Tanisha Akinloye, a Trumbull resident and founder of the groundbreaking Bridgeport-based non-profit Empowering Through Beauty Inc. (ETBINC), took to the stage in her hometown of Tryon, N.C., on Sept. 12 to participate in her first TEDx talk. Akinloye was one of 12 speakers chosen from more than 40 applicants to present at this first-time event to be held in the Carolina Foothills area.

The response was overwhelming, according to Akinloye.

“People were in tears,” she said. “They came up to me, told me they were touched by my spirit and passion and said you need to continue to share this speech over and over.”

Akinloye spoke about something near and dear to her heart — empowering women and girls in less fortunate circumstances. She told the story of how she gave up a successful upscale beauty salon and hairstyling practice in order to launch ETB after bearing witness to the harsh realities of many of the women who visited her Bridgeport salon over the years.

“I wanted to give back,” she says.

And give back she has.

Since 2010 ETBINC has been serving the community’s disadvantaged women and girls through myriad avenues. The organization has worked with The Center for Family Justice, Bridgeport Rescue Mission, Homes with Hope in Westport and several other shelters across Connecticut. It hosts annual special events that provide services such as hair coloring, haircutting and styling, hair treatments, manicures and facials. It has held educational workshops on hair and makeup application, résumé writing, job training as well as self-empowerment workshops and seminars. And every year when she visits her family in North Carolina, Tanisha hosts an event designed to assist those low-income women and single moms in the Tryon area who may need it.

What Akinloye strove to impart to listeners in her 15 minute TEDx talk, above all else, is that beauty is more than skin deep – it comes from within and is exemplified in love, confidence and empowerment.

“This TED talk was a defining event in my life,” she says. “To be able to stand up on a stage and pour out my heart and spread the message of empowerment — I would never have thought that I would have been able to do that. I could have stayed up there for hours.”

TEDx talks are independent, grassroots versions of the popular TED (technology, entertainment and design) talks founded in 1984 as a nonprofit to spread ideas, from scientific to inspirational, around the globe through talks by experts in the field. TEDx Tryon was held from 9 to 4:30 at the 100-seat Fine Arts Center, 34 Melrose Ave. and tickets to the event sold out in just 72 hours. Among the 12 diverse, eclectic individuals chosen to speak were an internationally known Celtic fiddler player, a brain scientist, a high school student and an aging expert. Local organizers of the event, sisters Lori and Corrie Woods, spent over a year putting Tryon’s initial TEDx event together. Preliminary coaching sessions brought all participants together to practice and rehearse their presentations. Video of all the speakers at the North Carolina event will be available on the TED website www.ted.com between now and the end of the year.

Now that Akinloye is back in Connecticut, plans for future ETBINC events are in the works.

“I hope to continue to inspire women and girls and my beauty industry colleagues to think differently and realize that they have more to offer,” she says. “I was a hairstylist and this is what I am doing now. If I can do it, anybody can.”

For more information on ETBINC visit www.empoweringthroughbeauty.org and for more information on TED visit www.ted.com