Happy Mother’s Day to all moms! This year’s Mother’s Day “Woman to Watch” feature focuses on Raquel Riley Thomas, owner of An Officer and a Gentlewoman, LLC (AOAGWLLC) in operation for 12 years and with locations in Washington, DC and Atlanta, Georgia.
I was curious to know what motivated her to start AOAGWLLC. Says Thomas, “In 2009, my then 3-year-old daughter Maria Raquel asked me a question that set me on a journey that culminated the company’s creation. She wondered why there were no princesses that resembled her, which prompted me to enter a pageant. Winning that competition motivated me to start directing pageants and eventually to establish a company with a production service division.”
Over time, she expanded their services to include Public Relations, Talent Management, and Brand Management, all operating under the umbrella of AOAGWLLC. Their clients have been featured in more than 700 appearances across various media, including print, television, and radio. They also do brand management and public relations for both her daughters’ product brands and her own beauty brand, Raquel Riley Thomas Beauty.
Thomas was born in Maryland. Her polished appearance and poise lead me to anticipate a fairy tale story of her life growing up. However, I learned something different. “I’m sorry to say that my mother passed away by taking her life in March 2013.” She never had the chance to meet her father, who passed away a few years ago. She was also under the care of a foster mother up until she was 7 years old.
Her life growing up was full of challenges, but also moments of joy and growth. “I am an only child, so I didn’t have siblings to grow up with, but I was fortunate to have a loving and supportive foster mother who cared for me until I was seven. She instilled in me the importance of education and hard work, which helped shape who I am today.”
One of her favorite hobbies growing up was reading, through which she escaped into different worlds and learned about new things.
“The most important thing for me growing up was having a sense of purpose and direction. I always knew that I wanted to make a difference in the world and help others, and this drove me to work hard and pursue my dreams.”
After completing high school, Thomas enlisted in the military, graduated from the Defense Information School, and served as a photojournalist. Her grandmother, aunt, and mother all also served in the military.
While serving in Korea, she received a Reserve Officer Training Corps Scholarship to attend Hampton University. She graduated as a Distinguished Military Honor Graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. She also earned a certification in the Mastery of Negotiations from Harvard Business School. After completing her BA degree, she became an Army officer and received an honorable discharge as a Captain.
She met her husband after becoming an officer. He was the Platoon Leader of the platoon that she took over, as he was moving to another platoon. At the time, they were just friends. After losing touch when he was stationed in another state, they reconnected, began dating in 2004, and married in 2006.
They are blessed with two beautiful daughters, Maria Raquel Thomas, 16, and Sophia J. Thomas, 13. As a family, they love spending time together, traveling, and exploring new cultures.
At just 16 years old, Maria Raquel Thomas is the owner and creator of Maria Raquel Thomas Cosmetics, a minority-owned cosmetic brand that has produced five collections. She is also a model represented by Select Models Atlanta, with an impressive nine national and international magazine covers to her name.
Sophia “SJ” Thomas is a talented Chef, Entrepreneur, and Humanitarian, and is founder of SJ Savory Kitchen, which specializes in providing food recipes and cooking tips to families. She developed her love for cooking at the tender age of three. Sophia’s accomplishments as a chef are so vast, we invite you to stay tuned for a separate story on Chef SJ in an upcoming issue!
As parents, the couple strives to have a leadership parenting style. “We aim to provide guidance, support, and direction, while also allowing them to learn from their own experiences and make their own decisions.”
“Overall, being a mother is a significant responsibility and a lifelong commitment that requires my patience, dedication, and a lot of hard work. And I am honored that God gave me this responsibility.”