Stylishly Generous | Brigitte Kalai & Dr. Sippi Khurana Women of Substance
Now and always fierce, fashionable, and philanthropic, Brigitte Kalai and Dr. Sippi Khurana are two gems of our community. Together with hearts of gold they make Houston Strong.
All Photos By Cindy Cheng Photography (Unless otherwise noted)
Somethings never change. From a very young age, Brigitte Kalai was known as the most compassionate little girl who would not turn a deaf ear to someone in need. “I am always taking care of everyone, and I do not complain. I truly enjoy it,” says Brigitte. With a Bachelors of Science in nursing from the University of Texas (UT), she worked as a pediatric nurse at Texas Children’s Hospital. Serving the people and the community is deeply ingrained in her heart. “I cannot say no.”
Twenty-five years ago, this Native Houstonian met the love of her life, Bashar, randomly at a Walgreens. Yes you heard it right. “You just never know where you will find your love,” she giggles. “I blew him off and gave him a wrong number.” But if you know the successful business man Bashar Kalai, also a UT grad and CEO of Amerapex, he is not the kind that is easily deterred.
While the ever increasing workload of charity and home life bears down upon Mrs. Kalai, together she and Bashar serve the community. They are also proud parents to 19-year-old Alex, who attends Rice University, and 16-year-old Remy who is a junior at the Kinkaid School. “Humor keeps us going. The boys are constantly picking on me, but we are always laughing, fighting and joking,” she says.
Recipient of the John Connor Humanitarian Award in 2016, Brigitte supports, and is a significant donor to, Methodist Hospital, Nora’s Home, Operation Smile, St. Jude’s, UNICEF, Small Steps, Know Autism, and Big Brothers Big Sisters, just to name a few.
“There are so many amazing charities, and so much help is needed. If there is anyway I am able to support, it is my privilege.”
2018 will be quite busy for our Cover ladies. Brigitte is Co-Chairing the 2018 LCAHouston International Mothers Day Soirée, with Rania Mankarious, followed by the UNICEF Ball. She is also chairing the 2018 Una Notte in Italia Gala and Crime Stoppers of Houston 2018 Gala with Dr. Sippi Khurana.
When it comes to fashion Brigitte’s style is impeccable and classic. Heels, heels, and more heels, she lives in her Christian Louboutins. A Roland Mouret dress, Cartier love bracelets, Chanel bag, brazalian blow out hair with slight flips, and she is out the door. When asked, how many pairs of Louboutins do you own? “I have no idea”, replied Mrs. Kalai. “But they are so comfortable, the high chunky heels,” she says.
Brigitte’s neatly color-coordinated walk in closet is a sea of sky-high heels, carefully curated with her favorite Tom Ford black skinny leather pants, a red V-neck Cavalli sweater, and super high CL boots. If asked to pick few of her favorites, she quickly states “the black Roland Mouret dress, red Dolce & Gabbana dress with black and red studded peep toes, a Hermes Medor clutch, and Van Cleef jewelry. “My favorite evening dress is a black Gucci dress with crystals off the runway that Margot Robbie wore to the Oscars. That makes me feel like the brunette version. In my own mind I felt like a star”, she laughs.
Do you follow trends?
“No, I really wish people wouldn’t just follow trends because not all trends suit all body types or ages. I think people should be loyal to their own individual style, but add some of the latest trendy pieces accordingly.”
Martin B. Cominsky, President and CEO of Interfaith Ministries (IM), informed LCAHouston about the magnanimous gift, a $1 Million commitment from you Brigitte and Bashar, that allows IM to break new ground on a wonderful symbolic representation of ‘respect for thy neighbor’ in the Greater Houston area. WOW, that’s incredible! Tell us more.
“The Plaza of Respect will be a stunning outdoor space in the heart of Midtown, which will offer the community a gathering place, inspiring artwork, and an educational component about the many faiths of Houston but most importantly help IM’s Meals on Wheels for Greater Houston which delivers more than one million meals each year to seniors in Harris and Galveston counties, the refugee services which, in conjunction with the U.S. State Department, resettles hundreds of refugees in Houston each year,” explains Brigitte. “We believe in you, the international media, and its importance in this country. I am half Egyptian and half American and so blessed to grow up in a diverse city like Houston.”
“Yes, this was a big commitment for us, but we believe in peace and harmony,” she says. Brigitte’s generosity is not calculative, she is simply and genuinely a loving and giving person. She is fully aware of the potential danger of too much exposure. Regardless, she manages to remain below the radar and still support and help local charities and Houston businesses. “It’s important. We all have a responsibility.”
In spite of their extremely busy schedules, Brigitte and Bashar manage to successfully instill in their children the values of hard work, and that the concept of serving the community is the highest privilege.
What’s a typical day for Mrs. Kalai?
“Oh boy! It starts very early. Someone better bring me my Starbucks so I get started,” she jokes. “I have been a stay at home mom for few years now, but being involved with various charities, whether on the board or chairing it, is a full time job. I think it’s important that a woman finds her passion. I feel happy supporting the community as it sets a positive example for my children.”
After the interview, I find Brigitte has slipped into her off-the-runway burgundy satin gown by Rubin Singer for our photo-shoot. With a team of photographers, make up artists and assistants, and extreme rush-rush schedule, Brigitte stops to attend to everyone’s needs, and we admire her for that.
RM: Any hidden talent?
BK: I used to be a champion jump roper, including double dutch with all the crazy tricks. I am not sure I am still that good with tricks, but decent!
RM: Guilty pleasure…
BK: Popeye’s Chicken (Ha ha).
RM: You love this city because…
BK: I love this city because it is home and feels like home, and no matter where I go around the world, I can’t wait to come back here. The people are amazing, the arts and culture, the med center, food, fashion, Astros, Rockets, and Texans. Everything really is bigger and better here!
RM: Favorite Romantic City?
BK: Paris, France.
RM: Most bizarre comment?
BK: People are shocked that I went to Debakey High School for Health Professions and ask me if I actually graduated from there because I apparently don’t seem nerdy enough (code for smart enough I think). Also, people always seem to be shocked that I am a nurse and can handle the sight of blood and emergencies.
RM: Best compliment?
BK: It has to be that I am a good mom, but I’m not sure my kids would agree!
RM: On the cover you are wearing?
BK: Off-the-runway Rubin Singer gown that was custom made to benefit the Fashion For Fashion luncheon; my tall Jimmy Choos; bracelets from Van Cleef to support KnowAutism; and my necklace is a custom necklace made especially by Franco Valobra which we won at the live auction for the Women of Distinction benefitting the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.
Dr. Sippi Khurana
Sippi’s name is synonymous with glamour and charity in Houston. With an endless resume of humanitarian efforts, where does one even begin to describe her? With traditional values and modern thinking, she very stylishly balances fashion, family and, philanthropy. “Our parents have been our biggest blessings, role models, and cheerleaders. They were immigrants who came to this country penniless, and worked their way up to becoming the successful and upstanding members of society that they are today. They taught me how to sacrifice for the good of our children, and that there is no greater gift than a strong, well-rounded education.”
Certainly ‘Best Dressed’ and very stylish, Sippi is the true example of beauty and brains. She is a Rheumatologist, Immunologist, and Internist, and is board certified in Rheumatology and Internal Medicine.
And, if that isn’t enough, Sippi’s most notable title and job is that of Wife and Mother. She is married to the love of her life, Ajay Khurana, who currently is the Co-Head of Energy for the Americas, and is Managing Director at Jefferies and Co. They are parents to 8-year-old Shaan and 2-year-old Seva. “I often get the comment, ‘How do you do it all? How do you have the time to fit it all in?’ At first, it used to be a thorn in my side as I thought it was implying that if I was succeeding in certain aspects of my life, I must be deficient in others. But now, perhaps, it has turned into my favorite compliment. I think women are always trying to do it all, or have it all, and I feel it is a pat on the back,” she smiles.
“I’ve always loved fashion. I play with different styles depending on the occasion, and I love color. Designers Elie Saab, Tom Ford, and J. Mendel are effortlessly glamorous and figure-flattering, while interweaving a modern twist to a classic design. On a local level, I am a big fan of David Peck as he makes your clothes fit to perfection,” shares Sippi. “However if I had to describe my personality it would be a shirt-dress with low heel pumps that takes you through the entire day. Flexible, uncomplicated, and smart -characteristics I hope to emanate.”
How do you feel about “colored” furs for the winter?
“Is it a hit or a miss? I love them, just as long as they are faux fur.”
Being a native Houstonian, she is incredibly proud of this great city, and is dedicated to improving issues at home by giving back to the local community and worldwide. Whether it’s as the Founding Member and Contributor to the Swadesh Khurana Endowed Fellowship benefitting Stroke Care at The Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital, a fellowship that was established in loving memory of her Mother-in-law, or as a member of the Board of Directors for The Houston Symphony, UNICEF Southwest Region, Pratham USA, American India Foundation, the Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, Sippi is fully engaged with the community.
Alongside Brigitte Kalai, she is chairing the 2018 Audrey Hepburn Society Ball for UNICEF, and the Crime Stoppers of Houston Gala. Amongst numerous awards and accolades, I think Houstonians loved her in the role of an emcee at our very own International Mothers Day Soirée, with KPRC Channel 2 Anchorman Andy Cerota.
Would you be a TV Anchor if given the chance?
“In a heartbeat! I have always loved public speaking and feel the job of a journalist is such a vital one. It is at the very heart of democracy.”
This year has been incredible. It started with ABC 13’s Woman of Distinction Award and will end with the prestigious Greater Houston Women’s Hall of Fame Gala. The event will honor women who have contributed significantly to the advancement of women, and improved the quality of life for future generations.
She hopes to combine her knowledge and love for family, medicine, and philanthropy to make a difference in the lives of fellow Houstonians and those suffering worldwide. “Life is short and what matters most is our best effort in furthering humanity. We must be people for others first,” explains Sippi.
RM: What is the one thing that you would like to change about how people decide on what is fashionable and what isn’t?
SK: I would change the amount of pressure women feel to be fashionable ALL of the time. Whatever happened to wearing your shabby clothes to the gym?
RM: What do you think the number one trend is this season?
SK: Animal print is back, baby!
RM: Favorite restaurants?
SK: My H-Town favorites include Kiran’s, La Table, Cafe Annie, DaMarco, and newcomer a’Bouzy.
RM: Shoes or handbags?
SK: Definitely shoes!
RM: Favorite place for a romantic getaway?
SK: Los Cabos.
RM: Strong or sensitive?
SK: Sensitive. I think there is a lot of negativity in the workplace around women perceived as being “sensitive”. However, as a physician, I have always felt that my sensitivity (collated as sympathy and empathy) has been my strongest asset, and an important characteristic in bringing me closer to my patients.