She’s a Woman on Fire! Meet Carmencita Whonder

Welcome back to our ongoing series to introduce you to each other.  She’s a Woman on Fire! member and we want you to know her.  Please say hello to…

Carmencita Whonder

Washington, D.C.

Member: #00090

Member since: February 21, 2012

Please tell us about YOU, your family, and your work. What you are “on fire” about? 

I am a first child, big sister to a sister and twin brothers who are 12 years and 17 years my junior, respectively. I am the granddaughter to the best 92-year-old lady on the planet, and she has deemed me the MIT (matriarch in training). I am spiritual, loyal, giving, and a friend to and of many. I am a proud graduate of Howard University. I love foreign affairs and am an avid international traveler.

I am a risk-loving entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO at OF WHONDER ( I am super on fire about empowering women who wear sizes 12-24 to feel beautiful and confident when they walk out into the world everyday—where many people say we don’t have the right.

How did you originally connect to Women on Fire?

I came to Women on Fire directly through Debbie Phillips. Several years back, Debbie and I met at a women’s retreat called “Getting to Next.” Our group wasn’t very big—20 women together for two days in a beautiful New York City apartment discussing our “Next.”

I noticed Debbie pretty quickly because she had a huge smile that seemed a bit unreal—seriously. I remember thinking to myself with a little annoyance, “What’s wrong with her, and why is she so darned happy?” It just didn’t seem real to me at all, and I am a glass-half-full kind of gal. I guess I wasn’t used to seeing people grinning literally from ear to ear—at least not in Washington, D.C., or New York City. I hadn’t spoken with Debbie yet, and so I knew nothing about her; this was just an observation from across the room.

During the retreat, we were assigned secret mentors to watch us and slip us notes to praise and encourage us during the weekend. Halfway into the retreat, we had a group dinner, and somehow Debbie and I got left behind and ended up walking over to the restaurant together. (Looking back now, I think she probably planned it.)  It was a perfect opportunity to take a lovely walk on a gorgeous evening and get to know each other.

Debbie was “whonderful,” and we became fast friends. You might have guessed already that Debbie was, in fact, my secret mentor, and I couldn’t have been happier about that. We developed an instant spiritual connection that has lasted for almost 10 years. Debbie understands that life isn’t just about her, which, in my opinion, is one of the best character traits a human being could possess.

At the end of the retreat, I told her what I was thinking of her earlier, and she gave me the best explanation of why she was so happy—definitely one of the best explanations of gratefulness that I have ever heard. I haven’t questioned anyone’s smile or glow of happiness since!

What’s your favorite component of the Women on Fire membership?

I appreciate the way Women on Fire celebrates its members for their big and small accomplishments. The organization is truly about uplifting others, which seems rare in this age of hyper-self-promotion and individualism.

What is your favorite part of the day?

Anytime other than morning. I’m a night owl.

What is the last book you read that you would recommend to other Women on Fire?

The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh.

What is the one thing you are most proud of?

My faith. It is also the greatest gift my grandmother has given to me.

If you had an unexpected free day, how would you spend it?

I would probably spend too much time thinking about what to do, and then the day would be over. I’ve got to work on this in 2014!

What is your favorite city in the world?  

I love so many cities, but New York City is my greatest love. I grew up in Norwalk, Connecticut, just 45 minutes outside of New York. Like every Jamaican, I have always had tons of family in all of the boroughs, so I spent lots of time there as a young person. Back then, I loved hanging out with family and seeing shows, but I never wanted to live there. I loved my idyllic New England life.

Today, it’s the total opposite! All I do is dream of living in the city that never sleeps, the fashion capital of the world, home to the N.Y. Giants and Knicks, and where you’ll find the best restaurants, theaters, and museums the world has to offer. The cherry on top is that New York is also home to many of my favorite people in the world.

Share a special Women on Fire moment or experience.

A couple of years ago, Debbie hosted a tea party in Washington, D.C. I invited a few of my really good friends and was surprised to learn about some of their deepest dreams and goals for the first time. The setting allowed them to speak life into what they were most on fire about, and it helped me to become a more supportive friend, pushing them to realize those dreams and goals. That’s what is so beautiful about this community of women.

What’s your big dream?

To be truly happy!

If you had the opportunity to teach a child one strategy that would help to guide her life, what would that be?

Recognize and embrace your gifts early so you can spend as much time as possible using them to fulfill your purpose on this earth.

What is something that we might be surprised to learn about you?

This super girly girl used to be a huge tomboy. As a kid, I loved snakes, my BMX bike, playing sports and the color blue. I hated pink! Today I have lots of pink in my house—but blue too.

Name three women who have influenced your life, and what you’ve learned from each.

My grandmother, Ethel Chambers: Faith will always sustain me and having a great work ethic will get me the rest of the way.

My mentor, Cynthia Bunton: Laughing with friends (instead of crying) over great champagne is sometimes the best cure for a broken heart.

My group of best friends (too many to list each name): Friends are the family members you are blessed enough to be able to choose.

Who cheers you on?

Definitely my mother! From the time I was quite young, she came up with the crazy idea that I could do and be anything. She was convincing, and I believed her.

What is your favorite “pig-out” food?

Definitely French fries and ice cream.

What are the top three songs on your iPod right now?

“Happy” by Pharrell Williams from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack is my top 1, 2, 3, and more right now. I listen to this great song more than 10 times a day because it makes me incredibly happy no matter what my mood is at the time. The video is pretty great too!

What is the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced and how did you overcome it?

Forgiving myself for not being perfect. Age and wisdom have helped me to realize that no one is perfect and my imperfections may actually be part of my charm.

What is your go-to self-care strategy?

Massages are one of God’s greatest creations for the working woman. I can’t live without them. I just tried a Thai Yoga massage that is part massage, yoga/stretching and acupuncture. I highly recommend it!

When you reflect on your life so far, what are the first words that come to mind?

Blessed and Whonderful!

More about Carmencita Whonder…

Educated at Howard University and Johns Hopkins, Carmencita has experience in such diverse areas as financial services, philanthropy and the U.S. Senate. Above all, she is a strategist, and she’s particularly skilled in developing plans for under served markets.

She is the CEO and founder of the contemporary, luxury, ready-to-wear clothing brand OF WHONDER, which embraces the physiques of the majority of women—those wearing sizes 12-24. OF WHONDER is more than just a fashion line; it represents a lifestyle that promotes positive self-image, balanced choices, and daring confidence each and every day.

You can connect with Carmencita and “like” OF WHONDER’s Facebook page here.

She’s A Woman on Fire! is compiled by senior writer Becky Adams.