When JJ Keras took inventory of her experiences and interests, she discovered what she is most passionate about: the details. JJ sees the world as “a collection of details, tiny bits of inspiration waiting to be woven together.” Her ability to kick it up a notch while never leaving a creative stone unturned has translated perfectly into a Memphis-based lifestyle consulting business. Move aside, Martha! Memphis is living life a little better with advice from our own JJ Keras.
Welcome, JJ, today’s FACE of Memphis.
When did Memphis become your home?
In 2005. I was dropped off after the honeymoon!
You have lived in four states: Minnesota, Dallas, Denver and now Tennessee. Are you a convert to the South?
Sure! What’s not to like? My husband’s roots, friendly people, fried chicken and mild winters.
You have a law degree from the University of Denver. Did you practice law before going in other career directions, and does your degree play a role in event planning?
I worked at AutoZone in the legal department and wore the AutoZone uniform every Monday. I still remember the company “cheer.” It’s easy for me to understand the fine print in legal documents, incorporate my own business, etc. I keep my license up to date. It helps in event creation because it is very detail-oriented.
What event inspired you to become a lifestyle expert?
I went on WREG News Channel 3 “Live at 9” in January 2013 to promote the Cirque du CMOM party that I chaired. I hit it off with Marybeth Conley in the brief minute we had before we went live. I told her I do “parties,” and she asked me to come on WREG the next week to discuss Valentine’s Day ideas. A few more segments, and my media title became lifestyle expert. I didn’t know what it was! I started Googling other lifestyle experts, and they are all around, just not really in Memphis. I had to educate myself on the business.
How often do you join Marybeth on “Live at 9”?
I go on WREG “Live at 9” about once a month to discuss entertaining ideas such as tailgating, porch parties, Christmas gifts, sprucing up your home, what to do with leftover pumpkins, etc. I have really enjoyed getting to know the staff at the station.
Do you have a favorite season for entertaining, or a favorite type of event to create?
One of my favorites is a Kentucky Derby party. It’s the ultimate expression of the sexes — the most masculine (bourbon, cigars) and yet the most feminine (Derby hats, flowy dresses, mint juleps). It’s men and women at their best, and that makes for a memorable day.
What is your favorite part of entertaining, preparation or the actual event?
I love working an event and getting to know the staff. But I also love the creation. I can’t turn it off.
Is there an overriding characteristic of the events that you organize?
You have to throw a little sauce on the party … show people a good time, give them a break from reality. I do all my ordering and administrative work during the day, but I get my best ideas at night. I’m not a morning person at all.
What are key elements to successful entertaining?
The hostess, who sets the tone, and lighting! A hostess should be approachable, even dressed more casually than her guests. And don’t overlook your lighting when hosting an event. It’s so easy to put it as an afterthought, but it sets the mood. You have the ability to completely change someone’s mood! Isn’t that exciting? And don’t have people search for your bar. If possible, hand them a drink upon entrance.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
Marybeth Conley really helped me get started. She didn’t know me at all and took a chance on me. We have coffee and good conversations. I also have a few girlfriends from different areas of the country who I bounce party ideas off of. They let me text them at all hours as the ideas come. My mom is also the first one I call after a segment.
Describe a typical event day in the life of JJ Keras.
Event day starts at 8 a.m., and I usually don’t relax until the first guest arrives that evening. But it’s the good kind of not relaxing, a level of adrenaline that’s only achieved under pressure.
Are there activities or passions that you enjoy outside of your business?
My passion is my business, and for that I feel incredibly grateful! When my kids started becoming more self-sufficient, it naturally progressed. I started teaching my children’s Sunday school about three years ago, and different doors started opening. Funny how that happens!
How do you recharge your battery?
I like quiet time.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
I have a lot. One on the top of my list is a fresh margarita.
What is your favorite vacation or travel destination?
I like Mexico and New Orleans. So distinctive and authentic! The sounds and smells — you can close your eyes and know you are in New Orleans.
What restaurants top your list in the Memphis area?
I like quaint restaurants. Iris is a great, quaint restaurant here. I also like the Arcade for brunch and Interim for dinner. I waited tables at Houston’s in Denver in law school and still order the same glass of wine!
Do you have a favorite summer cocktail?
A great daytime girly drink I’ve been making since college is a simple white wine spritzer served in an oversized wine glass: white wine, club soda, ice, an orange slice and a cherry. Great if you want to have a little fun that day, but also need to make it out that night!
What outreach organizations or charities are you involved with?
I have been the director of The 100 Club of Memphis since 2007. It is a nonprofit organization that supports the police and fire departments of Memphis and Shelby County. I’m also a Children’s Museum of Memphis advisory board member and work with the parents’ associations at both of my children’s schools.
Thank you, JJ!
The photos for today’s post were taken by Keith Montgomery, on location with JJ as she was setting up a summer soirée in Memphis. keithmontmedia.com
We also have a few shots from JJ’s June 5 morning segment at Channel 3 with Marybeth Conley. Photos from the TV segment were taken by Tori Medlin, a rising photographer who is spending time with StyleBlueprint Memphis this summer. Thank you, Tori!