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Stars Nichols, Lewis and Johnson expected to help Black Women’s Expo draw 30,000

Best-selling author and life coach Lisa Nichols was propelled to fame after a 2006 episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show titled “The Secret,” in which she explained how she believed universal laws of attraction can make it possible to achieve success by envisioning it.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis battled health challenges even as she remained a powerful voice in Chicago politics, with her hand-picked mayoral candidate, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, earning a run-off with her nemesis, Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Supermodel and businesswoman Beverly Johnson broke barriers as the first black model to appear on the cover of Vogue, more recently coming forward to accuse Bill Cosby of drugging her in the mid-80s.

What do these three women have in common?

Author Lisa Nichols | Supplied photo

Author Lisa Nichols | Supplied photo

They’re among this weekend’s line-up at the 21st Annual Black Women’s Expo, expected to draw more than 30,000 visitors to McCormick Place for three days of workshops, seminars and entertainment for businesses targeting black consumers.

“As has been our mission for 20 years, we will celebrate the strength and resilience of African-American women as well as explore opportunities, confront challenges and encourage aspirations,” said Expo founder Merry Green. “The Black Women’s Expo is where black women of all professions, income levels and educational backgrounds come together to network, be enlightened and be inspired. It is where we truly celebrate sisterhood.”

Featuring a host of national speakers and experts in their fields on topics from entrepreneurship and finance to career advancement and health and wellness, the expo kicks off Thursday with the Phenomenal Woman Awards Gala, where Lewis will be one of 11 women being honored for their achievements.

The keynote speaker at the gala will be Nichols, best-selling author of six books and CEO of Motivating the Masses, whose extraordinary story of evolving from a single mom living on public assistance in South Central, Los Angeles, into a millionaire entrepreneur, has made her a highly sought-after motivational speaker. She’s appeared on Larry King and Steve Harvey, as well as the Today Show.

The family-focused expo, running March 27-29, features many workshops, including those by Rushion McDonald, Emmy-winning producer of Steve Harvey’s TV and radio shows, and Dr. Sherry Blake, called “therapist to the stars,” of the reality shows Braxton Family Values and Real Housewives of Atlanta fame. Filmmaker and director Bill Duke will screen his controversial documentaries Dark Girls and Light Girls on Saturday and Sunday, with panel discussions following.

Model Beverly Johnson | Getty Images

Model Beverly Johnson | Getty Images

Entertainment includes R&B artist Avery Sunshine headlining the main stage Saturday. Nationally syndicated radio host Doug Banks broadcasts live from the expo. The expo’s popular teen summit, tapping Chicago youth voices on this year’s topic — bullying — returns Friday, led by Chicago R&B teen sensation Yemi Marie. Also featured will be R&B artist Lil Mo, author and radio host Tariq Nasheed, and celebrity hairstylist Kim Kimble.

Expo-goers can meet Johnson, appearing with Harvard-trained plastic surgeon Dr. Charles Boyd, as he introduces a new skin care line designed for black women. Johnson, 62, who was also the first black woman to appear on the cover of the French edition of Elle magazine, and has been credited as one of the 20th century’s most influential people in fashion, wrote in December’s Vanity Fair about her alleged run-in with Cosby. Her first-person account followed similar allegations by a series of women.

Joining Johnson and Boyd will be Miss Jamaica, 22-year-old Kaci Fennell, who placed 4th runner-up in the 2014 Miss Universe pageant. And in the vein of the expo’s sisterhood theme, Fennell says she is  looking forward to meeting and learning from the trailblazing Johnson.

“‘Wow’ is the three-letter world that describes everything that’s happening to me since Miss Universe,” Fennell told the Sun-Times. “So many doors are opening to me right now, and all from representing Miss Jamaica. I’m really excited to meet Beverly and share some private sister conversations.”