Whoopi Goldberg, Audra McDonald, Phil Handy, Marsai Martin, D Nice, Karen Mack, Nichol Whiteman, Lance Gross, Mashonda Tifrere, and Kahlana Barfield Brown are a few named to LA Opera’s coveted Ambassador program to advance deeper belonging
(Los Angeles) October 18, 2022 – LA Opera launches a bold ambassadorship program to forge deep, authentic and longstanding relationships with diverse communities and the key thought-leaders influencing them. The Ambassadors will serve as a bridge between LA Opera and the communities they reach as a conduit to cultivate transparent dialogue and build trust, educational shares, access, and exposure to opera and the arts.
"As the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles is also one of the most diverse cities, and yet a diversity and belonging gap still exists," said Kara Sax, partner at the Sax Agency, who was hired by LA Opera to address this issue. "This feeling is amplified by imposter culture, which is how we define the systemic and inequitable reality that deters people from wanting to show up to places they feel they do not belong. The imposter syndrome affects audience attendance, conversation, the future, and ultimately the legacy of the arts."
While LA Opera has a number of longstanding programs to welcome underserved communities to participate in the arts, many of the most comprehensive and immersive programs have been centered around children. "Our education and community engagement programs have been extraordinarily successful in introducing young people throughout Los Angeles to the magic of opera," said Christopher Koelsch, president and CEO of LA Opera, "and we want to have similar success with adults. As a nonprofit, it is not only our objective, but our obligation to ensure that arts are accessible and welcoming to all. The sustainability of opera in younger, polycultural audiences heavily relies on boundless innovations, taking risks, exposure, and truly reflecting the world and community we are in."
With the establishment of this program and more, LA Opera is leading the efforts to celebrate, affirm, and advocate for diverse and equitable inclusion of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, faith, family structure, socioeconomic background, age, and ability. LA Opera Ambassadors will be recognized as among the highest and most pre-eminent distinctions bestowed to Los Angeles’ most influential thought leaders and stakeholders.
About the Legacy Ambassador Program
LA Opera Legacy Ambassador program was established to forge deep, authentic, and longstanding relationships with diverse communities and the key thought leaders that influence them. The Ambassadors will cultivate transparent dialogue, educational shares, access, and exposure, emphasizing belonging and making arts accessible to all by leveraging their influence to advance the mission.
Ambassadors will serve one-year renewable terms; the inaugural group will serve from October 2022-September 2023. The program will officially kick off with a reception welcoming the ambassadors before the performance of Omar of November 2, 2022. Bios and photos of LA Opera Legacy Ambassadors can be found at LAOpera.org/Ambassadors.
Lori Hall Armstrong, attorney, business owner, civic engagement and community service enthusiast, philanthropist
Mike Armstrong, executive vice president, worldwide television licensing and operations for Paramount Pictures, independent board director, philanthropist, brand builder, mentor, leader
Kahlana Barfield Brown, editor and content creator in fashion and beauty
Tomas J. Benitez, chairman, Latino Arts Network of California
Julissa Bermudez, actress, entrepreneur, Latinx social activist
Sonia Coleman, SVP of human resources, DGE Content and ESPN
Tammy Dickerson, president and CEO of tbg Events (formerly The Baker Group); founding member of The Black Table; member of Meeting Planners International Southern California Chapter (MPISCC), National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP) and Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce (GLAAACC)
Becca Doten, chief airport affairs officer, LAWA
James DuBose, president / head of programming at FOX SOUL; producer; filmmaker
Iman Houston Farrior, TV business affairs executive at Creative Artists Agency (CAA)
James Farrior, former NFL linebacker; member of the Class of 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Honor; inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame
Jeff Friday, film producer, ABFF founder (American Black Film Festival)
Nicole Friday, executive, producer
Whoopi Goldberg, actress, film producer, author, television personality ("The View") EGOT winner, comedian, board of governors for The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Omar Grant, co-president of Roc Nation, advisory board member of Girls Make Beats
Lance Gross, four-time NAACP Image award-winning actor, model, philanthropist
Suzanna Guzmán, mezzo-soprano, one of the original Associate Artists of LA Opera
Ronnda Hamilton, president, LeRock Productions
Brenton A. Hamlet, senior vice president, wealth management advisor with The Markoff Hamlet Group at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management
Phil Handy, assistant coach of the Los Angeles Lakers (2016, 2019, 2020 champions), BBL champion (2000), player development trainer
Lisa Johnson, founder and executive director of Private School Village, co-host, "eRaced" podcast, philanthropist
Derrick Jones (D-Nice), disc jockey, beatboxer, rapper, producer and photographer
Courtney Jones-Moore, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation
Naima J. Keith, vice president of education and public programs at LACMA
Keshia Knight Pulliam, Emmy-nominated actress, producer, director, founder of Kamp Kizzy, host for "Married at First Sight," entrepreneur, visionary, advocate, culture shaper
Josh Kun, professor of communication and journalism and chair in cross-cultural communication at USC; author; editor; serves on the editorial boards of Public Culture, Journal of Popular Music Studies and the Music Research Annual, and on the boards of Dublab and the University of California Humanities Research Institute; co-curates CALA Crossfade Lab; directs The Popular Music Project of the Norman Lear Center
Dan Limerick, COO, William Morris Endeavor
Dawn Limerick, founder and president of The Greenwood Standard
Dr. Stephen H. Liu, orthopedic sports medicine/surgeon and chairman/founder of Forme
Karen Mack, founder of LA Commons, television producer for CBS, author
Alexandrea Martin, actress, film producer
Marsai Martin, actress, entrepreneur, film producer, philanthropist, activist
Audra McDonald, singer, Broadway actress, six-time Tony Award winner; two-time Grammy Award winner, Emmy awardee, philanthropist
Kiesha C. Nix, VP of charitable affairs, executive director of Lakers Youth Foundation
Norm Nixon, two-time NBA champion, Los Angeles Lakers (Showtime), executive vice president, co-founder/CFO of Debbie Allen Dance Academy, NBA analyst, former VP of NBA Players Association, board of Homeland Security Advisory Council
Kalani Queypo, award-winning filmmaker, playwright, songwriter, actor
Ferrari Sheppard, contemporary visual artist, writer, photographer, activist and record producer
Renata Simril, president and CEO of LA84 Foundation, philanthropist; board of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, LA 2028 Olympic Bid Committee, Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission and the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation; formerly served as a Governor's Appointee on the California Science Center Board, chair of the Board of Regents for LMU and as a member of the Lusk Center for Real Estate at USC
Andrea Smith, director of representation strategy & early talent for Zillow, director of diversity representation strategist and recruitment leader
Eula Smith, owner of EMS Consulting, Inc., founder of EMarie, philanthropist
Jada Pinkett Smith, actress, television personality, award-winning television host for "Red Table Talk", philanthropist
Jaden Smith, rapper, singer and actor; founder of JUST Water, philanthropist
Eduardo Soriano Hewitt, chief of public engagement, Office of Public Safety
Jacqueline Stewart, director and president of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures; editor, author
Mashonda Tifrere, author, singer, founder of Art LeadHer
Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, president and bishop of Faithful Central Bible Church, board member and adjunct professor and dean of The King’s At Oxford, author
Ms. Togetta Ulmer, first lady of Faithful Central Bible Church
Gabrielle Union, award-winning NAACP Image actress, entrepreneur, producer, activist, published author, philanthropist
Pablo Villavicencio, CEO at Alliance College Ready Public Schools
Dwyane Wade, NBA champion, former Miami Heat guard, entrepreneur, author, advocate, board of trustee member for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, UC Davis executive leadership board for the department of Viticulture and Enology
Karim Webb, entrepreneurial activist, LAX commissioner
Nichol Whiteman, CEO of the award-winning Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation; board member of the Los Angeles chapter of Positive Coaching Alliance; serves on the YMCA of Metro LA’s Sports and Impact Panel
Monét X Change, influencer, singer, podcaster, reality television personality
Nancy Yoon, founder of "Asians in LA," television host (QVC), actress
About LA Opera
Los Angeles is a city of enormous diversity and creativity, and LA Opera is dedicated to reflecting that vibrancy by redefining what opera can be. Through imaginative new productions, world premiere commissions, and inventive performances that preserve foundational works while making them feel fresh and compelling, LA Opera has become one of America’s most exciting and ambitious opera companies.
In addition to its mainstage performances at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the company explores unusual repertoire each season through the LA Opera Off Grand initiative, featuring performances in a variety of venues throughout Los Angeles. The LA Opera Connects initiative offers a robust variety of educational programming and community engagement offerings that reach people throughout every corner of Los Angeles County. The company also offers a multitude of online content via its LA Opera On Now digital presentations, which launched in March 2020. Learn more at LAOpera.org.
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