Carolyn Aronson is prepping for a fight. We are standing below the vaulted ceilings of her South Florida mansion, between the kitchen and the fully stocked bar, as her makeup artist puts on her final touches. In a few hours, Aronson will be cage-side with her husband, Jeff, CEO of Titan FC (think of it as Minor League Baseball for the Ultimate Fighting Championship), at a title fight featuring Jose “Shorty” Torres — a diminutive but impossibly tough scrapper out of Chicago. A fan favorite, Torres will draw an enthusiastic crowd to the Pembroke Pines Civic Center, and Aronson knows she will be on display beneath the bright, hot lights.
Aronson is no stranger to scrapping, or to being on display — in fact, both of those things have been elemental in her life. Born in Puerto Rico into a large and economically struggling family, her given name was Iris Ernesta Reyes. She was put up for adoption as a baby, and eventually joined a family in suburban Michigan that she describes as “basically the Cleavers.” In her new American life, she was called Carolyn Plummer, and hers would be a rags-to-riches tale.
Aronson knew from a very young age that she wanted to work with hair, and she spent 20 years as a stylist and salon owner before founding the hair-products company It’s a 10 in 2007. The company soon took off thanks in part to Aronson’s celebrity ties — support from actress Gabrielle Union, who has been quoted as saying she “swears by” Aronson’s products, was particularly helpful. Today, Aronson is the sole proprietor of It’s a 10, and she justifiably revels in her success. Case in point: her yacht, a 164-foot, Jon Bannenberg-designed Oceanfast that commands eyeballs in South Florida. The nameplate reads She’s a 10.
The mega-yacht, which served as Yachting’s home base during the 2017 edition of Yachts Miami Beach, launched in 1988 and was refitted in 2013. She has a top speed of 28 knots thanks to triple 2,400 hp MTU 16V 2000 M93s.
Aronson wasn’t into yachting before she purchased She’s a 10, but now the businesswoman most definitely has the bug. A hands-on learner — she credits her knack for creating successful hair-care products to having “touched hundreds of heads” — she wants to know every little detail about her boat. She says one of her favorite spaces is the engine room that houses those monster MTUs, not a particularly common sentiment among owners in this size range.
When Aronson is aboard She’s a 10 (usually in South Florida and the Bahamas), she is often surrounded by friends, simply enjoying the yachting life. And many of those friends, she claims, are hip-hop luminaries. Lorena Cartagena, who is married to Grammy Award-nominated rapper Fat Joe, is particularly close with Aronson.
Interestingly enough, both the yacht and hip hop played a role in bringing Aronson and her husband together. As he tells it, when the two met, he mentioned to his future wife that he had a boat, a 40-foot Cabo, but that he couldn’t drive it. She responded that she, too, had a boat, and that she couldn’t drive hers either. He thought nothing more of it, though he did keep thinking about her, and he cut a trip to Costa Rica short and hopped a fast flight home for their second date, which he says she had described as “a party on her boat.” To that end, Mrs. Aronson tells me with a laugh, “I always call it ‘the boat,’ never ‘the yacht.’ It’s just something I say.”
Suffice it to say, he was more than a little surprised when he pulled up to the dock and found out that the reason she didn’t drive her “boat” was because it displaced a cool 496 gross tons. Where’s the hip hop in their story, you ask? Aronson says that little get-together she had mentioned was studded with some of the biggest names in the industry.
And for the Aronsons, the rest was history.
The night after the Titan FC fight (Torres won despite breaking his hand early on) is the Waterway Soiree at the Bahia Mar Yachting Center in Fort Lauderdale. The event, which raises money for the Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center, includes a yacht hop and an auction, followed by dinner aboard the participating yachts, then a party cruise to cap it all off. Aronson donated use of She’s a 10 for this year’s soiree, and she arrives fashionably late and smothered in diamonds, with her husband and Cartagena in tow. Her makeup is again professionally perfected, and her shiny black hair is perhaps the ultimate advertisement for her brand.
During the auction, she stands near the front of the crowd, claps long and loud for each winning bid (nearly as loudly as she applauded at the fight) and encourages the rest of the party-goers to give more. Aronson bids as hard and nearly as often as she claps. At one point, the bidding to help a child with special-needs dentistry stalls at $2,500, and just as it’s about to be finalized, Aronson yells out, “$5,000!” Her husband turns to her, wide-eyed, and says, “I was about to bid, and you bump it up to five grand!”
“I like teeth,” she replies with a shrug. Then she beams.
After the auction, as we walk along the dock to her yacht for dinner, she confides that she once bought her handyman new teeth too, a donation that helped him land a new girlfriend. “The way I see it,” she says, “if you climb the wall, you reach back down and help the next one up.”
A short time later, aboard She’s a 10, we sit down to a three-course meal with wine pairings highlighted by a sumptuous short-rib main prepared by the yacht’s chef. The conversation meanders from topic to topic and ultimately lands on mixed martial arts. Aronson says she likes going to the fights: “You know, at first I thought it was a little gruesome. Sitting front row, you feel like you’re going to get splattered sometimes. But then I got into it a little bit. When I really got into it, though, is when I saw the women fight. The men go out there and they’re calculating, they work slow and maybe throw one big punch in the first round, looking for a knockout. But when the women go out, it’s no-holds-barred, and they just go at it as hard and heavy as they possibly can. They’re relentless. Women really go all out.”
The same, of course, could be said for Aronson. Her enthusiastic giving at the Waterways event is far from the only time she’s made a splash through generosity. Most recently, during the Miss America pageant (It’s a 10 is the official sponsor of the 2018 competition), Aronson announced a product giveaway so all women could “feel great about their hair.” Her company reportedly gave out more than 60,000 free samples.
Aronson told reporters that she felt compelled to do something substantial in the face of trying times — as of press time her home state was still digging out from under Hurricane Irma.
Yes, Aronson knows how to prep for a fight, and by most accounts, she’s winning.