Kelly Necessary, Dixon Hughes Goodman
  • Monika Nessbach, Designbar
  • Diana Palecek, Fox Rothschild
  • Scarlet Powell, Unified Technology Systems
  • Kim Rock, EY
  • Jane Rosaasen, Daimler Trucks North America
  • Erin Santos, Isabella Santos Foundation
  • Christine Steiner, Life’s Food
  • Stephanie Titus, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  • Marcie Williams, RKW Residential
  • Jane Wu, Panorama Holdings

Our Kind of Charity Event. Designer Heels, Handbags & Mimosas.

Handbags, Heels, and Horsepower is just a couple days away… Thursday, November 15th.  Hang with your girlfriends with mimosas in hand… while surrounded by 30 beautiful designer handbags and heels that will be up for raffle to help raise money for rare pediatric cancer research.

The Charlotte Auto Show and Isabella Santos Foundation have partnered together for the Handbags, Heels and Horsepower event Thursday, November 15 at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Jenn Jackson and Erin Santos stopped by WCCB Rising this morning to talk about the event.

Tickets include: 

  • Admission
  • One raffle ticket
  • Free parking at the NASCAR Hall of Fame (arrive early, parking will be based on availability)
  • Beverages & breakfast.  

But make sure to increase your odds of winning that coveted handbag or heel and purchase additional raffle tickets.  If purchased prior to November 15th, raffle tickets will be available for pick up during check-in of Handbags, Heels & Horsepower with your name/number already written on them. Believe us… that will be a huge time saver for you!


11 things raising a terminally-ill child taught me about parenting

Written by Erin Santos, Originally published on village (2013)

When someone tells you that your child will not survive a terminal disease, you quickly begin to look at raising her in a whole new way. I lost my 7-year-old daughter Isabella to the rare pediatric cancer neuroblastoma in 2012. Here’s what I learned from raising my terminally-ill child—and how it’s helping me parent Isabella’s two younger siblings.

1. Be in the picture.When you know have a limited amount of time with your child, capturing moments is critical and you make sure that you’re not the only one snapping photos. The years go by quickly for healthy kids, too—don’t spend them hiding behind the camera.

2. Just let it go.So she wants to wear her best party dress to school or even dye her hair red. When your child is sick, these types of battles often don’t phase you. Yes, you need rules and expectation for your child, but some of these less important things can roll off your back if you’ll let them.

3. Doctors don’t know everything. We put a lot of faith in the medical community to have all the answers. And doctors are forever cautioning parents to avoid doing their own research on the internet—but you can and you should. You are smart enough to sift through what’s reliable and what’s not to get more information and possibly even find a new treatment or trial that might help. Trust that you are the best advocate for your child.

4.You can’t do it without help. Raising a terminally ill child is a full-time job, and the only way you get through it is allowing people to help you—whether it’s picking up groceries, mowing your lawn or ferrying your other kids from school. But all parents need a hand—don’t wait until you’re in a crisis to accept it.

5. Death is real and final. When you know your child is going to die, you really think you know what that means. But even as you’re going through the last stages of death, it’s hard to really grasp what’s going on. Losing your child forces you to face the issue. Everyone has to deal with death at some point—it’s important to find ways for your family to talk about it.

6. You can have more good times than bad. At times it can be hard to carry on when you know how the story ends. But with some effort, you can create amazing memories so that you laugh more than you cry. Take your kids to Disney World, have cake for lunch, play hooky from school to get a manicure. It doesn’t have to be all bad all the time—you can tip the scale in the right direction.

7. You’re stronger than you know. When your child is sick, you’ll do whatever it takes to help—changing wound dressings or organizing fundraisers to raise awareness for your cause. You tap unknown resources of strength and courage. Whatever obstacles you or your child face, don’t let anyone push you around.

8. Everyone has an opinion. If you chose to share your story with the community, your life will be under a microscope. People will question every step you take, every trial you enroll in and have no problem telling you what they think. “Have you looked into this hospital or this drug?” Everyone will always have an opinion on the choices you make and you quickly learn to ignore anything that’s just not helpful.

9. Take advantage of quality time. When you spend hours upon hours of hospital time in treatment rooms, overnight stays, emergency rooms and waiting rooms, you eventually learn to put down your phone or computer to try to be in the moment as much as you can. Time together with your kids can be meaningful and beautiful if you give it the attention it deserves.

10. You’ll be jealous of others. There are days when it’s impossible to watch families with healthy kids. Listening to a friend complain about their child’s ear infection will drive you mad. But jealously affects everyone and it’s important to try to move past it—or at least learn to live with it.

11. You WILL have regrets. No matter how hard you work, what drugs you try or where you take your child for treatment, things will eventually catch up to you. You will beat yourself up on which fork in the road you took that caused the ending, but in fact their time just ran out. Whatever difficult situation your child faces, try to limit your regrets and be confident in the decisions you make. You’ve done the best for your child that you can.

Erin Santos is a freelance writer, blogger and president of the Isabella Santos Foundation (ISF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising funds for neuroblastoma and other pediatric cancers. Erin and her husband founded ISF when their two-year-old daughter, Isabella, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Though Isabella passed away in 2012, the foundation continues its mission in hopes of saving other children. Follow ISF on Twitter and Facebook.

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.