Marilyn Bryant has always had a passion for fashion. Born and raised in Lebanon, Bryant said her first glimpse at "the business of fashion" began the summer after high school at the former Mary Lee's Style Shoppe.
"It was located where Clark Boyd's State Farm office is now," she said. "I stocked clothes and did the window dressing. In the sixties and seventies it was the boutique of Lebanon."
Following graduation at Lebanon High School, where she was the first African American cheerleader, Bryant attended Vanderbilt University to study criminal psychology before fashion once again called her name. Bryant received a call from Bauder Fashion College in Atlanta and decided to learn more about merchandising and marketing.
Over the years, Bryant worked in the industry in Atlanta, Philadelphia and New York, where she focused on the manufacturing and wholesale side of the business. She worked as a buyer Macy's and for a catalog owned by J.Crew, owned a sweater contracting business and traveled the world to visit factories.
In May 2013 Bryant moved home to Wilson County to be near her mother, Hattie Bryant. She is currently renovating a home next door to her mother.
"I always knew I would come back to Lebanon. I didn't have anything to keep me in New York and I wanted to start a new volume of life in Lebanon," she said.
Bryant has stayed incredibly busy volunteering and serving on local boards and projects. She is on the City of Lebanon's Historic Districting Commission, selected by the mayor to supervise the creation of historic preservation districts, and the Board of Zoning Appeals. She is a volunteer for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and was asked to join the Board of Directors. She is also a future Leadership Wilson Class of 2015 graduate, 1st Vice Chair of the Wilson County Democratic Party and helps coordinate events at the Wilson County Civic League, such as last year's Black History Month concert, which she chaired.
"I'm so active volunteering I feel like I need to go back to work to get some rest," she joked. "I left Lebanon as a cheerleader and now I am returning as a community cheerleader."
She plans to start a new business venture in Lebanon that will guide and encourage aspiring business owners.
Women she admires are her mother Hattie and Angelina Jolie. "My mother is at the top of the list. She retired from teaching but still stayed active in the Democratic Party, her church and in schools. I'm so proud they named Winfree Bryant Middle School in her honor," Bryant said. "Angelina Jolie is an inspiration because she has taken her talent that could have been used just for 'star power' and uses it to quietly help humanity. She does a lot of work with charities all over the world without a lot of adoration."