Meet Victoria Russell, 2020 Most Admired Woman — Corporate

Jun 12, 2020 | Most Admired Woman

Victoria Russell, vice president of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at Papa John’s International, is the 2020 Most Admired Woman in the Corporate category. Photo by Melissa Donald.

2020 MOST ADMIRED WOMAN — CORPORATE
Victoria Russell

VP Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, Papa John’s International
Family: Twin sister Jacquelynn, older sister Adrienne Crosby, father Leon Russell
Neighborhood: Jeffersontown

As an extrovert, working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for Victoria Russell. After a week of enjoying her time at home, she started missing her co-workers, friends, and family. As a way to connect, one night she and her twin sister, who lives in Chicago, fixed their favorite meal — ribeye steak and baked potato — in their respective kitchens and enjoyed a virtual dinner together.

WHAT POSITIVES HAVE YOU SEEN AS A RESULT OF SELF-ISOLATION?
This time has made me more appreciative of the people in my life, and I have gratitude for a regular income and the health of friends and family. I prioritize a lot of life around family and friends right now.

WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT YOUR ROLE WITH THE COMPANY?
I’m making a difference in people’s lives and making sure all feel included and are bringing their whole selves to work. It’s challenging, but it’s important to keep moving forward. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is a journey, not a destination. We can’t get comfortable. There’s no returning to business as usual.

HOW HAS LIFE TURNED OUT DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU EXPECTED?
I really thought my career path would be in marketing, and I would never look back, but I try to live in the moment and this is where my path has led me.

SELF CARE AT THIS TIME?
I bought a bike, and I’m doing Zumba classes online. Finding projects to complete around the house. Being outside more. Opening the windows and letting the sunshine in. Reaching out to people who live alone or are in a house full of people, which are totally different experiences.

Victoria Russell. Submitted photo.

WHAT WORD WOULD DESCRIBE YOU?
Someone used ‘effervescent’ to describe me. I do feed off the energy of others and try to stay rooted and optimistic.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM YOUR MOM?
She had stage 4 ovarian cancer and passed away in May 2018. While she was ill she started giving away everything. She was giving away the money in her wallet, her jewelry. It was a big lesson to me that what’s important is not stuff but the people in my life. My life shifted in that moment. She helped me decide I wanted to live a purpose-filled life.

WHAT TRAIT DO YOU ADMIRE IN YOURSELF?
Authenticity. You know where I stand, and I bring my whole self to work.

Victoria poses in front of a waterfall feature on the grounds of the Papa John’s campus. When she first started working at Papa John’s she would walk the trails in this area. Photo by Melissa Donald.

WHAT TRAIT DO YOU LEAST ADMIRE IN YOURSELF?
I am a people-pleaser, which can have me running in a hundred different directions, and as a consequence I miss taking care of myself.

CURRENT OBSESSION?
I have rediscovered my passion for Zumba. I am a Zumba instructor and have traveled as one all over the world so it’s been fun to [virtually] drop in on classes in Paris and Egypt and see friends in their living rooms.

THOUGHTS ON BEING A MOST ADMIRED WOMAN WINNER?
It means a lot to me. When you have your head down and are working, working, working, it’s sometimes hard to know if you are doing the right thing. This award gives me reassurance that I am. I know that my mom would be very proud of me.

P.S. Read more about the 2020 Most Admired Woman winners.

Victoria in a 2019 Vome magazine Derby photo shoot. Submitted photo.

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