"I Never Saw My Dad Sit Down in a Chair."
So says Victoria Upton, the effervescent publisher of “Women’s Lifestyle” magazine, a tireless volunteer, champion of the arts, and advocate for diversity, inclusion and justice.
With more hands in the mix than the 18-armed Hindu goddess Durga, Victoria takes after her father almost literally, confiding that “I have never sat through an entire movie,” adding how “I tried to sit through ‘The Sound of Music’ as a kid but pretended to have a weak bladder because I just needed to get up and move around.”
She’s been moving ever since, in a constant pursuit to create opportunities for, and awareness of, others.
A 1973 graduate of Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills High School, Victoria earned college degrees in art and music, never abandoning her love of the piano and genres ranging from jazz to barrel-house boogie-woogie.
Throughout her life, this single mother and grandmother has proudly celebrated a rich heritage that includes Hispanic, African-American and Native American bloodlines. “I’m a Heinz 57,” she says, representing “pretty much all the continents except Australia.”
Victoria has been honored at almost too many levels to track, mostly for efforts that reflect her mission and values. Most recently, she was named a “Latin Woman of Distinction” by the Caribbean Coalition for Arts & Culture here.
She has also been recognized for her volunteering at everything from ArtPrize to Gilda’s Club to the Community Media Center. And that’s all on top of her full-time job – and encore role since her mid-40s – as publisher of Women’s Lifestyle, which she describes as “an open invitation for you to participate in the best of our community.”
That definition is careful not to exclude men, as Victoria will be the first to emphasize that there’s plenty of content in her monthly circular for people of both genders.
Her office headquarters in a building at 800 Monroe NE is a potpourri of sensory delights – starting with a liquor station just inside the front entrance – and offices rife with photos and objects d’art.
It reflects her almost raucous and whimsical nature, personified by smiles, hugs and the ability to empathize – the latter value most recently affected by her own health struggle with a cancer known as multiple myeloma, a serious blood disorder for which she’s endured a stem cell transplant.
Victoria doesn’t dwell on the pain and suffering of her ordeal, only the benefits: “I do things a little differently now. I’ve been through a stem cell transplant, so I’m no longer afraid of anything. I’ve learned to relinquish control. And I do more of what I want to do.
That includes more and more painting – beautiful creations that celebrate our humanity and connectedness to one another. A series on great-grandmothers that she recently finished is a testament to the power of women as providers.
In keeping with her mantra to keep moving, she continues to take art classes at Kendall College of Art & Design here, explaining that “I’m a life-long learner.”
And she’s completely open to non-traditional ways to stay healthy, focused and vibrant.
Victoria recently celebrated her birthday by putting in nearly a full day at work, then announcing that she was headed out a bit early: “I’ve got to open up my chakras.”