Tuesday, April 24, 2018

LGBT Bold Introduces Michaela Mendelsohn

Michaela Mendelsohn can talk about her relentless work as a transgender activist, helping the restaurant industry become more inclusive and better tap the talent pool of transgender employees with her TransCanWork.org non-profit company.

Mendelsohn was selected to be the state and national recipient of the Face of Diversity Award and will be recognized amongst her peers at the NRA Public Affairs Conference on April 19 in Washington DC, and in Sacramento on April 24 at the CRA Restaurant Day (Lobby Day).

The annual award is part of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s (NRAEF) celebration of the “best of the best” in diversity and inclusion, community service and hospitality leadership.

Mendelsohn, CEO of one of the largest El Pollo Loco franchises in the country and the first transgender member of the L.A. Workforce Development Board,  is the founder of the California Transgender Work Project (CTWP) transcanwork.org - a program formed with the mission of promoting a trans positive work climate throughout the state of California and the US.

Mendelsohn's incredible story and professional endeavor continue to make headlines.
She was recently profiled in the LA TIMES: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-himi-michaela-mendelsohn-20180323-htmlstory.html

Mendelsohn is in a unique position to teach on the subject and help others break barriers.

A longtime El Pollo Loco franchise operator and CEO of Pollo West Corp., with six restaurants in Southern California, her restaurant teams now include transgender employees including hispanic transgender women.

She’s also on the board of the Trevor Project, a national organization devoted to eliminating suicide among LGBT youth. And she served as a consultant to the series “Orange is the New Black.”

Mendelsohn is an amazing woman who has had a tremendous impact on the community.
This is an annual award presented by a leader in the restaurant industry, championing people from all backgrounds.

What makes Mendelsohn’s story so special and inspiring is that it shows the world that everyone can be their authentic self and succeed; and that everyone can overcome the challenges they are facing and find their voice.

"In being my best self and telling my story, I hope to create “ripples in the pond” to open the hearts and minds of one person at a time”, says Mendelsohn.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

LGBT Bold Introduces Susan Surftone

Surftone is a former FBI agent turned surf guitarist / singer / songwriter.

From her FBI years to the time she spent as an Attorney for the NYPD assigned to the Tactical Narcotics Team in Harlem, and her prolific career as a surf guitarist, the out artist has a lot to say and is never afraid to say it.

Susan’s endured more than her fair share of misogyny, discrimination, even physical assault; but throughout it, she’s stuck steadfast to her goals and refused to be intimidated. And although her musical genre tends to be straight-male-dominated, she's done hiding in the closet.

Whether engaging in espionage or breaking into music, this queer musician has always been fearless and lives out loud. Surftone is a fascinating woman who has continuously been breaking barriers.

Now the sixty-something year-old artist just released a new EP  “2nd To One”.

The album, an homage to Elvis Presley (Surftone’s idol) is a take-off on Elvis' collection of great B-sides called "2nd To None”. It features Darlene Koldenhoven, the nun with the tambourine from the "Sister Act” movies, who plays the piano on "One-Sided Love".

There’s probably not a single person who wouldn’t be inspired by the story of Susan Surftone.

She went from a career working in an government agency that is reputed to be very macho, to another profession known to be heavily male-dominated, namely “surf” music as a guitarist. Yet while the gender ratio wasn’t in her favor, she thrived in both fields.

In the early '80s, SurfTone (real name: Susan Yasinski) was an FBI agent in New York, chosen to monitor KGB agents assigned to UN headquarters. The Soviets weren't allowed to travel more than 25 miles outside New York City, so she would run surveillance and occasionally go undercover to sniff out their motives and next moves.

Fancy  job, but she became worried about her future within the bureau. For a lesbian, upward mobility was not going to come easily. Plenty of Hoover men were still in place at the FBI, and "don't ask, don't tell" was the prevailing attitude. It grew increasingly more difficult to make excuses for not dating, and she knew the rumors eventually would prevent a promotion, anyway.

But something other than the challenge of hiding her sexual orientation ultimately led to her resignation from the FBI. Leaving the FBI pushed SurfTone to form bands of her own.
Susan and the Surftones went on to record more than 10 albums, became breakout stars in Europe and even had a couple of their songs featured on a season of The Real World.

Through the years she has always been a strong advocate of encouraging girls to play guitar and start bands. She continues now to be a social activist for women empowerment and LGBTQ rights.

Ironically, with Russian espionage in the news lately, Susan’s found herself reflecting back on her FBI days with unexpected frequency penning more than a few op-eds about the political news of the moment, published in HuffPost, The Advocate and Curve.

Surftone has become an influential trailblazing voice in both the political arena and the LGBTQ community. She's using a lifetime of lessons and musical talent to encourage other queer young women to sing out loud and strong.

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

LGBT Bold Introduces Mona Elyafi of ILDK Media


First, tell us about your business. What does your company do? What markets does it serve?
ILDK Media is a boutique PR company based in Los Angeles. It specializes in LGBTQ+ PR campaigns, Entertainment PR and special events. Staying at the forefront of change, ILDK has been instrumental in making LGBTQ agendas move into mainstream culture. Every LGBTQ PR campaign has, in its own way, aided in the empowerment of our community and contributed to changing the conversation about gays, lesbians, and/or transgender today. Some of our clients include: The Dinah Shore Weekend, Tello Films, ClexaCon, BackLot Bash, Rainbow Fashion Week, Brave Trails, social justice advocate and transgender activist Michaela Mendelsohn, among many others.

ILDK’s message is particularly important at this moment in American history with a Trump administration that is continuously acting in a hostile way towards the LGBTQ community; and for those feeling demoralized by recent politics that seem to prioritize men’s contributions over women’s. I, as both a woman entrepreneur and a member of the LGBTQ community (married to my wife for the past 4 years), have continuously been committed (under the ILDK marquee) to amplifying women’s voices through pitches/stories; and supporting the LGBTQ community by championing campaigns focused on social & political causes directly affecting it. Working hand in hand with clients to champion social and political causes that directly affect our community, we cultivate long-term partnerships with a variety of associations including GLAAD, HRC, Equality California, The Trevor Project and the LA Gay & Lesbian Center.

Next, tell us a little about yourself. What inspired you to start your own business and/or head down this path within your own company?
I was born in Beirut Lebanon and immigrated to Paris, France in 1975 when the civil war started. I was raised in Paris, benefiting from a mix of both a European and Middle Eastern culture. With a Muslim father and a catholic mother, I grew up exposed to both religions - its traditions, celebrations and beliefs. I moved to Los Angeles in 1990 to pursue a BA in Political Science. I then left LA for New York City, where I attended New York University to complete a Masters in Liberal Arts (with a minor in Journalism). Upon returning to LA, I started working at Sunshine Entertainment pushing and promoting the top 2 artists on the label: The Movement (“Jump”) and Grammy nominee Skee-Lo (“I Wish”). After years working for some of the top entertainment PR agencies in Los Angeles (including The Lee Solters Company), I took a leap of faith and launched my own PR firm, ILDK Media, in 2004.  I named my company ILDK after my grandmother’s initials because she was my role model and mentor; she epitomized the very definition of women empowerment and to this day, while she left us 15years ago, she continues to be my muse and inspiration.


The main objective in using my influence as a publicist, was and still is to not only empower women, but artists as well, exuding a genuine passion for their artistic craft and professional vocation. The saying that a publicist is a storyteller speaks volumes. The fact that you can pluck someone from near obscurity and thrust him/her into the spotlight with the right narrative is an immensely meaningful notion to me. My continuous goal is to be an inspirational trailblazing voice in my community by telling stories that act as a catalyst for change and move both the media and the public towards a more inclusive mentality.

I have been very fortunate to work on many LGBTQ projects that have focused on uplifting our community, teaming up with some incredibly talented individuals that I am proud to call my clients. From transgender activist Michaela Mendelsohn (Transcanwork), Mariah Hanson (The Dinah Shore Weekend), Christin Baker (tello films), E. Jag Beckford (Rainbow Fashion Week), to Marlene Forte (The Fosters, Familia), among others, these are all LGBTQ PR campaigns that spark more than a dialogue about diversity and equality, they’re also leading the mainstream headlines making front-page news. To have media institutions – whether it be Forbes, LA Times, NBC.com, NY Times, CNN, to name a few - give your LGBTQ clients a mainstream platform to tell their stories to the world helps pave the way toward acceptance because it puts a human face on sexual orientation and gender identity. At the end of the day, the most rewarding aspect of my profession is the knowledge that I, via ILDK, am involved in the very process of helping to change minds and hearts.

Do you have a project or goal you're working on now in order to take your business to the next level?
One of my projects is to connect with other mainstream entertainment companies whether in films, TV and/or music and work with them to make sure they have embraced a culture of diversity and inclusion.

What have been some of the challenges in achieving this goal?
The main challenge is time. It takes a lot of time to research these companies and make sure you get the right person to connect with. It's difficult but not impossible. I just need to find more time to do so while still pushing the PR campaigns of my clients.

What is the biggest mistake, if any, that your customers are making?
One of the common mistake clients make is not staying on message. it is a crucial element to every PR campaign - the art of communicating exactly what you set out to communicate in the first place.
It’s about consistency, clarity and focus. When clients stay on message, they are able to communicate exactly what they want their audience to know and are then able to deliver a clear, powerful and irresistible call to action. Ultimately staying on message ensures that your message gets across.


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