Sullivan grew up in a home with abundant female energy. A native of Oswego, she has three sisters, and her mom founded Harborfest, a celebration that has grown synonymous with the city. So when Sullivan was living in California and saw those magazine covers, they went against the strong sense of self she had developed.
The RAY, which stood for Real Authentic You, came upon hard times in recent years, like many magazines. So Sullivan came back to upstate New York to reconnect with her past and hopefully decide what to do moving forward. Her father lives in Troy, so Sullivan spent time in the Capital District, talking to women about her magazine, her philosophies and her wide-open future.
The ideas of self-love and acceptance resonated with everyone she talked to, she said. She started to feel like this area could use someone to promote those ideas. She had always vowed she'd never move back to New York, but suddenly, she was staring at a new mission, and she knew she wasn't going anywhere.
"The calling was so great," she said. "I hit the ground running."
Sullivan started meeting with women around the area, just talking and trading ideas about "feminine power." She wanted to do something to celebrate the centenary of International Women's Day, but she wasn't sure what. She and four other women met in a living room to talk about the possibilities. Then 10 of them got together in a coffee shop, then 17.
"I'm really excited about the way it happened," Murphy said. "It's taken off like wildfire. People are just throwing money at us."
A large aspect of the festival will be looking at women's role through history. Sullivan said women were held in high regard in Native American history, to the extent that when the settlers and Native Americans would meet to negotiate, Native Americans would wonder why the settlers hadn't brought any women to the meetings.