Judy Allen Miles, 55-year-old lifetime resident of Gastonia, has always lived her life out loud.
Miles is known for her 25 years on stage at the Haid Theatre of Belmont Abbey College and The Little Theatre of Gastonia, playing roles such as Anna in "The King and I," Laurie in "Oklahoma," and Truvy in "Steel Magnolias."
She has also been dazzling the stage with her sultry sounds as a lead vocalist since 1991, when she first met her husband Mike Miles and became a part of his and his now-deceased brother John's band, The Basics. She went on to sing with other popular local bands like The Imposters and most recently retired from a Gaston County crowd favorite, Coming Up Brass, after performing with them for four years.
Miles, the second-youngest of five girls in her family, is known as the family member with the "Ta-da! moments." Even through what Judy calls her "homely years," she always felt beautiful, confident and important.
And those characteristics have carried her throughout her life, giving her the confidence to transform with every role, every job and every passion.
But even Miles was astonished when her ugly duckling years became the highlight of her swan years.
She said, "I always focus on funny."
And this is evidently so, when thumbing through her collection of Cat Eye Cards, greeting cards created by and featuring the one and only Judy Allen Miles.
Miles said her father - Bob Allen, now 90 - was always taking photographs of her family when she was a child. And there was this box full of 35 mm slides from their childhood in the 1950s, '60s and early '70's that had been tucked away in a drawer in her parents' dining room for more than 20 years.
She found a company online that could convert the slides into CDs in 2009. And from the moment she started looking at these images on the computer, Miles was laughing out loud.
At the center of her humor were the frames on her face: cat-eye glasses.
Miles jokingly said, "Guys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses ... unless the dames had pretty frames."
According to Miles, her cat-eye glasses and signature short, choppy haircut - it caused pieces to stick up sporadically all over her head, which she affectionately refers to as a "cat's butt hairdo" - were obviously a fashion faux pas. But the best part was that as a child she was oblivious to it.
All because she had a loving family and a great childhood.
While many would fear embarrassment and bury these CDs, Miles wanted to share the funny thoughts that came to mind when she looked at these photographs.
Miles said everyone has embarrassing moments, so why not make the most out of them?
And this is the exact sentiment she had when she realized she wanted to share the humor in her history by making silly greeting cards.
Soon Miles was persuaded by all who read her cards that she should start a greeting card company.
Old family memories quickly turned into a modern family affair with her parents and friends advising her on which cards were the best for publication. Also her husband Mike and son Garin Hyde, a 30-year-old business entrepreneur who recently created an independent film group called Vocal Distortion-Films, assisted in the creation of the signature hinged-frame and layout of every Cat Eye Card.
The company has been steadily growing since Miles picked up her first package of printed cards at Crisp Printers of Gastonia in January 2010. And in July of that year, Cat Eye Cards became a member of the American Greeting Card Association. The cards are now available in 21 stores across North Carolina and South Carolina and are also available for purchase on her website, www.cateyecards.com. Miles has sold approximately 5,000 cards to-date.
Her opinion of the experience is that it has been "exciting but scary."
Miles said it's extremely personal because it's her 5-year-old face branded on every card and that makes it hard to accept rejection. But she has been fortunate to receive lots of support from local businesses.
Miles said she will always remember one sales presentation in particular. She was showing her cards and display to Karen Coffin, the owner of The Bag Lady, an eclectic book and gift shop located on Kenilworth Avenue in Charlotte, and after reading a few cards Coffin told her, "You bet (I'll sell your cards).I believe in you."
Just hearing those words from a stranger - and being reminded of all the people who've given her the confidence to be where she is now - reassured Miles that she was right where she was supposed to be.
Miles said if anyone suggested she would have her own business creating and selling greeting cards years ago, she would have called them crazy.
But with retirement only a few years away, after working 27 years in the legal department of Gaston County Social Services, she is excited about spending this next chapter of her life making people laugh.