Last winter was one of the loneliest times of Lauren Wenn’s life. She had just moved into a new area, a lot was going on in her family, and for the first time in her life, she felt completely isolated.
Frustrated with always being the one who reached out to friends, Wenn decided to host a girl’s night at her home and posted on social media inviting anyone who wanted to come. Friends from every stage of Wenn’s life came, and she said it was the first time in months she didn’t feel alone.
“If I really needed people, I could put it out there and people would be there for me, but I also realized that they needed people too, or else they wouldn’t have been there,” Wenn said.
That’s how Featured Female — Wenn’s “passion project” that has the goal of creating a community among women. — was born. Featured Female hosts free, monthly girls’ nights out, produces a podcast sharing women’s stories and creates videos highlighting struggles women face.
Featured Female’s mission statement is to “listen with empathy, support with love and create community.”
“We’ve realized that — whether you’re single, married, divorced, have children — there’s a loneliness that comes with each of those stages,” Wenn said. “Being able to unite everyone, whether you’re in one stage or the other, really helps them to feel that support.”
The girls’ nights out began in January and have grown steadily. About 25 women came the first month. The next month, 80 women showed up, and between 60 and 100 women have consistently attended since then. Wenn, who hosts the events in her Provo home, even painted her garage to provide more room for events.
The events are fully decorated — Wenn wants to make sure guests feel like the events are special — and feature activities and a service project. At the last few girls’ nights out, guests have written cards to different groups of women, including women in domestic abuse shelters.
“I just think it’s rewarding to see that people don’t have to feel lonely and just kind of know that they have a support system,” Wenn said.
Featured Female recently opened a Logan chapter, and Wenn said she hopes to open chapters throughout Utah and in neighboring states. Wenn said it’s important to keep events free so finances don’t become a burden to friendship. Until now, Wenn has shouldered the Featured Female costs herself, but as the group has grown, she’s started looking for sponsors.
In addition to the girls’ nights out, Featured Female has started producing a podcast and videos to foster community among women who don’t live locally.
The organization recently created a video about infertility and child loss. Women from across Utah came together to share their stories about miscarriage, stillbirth, fertility treatments, struggling to get pregnant and losing children. The video has more than 5,300 views on Instagram and more than 2,300 on YouTube.
“They just comforted and leaned on each other … and that was so cool to watch,” Wenn said. “They didn’t compare stories, they just understood that they were all going through something. And it was interesting because they all felt for the other person almost more than they were feeling for themselves in that moment.”
In the future, Wenn said Featured Female will create more “empathy project” videos addressing different challenges women face. One such upcoming video will be created in a partnership with Hashtag Fly, a nonprofit organization that helps women who have suffered from abuse and trauma.
The experience in creating Featured Female’s first video gave Wenn a vision for Featured Female and inspired the group’s mission statement.
The video also gave the Featured Female podcast a new direction. Previously, the podcast existed to help women feel connected even if they didn’t talk to other women frequently. It covered topics including “Unpopular Opinions,” “Broken Engagements” and “How Do You Grocery Shop?” Now, however, Wenn said she wants to start telling women’s stories on the podcast.
“The goal is to just open up everyone’s eyes to the fact that we’re all going through different things, good or bad,” Wenn said. “It’s also taking that crossover from social media personas into real-life relationships, where you can communicate with each other at the store and say, ‘hello.’”
Ultimately, Wenn said the most rewarding part of her role in Featured Female is seeing women develop close friendships thanks to the organization’s parties. She’s also seen changes in her own life — she said she’s reconnected with old friends and finds it easier to be empathetic and make new ones.
“We don’t care what religion or what your political beliefs or what your economic status is; it’s a free party for anyone,” Wenn said. “So it’s really easy to open my mouth to everyone and be like, ‘Hey, come be our friend.’ And that’s cool.”