Vineland Woman 'Madd' about the Arts, Community, and Bettering Cumberland County

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Millie Irizarry at the launch of Cumberland County Department of Health's Live Healthy Cumberland initiative in 2016. (Submitted) 

Vineland’s Millie Irizarry juggles working with the County’s Health Department, bringing art and cultural events to the area, and being a mom—all while being a positive influence in the community.

Millie Irizarry is a Cumberland County resident who has worked on a variety of fashion shows with well-known actors and actresses, including Sean Connery and Uma Thurman. She also once worked at one of the most prestigious hair salons in modern history—the world-renowned  Vidal Sassoon in New York.

Irizarry, also known as “Millie Maddness,” recently had the opportunity of bringing the distinguished protege of artist Salvador Dali to Millville and Vineland to perform live painting exhibitions.

Irizarry, of Vineland, is also the founder of her own business — Global Media Society. On top of that, she works at the Cumberland County Health Department (CCHD), is the mother of two children, and aspires to be an exemplary example for young women and little girls to follow.

She also has a goal. She wants to lift the mental, physical and spiritual well-being of the area’s citizens by advocating for her two favorite subjects, art and health.

Irizarry with students of the Wallace School in Vineland where she held a power lunch for students getting ready for high school. (Submitted)

“My goal is to shine light on [art and health events] that go unnoticed and continue to bring positive influence in the community,” says Irizarry. “I have a passion for media, art and health, and anything I can do to bring those things into the community is a goal for Global Media Society.”

Irizarry feels blessed to play a progressive part in helping to create a better awareness of health matters in Cumberland County in her role as a communications liaison at the CCHD.

“Part of my responsibility is to bring awareness to our area through our health initiative called A Better Me,” says Irizarry. “Through continuous outreach, we are able to link community members to available resource information. Our goal is to improve pregnancy outcomes by helping the family as a whole connect to services such as childcare, utility assistance, Spanish translation, transportation and more.”

Irizarry, a Latina, is adept at juggling multiple responsibilities, wearing many hats, and is mastering the art of maneuvering through the “madd” world she lives in.

“I’m a public speaker and conduct presentations at different organizations, including the Vineland Public Library for A Better Me,” says Irizarry. “I am also a member of the Comprehensive Energy Assistance System (CEAS) Committee and Recovery Task Force.”

Irizarry was also a director of special events and marketing at Ramada Worldwide.

As the director and through her capacity as head of Global Media Society, Irizarry hosted an art exhibit featuring the work of famed artist and Salvador Dali’s only living apprentice, Francisco Ciccio Poblet, at the Ramada Vineland in November 2017.

“It was an honor and a privilege for me to bring such a distinguished artist to Cumberland County in general, but also to Vineland specifically,” says Irizarry.

As part of “Millie’s Madness,” Irizarry became a trusted friend of Poblet’s as well as his public relations advisor.

“I met him through mutual friends at tattoo conventions and art conventions [in 2013],” says Irizarry. After building an unbreakable bond through various conversations at these events, Irizarry adds: “He began to work with my daughter, Thalili Nemelc, teaching her how to paint — for a little while.” Her daughter was even able to display some of her work with Poblet at an exhibit they did together in 2014.

The Ramada event isn’t the first time Irizarry brought Poblet to Cumberland County. “I built a relationship with him where he trusted me enough to come down here to Cumberland County to do an exhibit,” says Irizarry. “We did [the first one] in 2015.”

The event took place at Cumberland County College’s Clay College on High Street in Millville. “It wasn’t very publicized, yet it was a very successful evening,” Irizarry says.

How Irizarry reached the level of being able to meet and work with such luminaries as Poblet is a blue-collar tale.

Irizarry with Francisco Poblet and a NY 1 reporter at an art opening in New York. (Submitted)

“I graduated from Vineland High School in 1996, went to New York, and found a job as a receptionist at Vidal Sassoon,” recalls Irizarry. She saw people coming into the salon looking one way, then leaving looking “fabulous,” which provided the spark for her to want to become a hairstylist.

“I said, ‘Whoa, I have to be part of this; this is what I want to do!” says Irizarry.

She decided to leave the salon to go to beauty school and came back as an apprentice with a license.

“I apprenticed for over two years, learning [how to be a] shampoo girl, sweeping floors, serving coffee, observing … trying to learn all I can,” says Irizarry. “Then I got sent to California and finished off my training at the Vidal Sassoon Academy.”

From there, she became a colorist and a hairstylist and became heavily involved in the New York fashion show scene. That is when she began to meet and work with a virtual who’s-who of celebrities.

“I worked on Sean Connery’s “Dressed to Kilt” fashion show and worked on a Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in 2006,” says Irizarry. She also shampooed and worked on the hair of famous actresses Jamie Sigler, of the Sopranos, and Thurman, among others.

I worked on Sean Connery’s “Dressed to Kilt” fashion show and worked on a Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in 2006.

“It was incredible,” said Irizarry, when asked what it was like to have such intimate access to so many worldwide celebs. “Coming from Vineland and being able to work with celebrities, it was a dream come true,” she says.

Initially, Irizarry’s job was to make her clients look good, but eventually, she began producing her own shows. Throughout the late 2000s and early 2010s she produced a number of fashion shows.

All the while, she was documenting everything she did—from training models at her fashion shows to doing their hair and producing the events. This is when Global Media Society and “Millie Madness” came into being.

During her interview with SNJ Today, as Irizarry started to remember the chronology of events that led her to where she is today, she began to recall many fond memories with a genuine sense of pride.

“I started off as Vineland High graduate, to [going to New York to become] a receptionist, to becoming a hairstylist, to becoming an apprentice, to becoming a celebrity hairstylist, to becoming a publicist, to becoming a CEO and founder of my own company,” says Irizarry, who still styles hair periodically. “The madness never ends. ... During my journey, I collaborated with individuals that had similar interests and like a mad scientist, my brand that had been a work in progress now had a pulse. And behold! Global Media Society was born.”

There isn’t an actual date for the founding of Global Media Society because to Irizarry, it was always existed.

Currently, one of Irizarry’s main objectives is to showcase artists and the art they’ve created in the city of Vineland. She believes that officials in Millville and Bridgeton put a little more emphasis and push the art scene a little bit harder than officials in Vineland do.

“We decided to [bring Poblet] here in Vineland and bring something new and exciting to my hometown in hopes that it would open the door for more art functions to be done here,” says Irizarry.

“I know the doors have been opened in Millville and Bridgeton, but there aren’t many open here — in the art industry.

“We have Third Friday in Millville, which is highly publicized,” she says. “We have art galleries that have come forth in Bridgeton that are well known. But I would like to see more of the art element incorporated into Vineland.

“I want to keep the art alive.”

According to the word madness means, “a state of wild or chaotic activity,” which seems to describe Irizarry to a tee. However, Millie Irizarry’s “Maddness” is artfully stitched together by the arts and wellness, perseverance, hard work, and a deep sense of community.

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