Norma Jean Abraham: The Colorful, Charismatic, Compassionate, Charitable Celebrity that We All Love!
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By Alice Fisher Edelman
Coming to the United States as a five-year old Lebanese orphan, and speaking only French and Arabic, Norma Jean has become Miami’s darling.
Norma Jean Abraham, one of the most philanthropic, well-known and respected women in town now has purple hair. So, what else is new? We expect nothing less from this Lebanese orphan who through her generosity and outrageous persona has stolen our hearts.
At the time she first arrived in Miami from Lebanon, her adoptive parents, Anthony and Genevieve Abraham, were already prominent folks who were involved in numerous charitable organizations. When she deplaned, wearing her cute outfit bought in Paris, but soiled since she got sick on the plane, she was overwhelmed by the huge family and the many media who greeted her.
No more. Being noticed by the media is second nature to her. Google Norma Jean and she is in more newspaper articles than many of our Hollywood super-stars. And well deserved. Her moxie and standing up for the rights of others started at an early age. The Abrahams went to the Lebanese orphanage to adopt one child. But Norma Jean wouldn’t leave without her brother Tommy, who was one year younger, so Anthony and Genevieve left with both sister and brother. And Norma Jean has been helping people in all walks of life ever since.
Norma Jean’s father was one of the founders of St. Jude Hospital and the spectacular Miracle Ball, which was totally underwritten by the Abrahams. Held every year it was attended by an array of celebrities whom they paid to attend and stay at hotels. Prior to the ball, her mom held a party at her lavish home. (Frank Sinatra, one of the many celebs Norma Jean met through St. Jude, coincidentally had a show on the one-year anniversary of Genevieve’s death.)
“My mom threw the best parties,” Norma Jean recalls. “I learned everything about doing events from watching her. Not a detail was missed.“ Thus the birth of Details, Details, Norma Jean’s event company. During the 15 years she was at the helm of this company, Norma Jean initiated many firsts, and her amazing themed parties helped to put Miami on the map. For example: in the 1980’s when South Beach was so hot, she started the idea of doing parties to benefit charities at popular clubs like Club Nu. “Now everyone does it,“ she says. Norma Jean, along with Meme Ferre, also did the far-out opening and closing events for the Film Festival when it was a fledgling company. Her parties for them promoted the Festival to a major happening known worldwide. Norma Jean hosted Christmas parties for the neglected and abused kids in Big Brothers Big Sisters. She had local celebrities act as Santa Clause and paid for all the presents handed out to the children. Many didn’t know who Santa was and had never received a holiday gift. The tradition she started has continued to this day. For her 30th birthday, she dressed as Marilyn Monroe – her name sake – and pulled up to the party venue in a white Rolls Royce. And these parties are just the tip of the iceberg of Norma Jean’s talent as a party girl.
Her best party, she says was the one she threw for her dad’s 100th birthday at the Biltmore. The theme was Lebanese — how fitting – and all the decor and food reflected their beloved heritage. It was a labor of love for Norma Jean!
In the 1990s Norma Jean slowed down from her partying days and changed her focus to mentoring young indigenous girls and boys. However, she still oversees donations to all the charities supported by the Anthony R. Abraham Foundation. Teaming up with Tracy and Alonzo Mourning, she got involved in their Honey Shine organization. “It was an eye-opening experience,” she says. “I would see neglected girls enter the program and emerge as lovely, well mannered and intelligent ladies with promising futures. The thought of it still brings tears to my eyes.”
She is now very involved with the Leadership Learning Center run by the Catholic Charities. “These young immigrants from Central America,” she says “have nothing. We feed them, educate them about the facts of life, teach them how to act nice and not bully anyone, how to prepare for college and other life skills.” In addition, the children are taken on field trips to places they have never been to before to broaden their frame of reference. Since the Catholic Church is involved, they can talk about religion and the importance of prayer and having faith. “We teach the children that it is important to pray for good health and family but also for people who have less than them no matter how poor they are.”
Norma Jean’s charitable reach extends outside the USA to Jamaica where she has had a home for 20 years. At first she got involved in her god-daughter’s school but then reached out to the Cope schools there, teaching the girls to make fertility beads to better understand when they could get pregnant and how to use contraceptives, something they never heard of before she arrived on the scene.
So, what is this fabulous individual up to now-a-days? Norma Jean and her partner Ileana Garcia opened Serendip-A-Tea, a little less than two years ago in Kendall. The adorable tea room seats 40 guests, brews all kinds of teas, and serves everything from homemade soups to tea sandwiches, melts, and unusual salads. The piece de resistance is their homemade cookies, especially the lavender cookies. This season you will be able to purchase them in special festive packages for the holidays. And, of course, she hasn’t forgotten charities. Many of the parties are thrown for charities. And during Art Walk, an event Norma Jean started, 10% of sales go to charity. She never stops giving back, something she learned from her esteemed father, whom she adored. Norma Jean is involved in so many charitable and arts groups and has been honored by so many organizations that it is impossible to list them all. Suffice it to say. . .it’s quite amazing!
Norma Jean is a one-of-a-kind — the best kind! And her fashion style reflects her uniqueness. Her look, she says is Gypsy Bohemian, something only she can pull off so elegantly. “I want to stand out,” she says. “This is me.”
And those who know her don’t want her any other way!