First Ladies High Tea

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BEVERLY HILLS, CA – More than 600 people gathered at The Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills Saturday for the L.A. Focus 26th Annual First Ladies High Tea. Celebrities, dignitaries, community leaders and the faith-based community came together for a great cause celebrating local women leaders.

L.A. Focus publisher Lisa Collins opened the program followed by a prayer from apostle Beverly “Bam” Crawford.

The honorable Holly J. Mitchell said she is “proud to support the 26th Annual First Ladies High Tea and to serve as the Los Angeles County Supervisor for the 2nd district.” The supervisor took to the stage and was honored to congratulate and present “my friend representative Sydney Kamlager-Dove with the Gamechanger Award.”

Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove was humbled and a crowd pleaser for her uplifting impact. She moved the audience with her empowering speech filled with gratitude. “I am very honored,” she told me.

Trial attorney Austin R. Dove Sr. called his wife “our tireless champion.” Dove called the honorable congresswoman “the personification of Black women’s excellence,” and referred to her as “my remarkable wife.”

“You have truly changed the game,” Dove Sr. said of the minority politician and former Assemblywoman.

Guests attend the L.A. Focus 26th Annual First Ladies High Tea at The Beverly Wilshire. (Photo by Germany Kent)

Another honoree for the prestigious annual event included Anita Castille, the Vice-President of Human Resources at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the world’s largest non-profit public health and advocacy organization. Castille took home the Focus Corporate Award.

Castille received a thunderous applause while making her way to the podium. “I want to thank Lisa Collins for doing this event every year. It really helps to give the faith-based community a place to belong,” Castille said.

A New Orleans native, Casille is a staple for servant leadership in the Los Angeles community. She contributes her expertise to the Brotherhood Crusade as an Advisory Board Member, is a Board Member for the Inglewood Educational Foundation, an associate member of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., and part of the Inglewood Pacific Chapter of the LINKS, per L.A. Focus.

Yvette Nicole Brown was presented with the Spirit Award. “She embodies the rare blend of celebrity and civility, continually showing that her passions and pursuits are intricately linked with her desire to uplift and educate her audience,” Collins with L.A. Focus noted.

The event was co-hosted by KTLA’s “L.A. Unscripted” lifestyle show reporter Jasmine Simpkins and actress Wendy Raquel Robinson.

Guests attend the L.A. Focus 26th Annual First Ladies High Tea with co-hosts Wendy Raquel Robinson and Jasmine Simpkins at The Beverly Wilshire.
(Photo by Germany Kent)

Robinson, a recipient of the First Lady’s High Tea 2017 Shining Star Award, is also the co-founder and creative director at Amazing Grace Conservatory (AGC), a local performing and media arts production school. According to their website, AGC has been in existence for over 25 years. “We’re committed to furthering education in the arts,” Robinson said.

Guests were taken aback by the soulful sounds of MAJOR, a GRAMMY, 2x Soul Train, and 8x NAACP Image Award nominated entertainer. Gospel sensation Lena Byrd-Miles brought the house down with her spiritual renditions.

Women clergy leaders were asked to stand and all received a cheering ovation. Next up was the First Ladies Roll Call which electrified the audience.

Two first ladies were honored with the Faith in Action Award including Karen Coston, the wife of Rev. Dr. Timothy O. Coston, Jr., of Grant AME Church. As well as First Lady Hanelory Molina, the wife of Pastor Rene Molina, of RLA Church.

Two other recipients were honored with the L.A. Focus Faith in Action Award.

First Lady Shonta Hilton, wife of the City of Carson Mayor Pro Tem and Bishop Dr. Jawane Hilton, of Brister Memorial Baptist Church. In addition to Patricia S. Weaver, wife of Pastor Larry D. Weaver, of the Atherton Baptist Church.

12 area students were also honored at the distinguished event for the L.A. Focus First Ladies High Tea Essay Contest. The winners include: Cielle Gamyn Amos Hughing (South L.A. College Prep), Kennedy Chow (Archer School for Girls), Reyna Drew (Westchester High), Kyla Gillard (North High), Joy Jones (Fairfax High), Raven Keiara Melvin (Mira Costa), Ashlynn Nicole Messenger (Pacifica Christian), Nevaeh Milburn (Davinci Communications), Ijeoma Nwafor (Archer School for Girls), Ocean Pierson (Hamilton), Lauren Portis (Westchester High), Briahna Small (Woodrow Wilson), and Nejela Thomas (Cobalt Institute of Math).

L.A. Focus 26th Annual First Ladies High Tea Essay Winners were awarded scholarships at The Beverly Wilshire. (Photo by Germany Kent)

The student honorees were featured in a video presentation prior to appearing on stage where each winner was presented with a scholarship.

Actress Christina Elmore and Assemblywoman Tina McKinnor brought even more energy to the stage to present winning essayists checks on behalf of Imagine Etiquette, Inc.

“One of the highlights of our annual high tea is the First Ladies High Tea Essay Contest,” said Bernadette Fernandez, CEO and Program Director of Imagine Etiquette Youth Foundation.

“Join us in celebrating this new chapter for our winners, who continue to leave their mark on the world,” Fernandez said. “Congratulations to the esteemed scholarship winners. Your dedication and hard work epitomize the spirit of excellence we endeavor to foster through the SEVA initiative-representing self-esteem, value, and awareness,” she noted.

First Ladies High Tea Essay Winner Raven Keiara Melvin pictured with Bernadette Fernandez, CEO and Program Director of Imagine Etiquette Youth Foundation. Commendation courtesy of the honorable Maxine Waters, U.S. representative for California’s 43rd congressional district.
(Photo by Germany Kent)

“I’ve been doing this since 2014 and it never gets old. I love the students and have a passion for teaching social etiquette and have established a foundation that inspires change and promotes the development of essential life skills. We love to encourage, empower, and elevate, Fernandez said. “At the end of the day it’s important that it is socially relevant and makes a difference.”

Raven Keiara Melvin, a teen scholar and veteran performer with Amazing Grace Conservatory was elated to be one of the student honorees. “I’m grateful to L.A. Focus and Ms. Wendy (Raquel Robinson) who encouraged me to apply for the First Ladies High Tea Essay Contest. She is so encouraging and empowering,” the high school senior said. “Being under Ms. Wendy and having the opportunity to be in dance and performing arts at AGC since the pandemic has been life-changing for me. I also want to thank Ms. Bernadette and Imagine Etiquette for this great honor,” the essay winner said.

During the First Ladies High Tea program, the audience got a taste of the work that AGC does with an excerpt of their upcoming show Aladdin “A whole new world for real.”

Guests at the L.A. Focus 26th Annual First Ladies High Tea enjoy a special feature from the upcoming Amazing Grace Conservatory presents Aladdin “A whole new world for real” musical. (Photo by Germany Kent)

“You don’t want to miss this production,” Robinson said. The performance is slated for May 25-26 at Crenshaw Performing Arts Center on the campus of Crenshaw High School. “Go onto and get your tickets,” the energetic co-host said.

Before ending the program, the co-hosts also gave a nod to the First Lady High Tea sponsors who included: AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), California Black Media, California Department of Aging, California Wellness Foundation, Compassion International, CVS, L.A. Department of Water & Power, L.A. City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, L.A. City Councilmember Heather Hutt, L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, Planned Parenthood, UnitedFaith Collaborative and Walmart.

Local officials were also acknowledged during the program. The faith inspired fancy affair ended with a prayer followed by an afternoon of high-fashion with an extravagant fashion show that delighted the masses.

Edna Sims, publicist extraordinaire entrusted to facilitate orchestrating the high-profile L.A. Focus First Ladies High Tea, said “we are delighted with the turnout. This is always such a wonderful event.”

About Imagine Etiquette, Inc.

At Imagine Etiquette, Inc. we are honored to provide a platform for growth and opportunity. We have established a foundation that inspires change and promotes the development of essential life skills. We continue to empower and support the aspirations of young individuals. These core values are the driving force behind our mission to significantly impact our community.

About First Ladies High Tea Essay Contest

The First Ladies High Tea Essay Contest invites girls between the ages of 15 and 18 to express their thoughts in a 500-word essay on a theme chosen by L.A. Focus. The theme of this year’s essay contest was “Loving Ourselves, Empowering Each Other.”

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