Created to address the diversity gap in opera audiences by cultivating a strong sense of belonging, Ambassadors also include Kahlana Barfield Brown, Bel Hernandez Castillo, Derek Fisher, Naima J. Keith, Patty Rodriguez, Ferrari Sheppard, Juri Watanabe and Nichol Whitman
(Los Angeles) October 23, 2023 — Last season, LA Opera launched the Legacy Ambassador program, a bold new initiative to forge deep, authentic and longstanding relationships with diverse communities and the key thought-leaders who influence them. These Ambassadors include some of Los Angeles' greatest icons, influencers, thought leaders, business executives, and community leaders, all of them focused on preserving the legacy of the arts and ensuring that the arts are accessible to all.
"We are grateful that, for the second year in a row, a group of highly accomplished and committed community leaders have joined the company in its ongoing efforts to ensure that the arts are accessible and welcoming to everyone in our vibrant city," said Christopher Koelsch, LA Opera's president and CEO. "By hosting nights at the opera, and by using their powerful voices to connect with potential audiences, the Ambassadors have become powerful allies in reaffirming the critical role that the arts play in forging deep and empathetic connections between and among diverse communities."
The Legacy Ambassador program is one of the many ways in which 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 are 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
The 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 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 serve one-year renewable terms. Bios and photos of the Legacy Ambassadors can be found at LAOpera.org/Ambassadors.
Ambassadors for the 2023/24 Season:
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
Shanique Bonelli-Moore, chief diversity and social impact officer of the Clorox Company
Leticia Rhi Buckley, chief executive officer of LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes
Bel Hernandez Castillo, founder of Latin Heat Media, a multi-media company
Alexandrea Martin Dean, actress and film producer
Jamie DuBose, president / head of programming at FOX SOUL; producer; filmmaker
Derek Fisher, NBA legend, 13 seasons with Los Angeles Lakers, coach, television analyst
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
Gloria Govan, actress, model, author, philanthropist, co-founder and CEO at RLNTLSS BRANDS
Suzanna Guzmán, mezzo-soprano, one of the original Associate Artists of LA Opera
Alexandra Hinkle, chief marketing officer-consumer marketing for Universal Music Group
Naima J. Keith, vice president of education and public programs at LACMA
Josh Kun, professor of communication and journalism and chair in cross-cultural communication at USC; co-curates CALA Crossfade Lab; directs the Popular Music Project of the Norman Lear Center
Jason Delane Lee, co-founder of the Lagralane Group, community advocate
Yvonne Lee, co-founder of the Lagralane Group, community advocate
Karen Mack, founder of LA Commons, television producer for CBS, author
Kennedy-Rue McCullough, actress, entertainment journalist, co-creator of The Guest House on YouTube
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
Patty Rodriguez, entrepreneur, producer, radio personality, author, co-founder of Lil' Libros, a bilingual children's publishing company
Ferrari Sheppard, contemporary visual artist, writer, photographer, activist and record producer
V. Joy Simmons, MD, medical professional, art collector, advocate and mentor, board member of LAXART, The Watts House Project and The Mistake Room
Juri Watanabe, Miss Universe Japan 2021
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
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 reaches people throughout every corner of Los Angeles County. The company also offers a multitude of online content via its LA Opera On Now digital offerings, which launched in 2020. Learn more at LAOpera.org.
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LA Opera is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the greater Los Angeles community.