MA Y 2020
South Coast Plaza 714.868.3131 | lafayette148ny.com
CO N T E N T S
Women of COAST
WOMEN OF COAST
At Coast, our mission is to connect, support and celebrate the people who make things happen.
Game-changing visionaries. Achievers smashing glass ceilings. Creative powerhouses. Meet the inspiring and influential women honored as our Women of Coast.
BY SAMANTHA DUNN
STORIES BY SAMANTHA DUNN PHOTOGRAPHY BY LISA ROMEREIN
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E D I T O R I A L
A D V E R T I S I N G
E XECUTIVE EDITOR
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E D I TO R ’ S
L E T T E R
When it matters most So, been anywhere fun lately? As for me, I’ve ventured out to the garage a few times, poking through old boxes I forgot were there. (Why do I still have my high school essay on George Orwell? What could I possibly need with an address book from 1994?) But seriously, being at home has given me time to consider what really matters. CNN talk show host Chris Cuomo, quarantined while he recovered from COVID-19, has evidently been doing the same, and in mid-April came to the realization he doesn’t like what he does for a living. “I don’t think it’s worth my time,” he announced. “I don’t think I mean enough, I don’t matter enough, I don’t think I can really change anything, so then what am I really doing?” Maybe I would feel likewise if my job was to interview bloviating politicians who all seem to want to talk over each other. But blessedly it’s not, and I have come to exactly the opposite conclusion: What we do here really matters. That might seem a bit selfimportant coming from a magazine that’s often categorized as a “luxury lifestyle” publication because of the affluence of the communities we cover. And we’re not the only publication in our communities – I’m sure you see the many other glossy mags, those delightfully pretty bonbons. But if you’ve read us for these past five years – not to mention the 25 years previous to my editorship – you know that the heart and soul of what we do is connecting people to each other. Like this month, in which you’ll find our annual Women of Coast feature, where we raise up the stories of amazing women from our communities who are doing incredible work. It’s usually accompanied by a stellar
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luncheon at South Coast Plaza and attracts the county’s most influential women, but, alas, not this year. Instead, look for our augmented digital coverage. Our job at Coast is to highlight the doers of our communities who are finding solutions, creating art, building local businesses and the network of nonprofits that pour millions of dollars annually into our social safety nets. And yes, there’s a lot of plain old joie de vivre in what we do, because after all, it’s as important to celebrate beauty and joy as it is to know about struggle and strife. Our colleagues at our sister publication the Orange County Register are doing hard work every day to keep us all informed not only about how the ongoing pandemic is affecting us locally, but about all the other news we need in order to be informed citizens. Newsgathering is essential, and the newsroom never rests and right now it’s a tougher job than ever. My hat is off to my colleagues (but not my facemask, that’s firmly in place). Thank you for supporting this magazine for all this time, for believing that what we do matters. It’s our extreme privilege to be in your homes every month. We never take that for granted, and always strive to earn the privilege of your attention. We wish you all well and hope to see you on the other side of this, because there will be an other side. Onward, SAMANTHA DUNN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR
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Congratulations to the 2020 Women of COAST winners for your amazing accomplishments! Women taking care of women Our all female staff is here to help you with your most intimate wellness issues including: sexual health, incontinence, and prolapse Bioidentical hormone replacement and The MonaLisa Touch for womenâ€™s wellness
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THANK YOU FOR GIVING YOUR ALL AND PUTTING THE NEEDS OF OTHERS AHEAD OF YOUR OWN. You inspire us to move forward during these challenging times. Which is why weâ€™re continuing with our efforts to build a world-class cancer center in Orange County. Now more than ever, we are committed to ensuring that exceptional cancer care continues in this community. Our deepest appreciation to you all for demonstrating courage and of course, hope.
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STORIES BY SAMANTHA DUNN ● PHOTOGRAPHY BY LISA ROMEREIN
When we began the tradition of Women of Coast three years ago, the aim was to create something unique within the county. Not just an award, some recognition for success. There are lots of those. Not just a bunch of feel-good stories to fill our pages. Readers want and deserve more depth and meaning. Instead, we wanted to build a practice of mutual investment among the vibrant, inspiring women we see all around us. We wanted Women of Coast to be a way not only to bring attention to women’s achievements, but an opportunity for influential local women to shine a light on each other’s accomplishments. Not to mention create new connections among them for the good of us all. You see, Women of Coast is an honor that can’t be lobbied for; it can’t be bought. It can only be earned through the recommendation of other women. Our honorees are admired not only for what they do, but for who they are in the world. From among the dozens and dozens of recommendations we received, this year we celebrate six women from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise whose perseverance, generosity, intelligence and decisiveness offer bright lights of inspiration. Their examples couldn’t be more timely, or more resonant, in this uncertain moment.
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Jeanne Pepper ADVOCATE FOR TOLERANCE
MOTHER OF BLAZE BERNSTEIN
CO-FOUNDER OF BLAZE IT FORWARD
Why her, why now: No one would blame Jeanne Pepper – boys how to play with them!” she says with a laugh. “I never or her husband, Gideon Bernstein, their son or their daughter really thought that there were limits to anything people for that matter – if she were to withdraw from the world and could do.” become bitter and fearful. Over two years ago there was a Her refusal to let the hatred that caused Blaze’s death kill her nationwide search for their son Blaze Bernstein, who went own resolve has inspired many. missing after coming home to Orange County for the end-of“None of that negativity will ever make my life good. I year holidays on break from his studies at the University won’t allow that to happen. I think the greatest revenge on of Pennsylvania. people who seek to bring you down is to rise above – and take But on Jan. 10, 2018, Pepper and her family had to confront the everyone else up with you. Don’t leave them behind. That’s my unimaginable: Blaze’s body was found buried at a park in Foothill goal. We are just going to keep going in a different direction Ranch. Blaze, who identified as LGBTQ and was the grandson of a completely until this movement of hatred means nothing. Holocaust survivor, had been stabbed multiple times That will be the greatest justice I can ever hope in what prosecutors determined was a hate crime. to have.” “When you have been through something NONE OF THAT as existential as the death of a child, it makes What women inspired you? “My two
you reevaluate what we are doing here and why grandmothers and my great grandmother were NEGATIVITY WILL EVER these things happen,” says Pepper. “How are we influences on me. My dad’s mother was an MAKE MY LIFE GOOD. all connected to each other? Peel off our skin orphan in Poland and came here alone when and you can’t even tell us apart. It’s really just she was 14 and supported herself. Nobody ever I THINK THE GREATEST so funny that people think they are so different knew she wasn’t educated or that she grew up REVENGE ON PEOPLE from other people. They’re not.” with nothing – she was a socialite and she was Pepper and her husband decided to replace very charming. My mom’s mother was the WHO SEEK TO BRING YOU bitterness with empathy, withdrawal with outreach: daughter of two Russian immigrants who hardly DOWN IS TO RISE ABOVE They seized the media platform in the wake of their spoke a word of English, and she was college– AND TAKE EVERYONE son’s murder to create a movement called “Blaze educated. She supported the family as a teacher It Forward,” encouraging a national conversation and was a tremendous musician.” ELSE UP WITH YOU. around tolerance and kindness. Pepper keeps it going through public speaking engagements and What do you wish you’d known sooner? “I a Facebook community of 26,000 and growing. think it would have been really super helpful Pepper explains: “I knew we could use that same platform if I had understood that a lot of things we do, who we are – to encourage people to do good things. People wanted to whether we are social or not, logical or emotional – they are know, what can we do for you? What can we do to make this really just part of our DNA. I wish I had known these things better? And the only thing that would make us feel better is if before I became a parent. Everybody is different and has their everybody does something good. And if you do it because of own path. Let’s just let people be their authentic selves.” Blaze, then we will know his life made a difference.” She adds, “And, I feel like I should have been more worried In the years since her son’s killing, Pepper has been on a about the kinds of people Blaze was meeting online – it was so quest to understand what motivates people, particularly young unsafe. In (the LGBT+) community, many don’t meet each other men, to join hate groups and to educate herself about the in a normative way; they’re meeting on these anonymous apps. proliferation of online neo-Nazi groups. “When we take that People can go on these apps and have really mal intentions.” time to really get to know people and be empathetic, then you really start to see the connectivity between people and What do you wish for other women? “We are so hard on problems,” she says. The next evolution is, “How do we fix ourselves. We judge ourselves so much. I was so hard on myself these? How can we be the most impactful that we can be?” for years because I didn’t have this illustrious legal career, when This counterintuitive move comes easy to Pepper, who has I could have. Friends would ask me, ‘Are you going back? Do a law degree and says she’s been a “different thinker” since she you miss it?’ And I would think, ‘Is there a reason I need to do was a little girl growing up in Huntington Beach. “When all the that to be validated as a person?’ Do what you need to do to other little girls wanted to play Barbie, I wanted to play soccer, make sure your family is happy, whatever that happy looks like and then take the Barbies out on the soccer field to show the for you, and feel good about your decisions.”
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Milena Kitic CHAMPION OF CLASSICAL MUSIC OPERA STAR
Why her, why now: Milena Kitic is an internationally celebrated different goal in life: to raise a child. There is no one who can do mezzo-soprano best known for her signature role as Carmen in it better than you because you are their mother.” major opera productions throughout Europe and America. An Now Spencer is off to college, and Kitic is melding her love of artist-in-residence at Chapman University who has also taught at performing with her maternal side: She has also moved into the USC, among other top universities, she is also a well-known vocal role of passionate advocate for classical music as a founding board coach and instructor. member of the Parnassus Society. The nonprofit aims to nurture In sum: She’s a real diva. In the best way. the professional careers of promising young musicians throughout “I always knew what I wanted. And I just worked,” she California while developing a more robust audience for opera and says. Work she did: As a little girl in Belgrade – what was then classical music right here in Orange County. Yugoslavia, now Serbia – Kitic was taking music lessons before she could read. Her parents must have seen something special in What women inspired you? “My teacher, Biserka Cvejic, inspired their youngest daughter, even though they were not artistic by me a lot. She was our Serbian – well, Yugoslav back then – opera inclination themselves. star, and she was very dedicated not only as a singer but also as “My mother held a Ph.D in forestry, dendrology, and my father a teacher. She raised a lot of singers and all of us succeeded to a was an agricultural engineer. He died when I was 9. certain extent, at least. She became our second My older sister wanted to become a ballerina, but it mother, my mentor in the true meaning of wasn’t allowed by my parents. But, somehow, by the the word. To this day I am still in touch with ...IF SOMEONE SCOLDS time the second child happened, they had matured her; she’s 97. My own mother died, but I refer YOU AND GIVES YOU A as parents as well,” she tells. “So, I started playing to her as my second mother and my son calls piano. My mother actually pushed me into piano her Grandma Biserka. None of our mentors are REALLY HARD TIME, AND even more than my wish was to play.” perfect, but that has pluses too. The praise works MAKES YOUR LIFE JUST A She started singing in a children’s chorus that only so far I think, but if someone scolds you performed for radio and television. “That was fun, and and gives you a really hard time, and makes your LITTLE BIT MISERABLE, IT it is how I developed my love for singing. Then they life just a little bit miserable, it is not always a IS NOT ALWAYS A BAD discovered that I actually sing … pretty well,” she says bad thing. It makes you work harder, especially if with a wink. “It comes naturally – a natural talent you have spite in you, in your personality. Even THING. IT MAKES YOU that of course has to be polished and worked on.” if you fall and hit the ground, you pick back up WORK HARDER. Even though she attended a music conservatory and work even harder to prove them wrong. This while going to school, she still didn’t really believe profession, as any other after all, isn’t so easy. being a professional musician could be possible, so You get that a lot on a daily basis pretty much when it came time for university she decided to study philosophy. and you are in the public eye, so you have to be able to cope with But after two years the pull of music was too great and she that. Good training from the very start helped me a lot. switched to the conservatory in Novi Sad, Serbia. “And another influence in my life was, of course, my mother. While still a student she was being frequently booked for guest Later on in your life you realize what a sacrifice that was. Because performances throughout concert halls in Europe. Then by age 22 my father died when I was young, she put everything into the two she landed an eight-year engagement with the National Theater in of us, my sister and I.” Belgrade. “At that point there was no way back, I knew I would be a professional singer,” says Kitic. What do you wish you’d known sooner? “I don’t even know We tend to think of success as arriving fully formed, but Kitic if that would be good to know sooner. We are not supposed to cautions that success is a practice: “You just have to keep working know when we are young. If I had known what I know now, I on yourself, being with the right teachers, the right coaches, the would have given up, maybe, on certain things because I would right stage directors, then success comes, gradually. It is not always have been afraid. Cluelessness – or how do you say, ignorance? – a brilliant performance. It is important not to give up.” is bliss.” That’s why opera fans were surprised in 2007 when she quit touring to be a full-time mom to her son, Spencer, who was just What do you wish for other women? “I wish for a woman starting school. “When I decided that I was going to withdraw to become the president – or at least the vice president! That’s for a while to raise my son, that was my conscious decision. It number one. Then I think it is time for women to start taking over was very difficult, because you lose yourself; you ask, ‘Who am in general. I think we are peacemakers, we are more reasonable I now?’ Performance was a big part of me and that style of life – even despite the hormones that hit us throughout our lifetime. and everything. Then, all of a sudden, there is no more of that We are raising all these children, we are caring for them, so we side of you. But you learn to be OK with that because you have a appreciate life much more. We work very hard, all the time!”
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Eileen Moore VETERANS ADVOCATE
ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, CALIFORNIA COURT OF APPEAL Why her, why now: Today the Honorable Justice Eileen body for the California Courts (fun fact: the largest court system Moore serves as an associate justice on the California Courts of in the world,) she “talked the powers that be” into creating Appeal with a reputation for championing veterans’ rights and a statewide group for veterans and military families in the mentoring the careers of young lawyers, not to mention being California Courts. The group, which she has chaired since 2008, an author and a columnist for California’s legal newspaper the reviews and recommends legislation to make it easier for veterans Daily Journal. “to be treated in our courts in a fair way,” she explains, “taking But once upon a time she was just a girl in a big Irish into account what may have happened to them while they were Catholic family in Philadelphia. “We said grace before we ate and serving our country.” my mother served the food,” is the way she describes it. After Today there are 34 veterans treatment courts in California winning a citywide essay contest, she told her father she wanted (the first was in Orange County). Moore also mentored female to study journalism at a college. His reply? “We have four boys in veterans through that group for the better part of a decade and the family and the money has to go to their education.” discovered a startling commonality: The vast majority said they “I’m not criticizing my father – that’s just the way things were had suffered sexual assault in the military. “I feel very strongly then,” she says. He did, however, encourage her to go to nursing there is not enough public attention being given to this,” Moore school, which was considered a sensible career for says. “There are careers that are being wiped a working-class girl bound for marriage. “He said out, veterans benefits are being wiped out. And that being a nurse, if my future husband were ever the women just have to go on with their lives. IT HIT ME THAT laid off, I would be able to get a job right away and They have to choke it down and forget about it.” WHAT WAS REALLY fill in for him.”
Still, the family couldn’t even afford the $75-a-year What women inspired you? “I was about 14 MISSING WITH OUR tuition to nursing school, so she took a scholarship years old when I sat down at the kitchen table VIETNAM VETS – WE from the U.S. Army. After graduating she headed with my mother and told her I wanted to go for Vietnam to serve in the Army Nurse Corps. to college. I was so stupid and naïve, maybe TREATED THEM Like most Vietnam veterans she’s not naturally insensitive, in that conversation. I said to her, DESPICABLY – WAS THE forthcoming about her time in combat, but her ‘Mother, did you ever want to be anybody?’ She medals tell the story: She was awarded the Vietnam burst out crying. She said she always wanted to SUPPORT FROM THE Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal be a librarian. My mother had to drop out of COURTS AND THE LEGAL and the Cross of Gallantry with Palm. high school to work at Woolworths to support COMMUNITY. She likes to say she left Vietnam and “stepped into her brothers and sisters, because her mother the middle of the Women’s Liberation Movement,” had died in childbirth. I think it was that eventually finding her way to California, where which inspired me to make sure that I didn’t she received her undergraduate degree from UC get bogged down the way she did,” says Moore, Irvine and her law degree from Pepperdine on her way to a career who is also a mother to one daughter, two stepchildren and nine on the bench. grandchildren. “When you think about the changes that have In the late 1990s, the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans occurred in our country – we get really frustrated because so of America contacted Justice Moore to speak at a special event at much more has to be done, but we have made a lot of changes the Nixon Library, which turned out to be a pivotal moment in and we are going in the right direction.” both her career and in the lives of California’s veterans. “After I spoke, three rows of men came up to me, wanting to talk. That What do you wish you’d known sooner? “When the first wave was the epiphany – it brought back the memory of when the of homeless vets from the Iraq war were starting to appear, I soldiers would open their eyes in the hospital tent or Quonset watched some documentaries on how they lost limbs from IEDs. hut, whichever it was, and look up at me. When they would see It hit me that what was really missing with our Vietnam vets – an American girl standing there, they would reach out to touch we treated them despicably – was the support from the courts our face, just to make sure we were real. It made me realize that and the legal community.” these poor men had absolutely no good memories of Vietnam except speaking to the nurses. I decided then I would start doing What do you wish for other women? “I think women carry something with veterans. I don’t know that I knew what I could around a lot of guilt because they feel responsible for everybody do. It took me a while.” and everything. I hope they can relieve themselves from feeling Fast forward to 2000, when, having served on the governing so guilty about their own success.”
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Maya Patel PHILANTHROPIST
PRESIDENT, TARSADIA FAMILY FOUNDATION Why her, why now: When she was 8, Maya Patel’s family moved most amount of people?” from the African nation of Zambia all the way to Anaheim in It also must be noted that Patel’s lack of a degree hasn’t kept search of better educational opportunities for Patel and her two her from championing her would-have-been alma mater – she has brothers. In fact, the entire Patel family story could be described a seat on the CSUF Philanthropic Foundation Board of Governors. as a search for opportunity – first Patel’s father left India for Africa “You don’t stop learning until the last day. That is how I live my chasing opportunity, and then he moved his family to America for life. Every day I want to know something more.” even more. But to do so they had to sacrifice a successful garment business in What women inspired you? “So many women around me Africa and start all over, buying a little motel on Harbor Boulevard. inspire me. Definitely a lot of the elders in my family. I feel they “We actually lived there and ran the place, which was very typical have this central presence of stability. They don’t ever waver; they of Indian-run motels in the 1970s,” says Patel. “Our family life was say, ‘This is who we are, this is what we stand for.’ They hold very simple and basic. We would go to school in the morning, come the family together. They are really the glue. I feel like I have back, rent the rooms, do all the chores of the motel. taken that on; it is my role to keep our families We were all responsible to run the property, so we together, my parents, my two brothers and the cleaned the toilets, we changed the sheets, cleaned children.” YOU DON’T STOP the floors – everything. It’s just the way we had to
make it work. And the harder we worked, the more What do you wish you’d known sooner? “I wish LEARNING UNTIL THE successful we became.” I had finished my education, because I think I LAST DAY. THAT IS HOW Their tight-knit family’s motto is “fearless humility” would have been a better mom. I was so caught and it still guides them – except now The Patels own up in ‘let’s get this done, let’s get that done,’ that WE LIVE OUR LIFE. EVERY multi-million dollar corporations in the hospitality some of their emotional needs, I didn’t know DAY I WANT TO KNOW and investment arenas. Those are run by her brothers. how to meet them. Also, I am a loner, that kid Patel, meanwhile, heads the family’s philanthropic who would sit alone at recess. My husband is SOMETHING MORE.. arm, the Tarsadia Foundation based in Newport Beach, my best friend. I didn’t have a lot of girlfriends whose three-fold mission is to support education, growing up, or any sisters. I was living in a man’s economic development and health and human world all the time, so trying to figure out how to services – whether it be in our own backyard or half a world away be that woman was a little bit of a hard time for me. But over the in Africa or India. You could say the foundation seeks to give people years you learn to be who you are. I’m still learning. I would love the American dream that the Patels dreamed so successfully. to be more powerful in my voice and inspire people.” “It all boils down to the opportunity and the freedom to do these things. That you can’t anywhere else in the world. We really What do you wish for other women? “I wish they wouldn’t beat value that quality of freedom,” says the soft-spoken Patel. “There’s themselves up over their insecurities and not let those insecurities nobody over your head telling you ‘you can’t do this.’ If you have pull them. Let go of the judgment. Have confidence. I think we that entrepreneurial spirit and risk aversion to take those risks, you can be obsessed with always being outward-facing, rather than can move forward.” inward-facing. Let’s take care of our inside first and then worry But here’s the irony: The Patels came here for the education, about the outside. but none of them were able to finish their college degrees. They “My spirituality helps me go inside. I believe there is a higher were working too hard. “We all attended Cal State Fullerton and truth, a higher God, and that we all have that light within us. If learned whatever we could. All the other time we were actually we can all come from that place we can be OK in any situation. buying properties and running them and building them,” she adds That centers me and keeps me grounded. Through all the with a laugh. Patel was also busy raising a family. She married difficulties in life, I feel that is my anchor. That little voice we young – falling in love with her brother’s best friend when she have inside ourselves – don’t fight that voice. Be with that voice. was just 17 – and has four daughters. She took the reins of the “And let’s have other women supporting each other. Not a family foundation in 2010. catfight. We have to be in it together. The truth is we all have For her, learning has gone far beyond the college classroom – the same goal. Figure out, ‘Who am I?’ If you can start answering running a foundation has been an education in itself. “We found those questions, everything else will fall into place. I always say, that you really have to go deeper than writing a check or putting stay humble and stay true to your beliefs. I don’t want to hurt on a band-aid if you want to make an impact and create systemic anybody. Don’t be that person. Everybody needs some kindness in and behavioral change. That is the next shift that has happened their lives. What can you do to provide that? These are the simple for us. We are still learning, what is the best way to impact the things I live by.”
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Lucy Santana CRUSADER FOR FEMALE HIGHER EDUCATION CEO OF GIRLS INC. ORANGE COUNTY
Why her, why now: You would need a construction crane to lift meetings. “That’s where my love of politics in general grew, all the laurels Lucy Santana has garnered over the past 20 years as understanding how you can affect policy even if you are not the CEO of Girls Inc. – up to and including being named among an elected official. You can be an advocate for those who are Cal State Fullerton’s most influential Hispanic alumni, the OC underserved and those who don’t have a voice.” Register’s 100 Most Influential, and many more than we have room Then, while looking online for resources on teen pregnancy to list. prevention, an internet search turned up Girls Inc. “I had never Santana herself would be the first to point out that it might seem an actually heard about it before. I always tell (Orange County unlikely leap for her rise to head a major nonprofit – one that creates Community Foundation CEO) Shelley Hoss, who hired me at Girls programs to support 4,500 OC girls from economically disadvantaged Inc., ‘Good for you that you had a good website!’” circumstances to become “strong, smart and bold.” A career inspiring girls to become “smart, She was the “shy and timid, not very outspoken” strong, bold” became extra urgent for Santana youngest girl from among seven siblings. Her parents when her daughter was born 10 years ago. “The I REMEMBER were Mexican immigrants who made a home in first 10 years at Girls Inc. were all about my MY MOM TELLING ME, Santa Ana. Her dad worked factory jobs and her personal passion to make sure we are creating a mom was a homemaker. safe space for our girls to grow up in. Now the ‘REMEMBER, But her dad had also taught elementary school conversations I have with my daughter are more NEVER LET ANYONE when he was in Mexico – friends called him “el important than ever.” profe,” professor. “I was blessed to have parents TELL YOU WHAT YOU who were very stable and encouraged me to pursue What women inspired you? “My second-grade CAN BE OR WHAT YOU higher education. My parents, growing up in Jalisco, teacher, Mrs. Tafoya. In those days, there weren’t knew that it was a privilege in Mexico to get an as many Latina teachers, and I admired her. CAN DO.' education,” she tells. “I remember my mom telling I thought she has the perfect life. She had a me, ‘Remember, never let anyone tell you what you husband, a couple of kids, she owned a home and can be or what you can do. You need to go to college she was beautiful, with dark brown flowing hair. and you need to travel. It’s fine to have a family, but wait until you I remember how she talked to us with respect and dignity. She have had experiences.’ ” talked to us about doing something with our lives. I was a chubby Where did her “very traditional, Mexican Catholic” mother get kid and teased for being fat and I didn’t know how to defend those ideas? “I grew up watching my mom read Reader’s Digest. myself. Kids were mean. But that experience in her class was very She was an avid reader and she traveled the world through her profound. I always think of her.” books and stories. Her selecciones were precious. We could not touch them. There was a special bookshelf in our home for those. What do you wish you’d known sooner? “How to be bolder. We went to the library to check out books. I learned to read in Because of my upbringing, I was more soft spoken, ‘don’t draw Spanish before I was even in school because she would sit us attention to yourself.’ Also, not being afraid to try things, and down and say, ‘You are going to read.’ If she had been given the failing. I have had a good run, but I would have tried more things opportunity, I think things would have been different for her. I if I had not been afraid. What matters is I did eventually try – and think she was that free spirit and instilled that in me.” it doesn’t matter at what point in life that kicked in. I feel I have A skilled typist, Santana worked her way through college been able to take advantage of the opportunities presented to me. I with a series of administrative jobs at hotel chains, pursuing a am the eternal optimist.” degree in criminal justice. “I liked learning why people become criminals. More important was, what are all the symptoms in an What do you wish for other women? “The work I do now environment, in a family, and how does that lead to gangs with young women is really about finding who you are. It’s and crimes?” really important to find that place where you are just a little But it was a part-time job after graduation in a gang-prevention uncomfortable and pushing yourself beyond that. I have taken program within the City of Santa Ana Department of Parks and myself to that place. There have been plenty of times I have walked Recreation that really started her on the path that led to where into a room where nobody else looked like me, there were very few she is today. “The director, Jenny Rios, saw something in me women, and I was very uncomfortable, but I said, ‘I can do this. even though I had no experience. That is when I started figuring I deserve to be at this table and deserve to be in this room.’ Not out I could be somebody and do something. I didn’t know exactly letting our insecurities take over, but really stepping up into roles what yet.” that we might be hesitant to pursue. I can’t imagine if Girls Inc. She spent almost 10 years there, learning every aspect of would have been in my life sooner! As much as we know women community programming, which included attending city council have come a long, long way, there is still more work to do.”
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Doniel Sutton ENTREPRENEUR & ADVOCATE NATIONAL CRITTENTON
Why her, why now: “I am the quintessential statistic in terms of then it was, ‘How can I be the best me? How can I show up in the way my life ordinarily would have turned out.” a way that is true to who I am, and creates a positive perception By that statement Doniel Sutton doesn’t mean that it’s around African American women and makes a difference?’ There statistically probable that anyone should rise through the ranks are so many people out there who are motivated by the wrong of major corporations like Honeywell and Bank of America to things, in my opinion.” secure a seat in the C-suite, let alone wind up as the senior vice One way she makes a difference is on the board of trustees president of human resources for PayPal’s entire global operations. of National Crittenton, a 137-year-old organization, one of the Nor is it a given that anyone would take that success and then first founded to address issues young women and girls face from become an entrepreneur, creating a private water management violence, injustice and systemic social and economic inequity company while being a major investor in technology startups in issues. “Once I visited the group home in Fullerton, I thought, I Silicon Valley. am a product of National Crittenton, I just didn’t What she means is that by being born an African go through their organization. Those girls are the American girl in St. Louis to a poor single mom ones society has forgotten about,” she says. “I I WANT OTHER WOMEN without a high school education, the youngest child believe in giving back, I believe in pulling others – PARTICULARLY MY of five children with four fathers, the odds are sadly up. I have been incredibly blessed – the level of improbable that she should be leading the life she has. success I have achieved, I couldn’t dream this big. DAUGHTERS – TO USE “You know how they say the cycle repeats itself? But I know now and I knew then there are other THEIR VOICE, TO STEP Both of my sisters had kids right out of high school; girls out there just like me, and all they need is INTO THEIR POWER. one of my brothers went to jail,” says Sutton, who someone to see them. I hope to make a path for today makes her home in Newport Beach with her them as well.” ONCE WE START TO LOSE husband and two teen daughters. OUR ABILITY TO SPEAK UP School became Sutton’s refuge, and she wound What women inspired you? “My family up with a scholarship to attend the University relocated to Champaign-Urbana when I was FOR OURSELVES, of Illinois, where she would eventually complete going into 10th grade. A school counselor – I WE HAVE LOST her MBA – and meet her husband. “When I got don’t remember her name – took an interest in accepted my goal was, ‘I want to make money. I me. I was always good in school, always made . EVERYTHING don’t want to be poor ever again.’ I saw the lives the honor roll and I worked hard, but for the first of my brothers and sisters how they turned out time, I felt like someone saw me. She poured and I said, ‘I don’t know how, but I am going to into me so much confidence, and encouraged me do something different.’” to continue working hard. I just kept soaring.” An internship at Honeywell threw her into the deep end of corporate responsibility when her first assignment was to negotiate What do you wish you’d known sooner? “That it is OK to make a collective bargaining agreement with unionized employees. “I mistakes. Perfectionism is sort of in me – I’m a Virgo! I had related a lot to the people who were impacted by the work I was a fear of failing not only because I didn’t want to disappoint doing. It was there that I discovered that my real passion, and myself, I didn’t want to disappoint everyone else who now looked what I was good at, was connecting people.” up to me because I was the pioneer in my family. Now I have Thus launched a career in human resources that inspired nieces and nephews who watch me closely. I feel a huge sense of Savoy Magazine to name her one of the Top Influential Women responsibility.” in Corporate America. She received the Bronze Stevie Award for Human Resources Executive of the Year and, before leaving What do you wish for other women? “I want other women – PayPal in 2019 to start a new company with her husband, was particularly my daughters – to use their voice, to step into their honored as one of Black Enterprise’s most powerful executives in power. It took me a long time to find my voice, and it was corporate America. probably because of how I grew up. I didn’t want to make waves. But that doesn’t mean the road has been easy. “I suffer just like Because I had watched all my brothers and sisters make a lot of many women do with self-doubt, being scared of what’s possible mistakes, I was desperate not to go down that path. I was the rule – of, ‘What if I am successful? What happens then?’ That used follower, and as a consequence it caused me to stay silent. Once to overcome me. Honestly, the encouragement and support I get I understood the power and the responsibility, I had to speak up, from other people helps me. It clicks when other people comment and speak my truth, and create opportunities for other women on things I have done, I’m like, ‘You’re right – I am the boss!’” to speak their truth – that’s what I want for women. Once we she says with a laugh. “Honestly, after making money was no start to lose our ability to speak up for ourselves, we have lost longer an issue in my life, which I solved early on in my career, everything.”
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BEHIND THE SCENES Women
Photographer Lisa Romerein sets up a shot at the rotunda with assistant Dean Courtois.
Photographer Lisa Romerein getting ready to photograph Lucy Santana.
Justice Eileen Moore being prepped for her shoot by creative director Karen Kelso.
Honoree Doniel Sutton rocks a Lafayette 148 pantsuit during the photo shoot with Lisa Romerein as Dean Courtois assists.
Milena Kitic submits to styling before the shot.
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Photo assistant Josh Beavers sheds more light on Doniel Sutton.
Photographer Lisa Romerein shows honoree Maya Patel her photos.
Lisa Romerein shoots while creative director Karen Kelso styles Maya Patel's fashions from Lafeyette 148.
Lucy Santana's hair being fixed during the shoot.
Photo assitant Dean Courtois, Coast execitive editor Samantha Dunn and managing editor Jenn Tanaka look on while photographer Lisa Romerein gets the shot.
Credits: All fashion for the Women of Coast honorees was graciously provided by Lafayette148. South Coast Plaza is the Presenting Sponsor of this year's Women of Coast. Photography by Lisa Romerein Creative Direction by Karen Kelso Location provided by The Resort at Pelican Hill
Creative director Karen Kelso, left, and photographer Lisa Romerein, right, go over images with honoree Jeanne Pepper.
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