This local pinup organization promotes nonprofits across Hampton Roads

The Hepcat Honeys attend multiple events through Hampton Roads promoting nonprofits and body positivity (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Hepcat Honeys)
The Hepcat Honeys attend multiple events through Hampton Roads promoting nonprofits and body positivity. (Southside Daily/ Courtesy of Hepcat Honeys)

Kari Young is a woman who dabbles in everything from homeschooling her children and styling hair to makeup artistry and photography.

Her other hobby? Pinup girls.

“I’ve always loved the retro 1940s-1950s look,” Young said. “You could look sexy without being provocative.”

Originally called Peace, Love & Pin Up, the community organization was founded in 2017 but changed their name to Hepcat Honeys in January of this year after Young’s father compared them to hippies.

Young, founder and board member of Hepcat Honeys, chose the name since the word hepcat means cool, jazz, hip and retro, and honey is a Southern term of endearment and a well-loved person.

“I’m well loved,” Young said with a laugh.

According to the Hepcat Honeys’ history section: “We have picked this particular name because it truly embodies the ladies of our group and it is our job to not only share the vintage culture we love so much, but to educate others about different eras by representing the fashion of the period and being well loved by our community.”

Body positivity

The organization’s mission is to promote body positivity and to share the women’s love of vintage clothing and culture with the community. So far, the group has about 12 to 15 members in Hampton Roads with some women being as far away as Richmond. Their goal is to become a nonprofit.

“It takes a lot of them out of their comfort zone and helping them with building their confidence,” Young said. “We want to make them comfortable with their body type”

“A lot of ladies are coming with an attitude of ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I can’t look like this’,” Young said.

While there are different aspects of pin up, Hepcat Honeys prides itself as a family friendly, board-led organization helping nonprofits raise awareness for their cause.

Last year at an event, people assumed a girl in a bikini was affiliated with Hepcat Honeys, which Young assured she was not.

“We’re trying to be conservative ––– not so Pollyanna perfect,” Young said, adding the organization has certain rules such as being approachable, friendly and dressing tastefully.

“I want to make sure the wives were not put off by us,” she said about vintage car shows, where the Hepcat Honeys often pose with husbands.

Currently, the Hepcat Honeys are in the process of creating a 2020 calendar which is a collaboration between the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter. All of the proceeds will go to the shelter to help with future adoptions and special beds. The calendar is expected to be released at the end of the month, Young said.

When asked how Hepcat Honeys empowers women since the organization focuses on outer beauty, Young said during photo shoots and events, she suggests clothing options for the women as well as makeup and hair styling but ultimately, it is all about them.

“One-hundred percent of the time they go, ‘oh wow, I feel so beautiful’,” Young said. “Our girls are from all walks of life. From everyday employees to stay-at-home moms, all types of people with and without children.”

The stigma

“I’m of the generation that knew Betty Grable as a pin up girl, in a modest swimsuit,” Pat Reuss, vice president of the Virginia Chapter of the National Organization for Women, wrote in an email. “Then there were sports illustrated models who work skimpier and skimpier bathing suits, and playboy pin ups.”

“Right now my pinup girls are my granddaughters in their softball and field hockey uniforms or ice skating or playing violin first chair in the high school orchestra,” she added.

WYDaily informed Reuss the Hepcat Honeys considered themselves “G” rated and dressed conservatively to which Reuss replied she didn’t give a (expletive) about the pinup organization and had bigger issues to deal with such as the Equal Rights Amendment.

Reuss also gave some examples about body image and how women get blamed for a lot of things and get criticized for dressing provocatively.

“We’re always somehow blamed,” she said. “Every time you look at some moral guy who shoots up a school, analysts say his mother didn’t love him enough.”

Reuss said once a woman who was criticized for dressing too provocatively but was wearing tight clothing because she had varicose veins. A more recent example? When a swimmer, who had a curvy body type, was criticized for her appearance.

“But you and I would fight to not wear a burka with one of the screens across your face, right?” Reuss said.

For more information about the Hepcat Honeys, visit the organization’s Facebook page. 

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.