Glam and grit: The Empire Girls bring girl power

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Glam and grit: The Empire Girls bring girl power

Story by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer and Debralee Santos
Photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer

The Empire Girls stars Julissa Bermúdez (far left) and Adrienne Bailon (far right) join with Verizon Wireless Día de Tus Sueños’ sweepstakes winner Krystal Franco (third from left) and her sister Margarita Franco at the store on Broadway.

The Empire Girls stars Julissa Bermúdez (far left) and Adrienne Bailon (far right) join with Verizon Wireless Día de Tus Sueños’ sweepstakes winner Krystal Franco (third from left) and her sister Margarita Franco at the store on Broadway.

The Verizon Wireless store near the corner of 181st and Broadway emanated with serious girl power this past Thurs., Nov. 15th.

The Empire Girls, namely Adrienne Bailon and Julissa Bermúdez, were in the Heights.

The Style Network reality television show, which debuted on June 3rd, follows the two New York natives as they strive for success in the entertainment industry.

The show’s stars are two of the few Latina actresses represented on television, and teenaged girls and young women are a large segment of their fan base.

Bailon, formerly of girl group 3LW, is of Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian descent and Bermúdez, who hosted BET’s 106 & Park, was born in the Dominican Republic.

From September 14 to October 15, fans were able to enter in Verizon’s Día de Tus Sueños sweepstakes to win a day with the two Empire Girls, while also vying for the opportunity for $1,000 in college funds and a Samsung Tablet 7.0 4G LT.

Franco was looking forward to spending time with the stars: “I want to get to know them as people.”

Franco was looking forward to spending time with the stars: “I want to get to know them as people.”

The lucky winner was Krystal Franco of the Bronx who came to the Heights to collect her prizes and meet Bailon and Bermúdez at the Verizon Wireless store.

Franco was presented with her oversized check and tablet, and received technical training on her new gadget before she headed off with the Empire duo.

“We are thrilled that Julissa and Adrienne are going to provide such a wonderful ‘Day of Your Dreams’ experience for Krystal,” said Pat Berlin, Verizon Wireless’s President of the New York Metro Region. “Julissa and Adrienne embody ambition and talent, and they are a wonderful example of young, inspiring Latinas.

e are proud to partner with upstanding Hispanic celebrities who have strong influences both on popular culture and within their own communities.”

“We want to help out Krystal with her education,” added Berlin.

Krystal Franco was awarded a $1,000 grant and a Samsung Tablet 7.0 4G LT. Presenting her with her prizes are Verizon Wireless’s Fernando Molinar (left) and Pat Berlin (right).

Krystal Franco was awarded a $1,000 grant and a Samsung Tablet 7.0 4G LT. Presenting her with her prizes are Verizon Wireless’s Fernando Molinar (left) and Pat Berlin (right).

Krystal was allowed to bring a guest, and came with her younger sister, Margarita. “My boyfriend is jealous,” she laughed.

Franco was to spend the day dining with Bailon and Bermúdez, going out to eat, getting a makeover, doing a photo shoot, and attending the launch of Bailon’s line of nail polish, Fingertip Fetish.

“I can’t wait to see how my sister comes out. She’s going to get dolled up,” said an excited Margarita.

In fact, Krystal, who is 18, was on her way to the hair salon when she got a call from The Empire Girls, who divulged the good news.

In response, Krystal said she was ecstatic – to the point of screaming.

“I called my sister, and she thought something was wrong with me!” she laughed.

But at Verizon, in the presence of the actual Empire Girls, Franco kept it cool.

Julissa Bermúdez and Adrienne Bailon enjoy spending time with their fans. “We see ourselves in them,” explained Bailon.

Julissa Bermúdez and Adrienne Bailon enjoy spending time with their fans. “We see ourselves in them,” explained Bailon.

“I don’t want to feel star-struck,” she said. “I want to get to know them as people.”

Other fans got to meet Bailon and Bermúdez too.

One of the first people at Verizon was Kandee González, a 24 year old Bronxite.

“I would go bungee-jumping with Adrienne, but she’s afraid of heights, so I don’t think that’ll happen,” said González, who has seen every episode of The Empire Girls.

The young woman is the epitome of a dedicated fan, so much so that she has Bailon’s image on her prosthetic leg.

“Adrienne is so funny,” said González, who was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 1 and congenital pseudarthrosis, and has had 20 surgeries.

One could hardly tell, however, as González gracefully made her way to the table where the glamorous duo was signing autographs.

Devoted fan Kandee González, who has had over 20 surgeries, has watched every episode: “Adrienne is so funny,” she said.

Devoted fan Kandee González, who has had over 20 surgeries, has watched every episode: “Adrienne is so funny,” she said.

Bailon said she loved hearing about her fans’ struggles and how they overcome them. “It motivates us to continue to do what we are doing.”

Meeting young, striving fans like Franco and González is a reaffirmation of their work, she explained.

“We see ourselves in them. There’s nothing greater than someone with ambition,” she added.

Indeed, the show focuses on their objectives, and the often-bumpy journey to success. The young women dispensed smiles, autographs, and advice to young girls.

At the Verizon store, the young women dispensed smiles, autographs, and advice freely.

“Be persistent,” Bermúdez said. “Stick to your goals and don’t give up. It sounds cliché, but it’s something we believe in. We’ve wanted to give up, but we never have.”

Organizers were pleased to have hosted an event that featured direct dialogue with fans.

“Hopefully, those who meet these girls will feel inspired to do as much as they can with their lives,” said Eduardo Urreta, Verizon Wireless’s Marketing Manager for the New York Metro region.

One of the aspects of the show that Bailon and Bermúdez seek to highlight is that of two young women working together – with success and support.

As Bailon observed, “It shows camaraderie and that girl power still exists.”