Powerful Speakers Bringing Unique Ideas to Business

2023 Atlas Forum Speakers

Armour-Vernice-LR-photo.jpegVernice "FlyGirl" Armour
Combat tests you. Being a beat cop tests you. Life tests you. Three brothers and being the only girl...tests you. Vernice "FlyGirl" Armour has been tested her whole life. A gutsy trailblazer, her resume is an impressive collection of "firsts" including America's first Black female combat pilot. She served two tours of duty in Iraq as a Marine. She was also a diversity liaison officer to the Pentagon for Headquarters Marine Corps. 

After her military service, FlyGirl revved up her career in the private sector as an entrepreneur, consultant to business, and author of Zero to Breakthrough, The 7-Step, Battle-Tested Method for Accomplishing Goals that Matter. As a speaker, FlyGirl unleashes hard-hitting advice and amazing anecdotes from her adventures on the battlefield and in business. She helps individuals and organizations Get Gutsy and build a sustainable inner force and conviction, that results in accomplishing significant goals. 

In 2007, FlyGirl launched VAI Consulting & Training, LLC. Through that work, she helps individuals and organizations make gutsy moves and create breakthrough results by applying her "Zero to Breakthrough™" Success Model - a mindset that helped to propel her career and kept her safe in air combat. FlyGirl regularly takes her message to premier meetings and conferences worldwide and is a Gutsy Confidence Mentor for elite senior executive Women in Tech. 

As a Black gay woman and single mom, FlyGirl brings vital experience to her role as a member of the Forbes School of Business & Technology Board of Advisors and COMCAST/NBCUniversal Joint Diversity Council. 

FlyGirl has two honorary doctorates and has received numerous awards as a pioneering pilot, including honors for her commanding role in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Vernice "FlyGirl" Armour's story has been featured in the media including on CNN, MSNBC, The View, FOX News, Oprah Winfrey and many more, along with being a running back for the San Diego Sunfire professional women's football team and two-time title holder of Camp Pendleton's Strongest Warrior Competition. 

She is currently working on her next book, The Gutsy Move. 

How did it all start? Vernice was born in Chicago, IL in 1973, and moved to Memphis, TN after her parents divorced when she was three. By the age of four, she knew she wanted to be a police officer that rode a horse downtown. She received her first pony as a gift on the Christmas day following her fourth birthday and her dream quickly started to have a foundation in reality. In 1991, she graduated from John Overton High School for Creative and Performing Arts where she was very active in the music program, class vice president, a member of Mu Alpha Theta (mathematics honor society), and The National Honor Society. 

In 1993, the future combat pilot enlisted in the Army Reserves and joined the Army ROTC program while at Middle Tennessee State University. During an Army ROTC career day, the seed of becoming a pilot was planted when Vernice saw the image of a young Black female in an Army flight suit. "Now why didn't I think of that!" was her first thought!

In June of 1996, after a brief stint as a Nashville Sheriff's Department correctional officer, Vernice took a break from college to accept an invitation to the Nashville Police Academy. She graduated in December 1996 - and later became the first woman of color on the Nashville Police Department's motorcycle squad. She graduated from MTSU in December of 1997 with her B.S. in Physical Education: Emphasis in Exercise Science. 

With the aviation seed in full bloom, Vernice was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps on December 12, 1998, and on her way to flight school. When Vernice finally earned her wings in July 2001, the ambitious pilot ranked No. 1 out of both her class of 12 and of the last 200 to graduate. She made the Naval Air Station's prestigious Commodore's List, received the Academic Achievement Award, was the top graduate in her class, and went on to make history as the Marine Corps' first African American female pilot. 

After flight school, Vernice was stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton near San Diego, CA, piloting the AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter. While there she was Camp Pendleton's "Female Athlete of the Year" and two-time titleholder in their "Strongest Warrior" Competition. 

Ling,-Lisa-LR-photo-(1).jpgLisa Ling
Lisa is the Executive Producer and host of This is Life on CNN, now in its eighth season. For the show, Lisa has embedded with a notorious biker and explored the medicinal use of psychedelics in psychotherapy. She is also the Executive Producer and Host of Take Out on HBO Max. 

For five seasons prior, Lisa EP'd and hosted Our America on OWN. She was also a field correspondent for The Oprah Winfrey Show and contributor to ABC News' Nightline. For these shows she reported from the Congo, bride burning in India and the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, among other issues that are too often ignored. 

Lisa was the first female host of National Geographic's flagship show Explorer which sent her to cover the phenomenon of female suicide bombing, the spread of the MS-13 gang-considered the world's most dangerous gang, and the humanitarian crisis inside North Korea.

She got her start in journalism as a correspondent for Channel One News where she covered the civil war in Afghanistan at 21 years of age. She later went to become a co-host of ABC Daytime's hit show The View, which won its first daytime Emmy during her time at the show. 

Lisa is the co-author of Mother, Sister, Daughter, Bride: Rituals of Womanhood, and Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and The Other's Fight to Bring Her Home that she penned with her sister Laura.

In 2014, President Obama appointed Lisa to the Commission on White House Fellows. She is an advisory board member for Fostering Media Connections, The Amani Project, and a Baby2Baby angel.

Lisa lives in Santa Monica with her husband Paul Song and daughters Jett and Ray.
Henderson-Jeff-LR-photo2.jpgJeff Henderson
Known around the world as Chef Jeff, Jeff Henderson is an award-winning American chef, critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author, philanthropist, television personality, and highly sought-after leader in personal and professional development. Known for his dynamic teachings and powerful story of personal transformation, Jeff illuminates audiences with proven, high-impact strategies that empower change, inspire fulfillment, and motivate millions to live the lives of their dreams. 

A California native, Jeff started his illustrious culinary career in the unlikeliest of places: federal prison. While serving nearly ten years, he would discover a previously untapped passion for the art of cooking. Using prison as a catalyst for self-transformation, he would be released in 1996 and work his way up from a dishwasher to a cook under the tutelage of Chef Robert Gadsby. Jeff went on to work at Coronado Island Marriott, Hotel Bel-Air, and L'Ermitage Beverly Hills. He made history as the first African American Chef de Cuisine at Caesars Palace where he was also named Las Vegas Chef of the Year and then executive chef at the renowned Café Bellagio.

In 2007, Harper Collins published Jeff's bestselling memoir Cooked, which led to an interview with Oprah Winfrey. Shortly after the interview, Sony Pictures secured the rights his inspiring tale of redemption and Jeff left his post at the helm of the prestigious Café Bellagio to embark on a journey that would lead him to television, consulting, and public speaking engagements all over the world. The same year, he also launched "The Chef Jeff Project", a docu-reality series on the Food Network that followed him as he mentored a group of disadvantaged young adults towards realizing their own unique dreams. 

Jeff would publish his first cookbook, Chef Jeff Cooks, with Simon & Schuster in 2009 followed by America I AM Pass It Down Cookbook (Hay House/Smiley Books). In 2013 he published his first self-help book If You Can See It, You Can Be It (Hay House/Smiley Books). In 2012, Jeff's first cooking show "Beat the Chefs" premiered on the Game Show Network, followed by "Family Style with Chef Jeff" and "Flip My Food."

From incarcerated to world-renowned chef, author, television star, and authoritative life strategist, Jeff's inspiring story of life transformation has been featured on Oprah's Life Class, Good Morning America, Today Show, ABC World News Tonight, CNN, The Steve Harvey Show and in major publications such as The New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today, People Magazine, the Washington Post, and many others. 

A truly world-class presenter, Jeff has that rare ability to electrify audiences while delivering uncommonly original and useful insights that lead to long-lasting success for individuals, businesses, and corporations alike. As a premier speaker on leadership and personal mastery, Jeff invites millions of people from all walks of life to believe that if they can see it, they can be it. 

When Jeff is not traveling the world teaching his life-changing lessons or working with at risk young people through his nonprofit The Chef Jeff Project, he resides in Las Vegas with his wife Stacy and their five children.