LA's Most Influential Women & How They Are Making Their Mark

| April 17, 2017 | People Feature

The notion that women rock, that they make the world go round, that they make businesses thrive, that they make families whole, and that they generally make anything they put their minds to and anything they darn well please is, to put it succinctly, proven science. Remove women from the societal equation and you would probably need a Hazmat suit to clean up what was left.

Remove our “Women of Influence” from the Los Angeles business, social and philanthropic landscape and you have a distaff Calexit too terrifying to ponder. These inspiring and admired boundary breakers are accomplished and just plain awesome in every way. They love L.A. and L.A. loves them back. Having them grace our pages is both a privilege and an honor. Here’s to you, and to all of your countless contributions!



Making dead space come alive is no easy feat, yet as an event producer Cara Kleinhaut became an expert at it. But she didn’t stop there. Over the past 15 years she has led the transformation of AGENC Experiential & Digital Marketing into an internationally recognized, 360 integrated marketing marvel that creates live experiences, strategy and dynamic campaigns for some of the world’s top brands. She is also a sought-after speaker at industry conferences and has been honored often for her work.

When/where are you happiest? When exploring and roaming with my camera—a luxury I don’t get to do often enough, discovering a new city or area of the world. My happy place is the beach. Salt, sand, sea—any beach, any day!

Who do you admire the most? Everyone out there working hard for their success. As Estée Lauder once said, “I never dreamed of success, I worked for it.”

What is your guilty pleasure? The Explore section on Instagram—for hours! Or spending waaay too much time and money at the L.A. Flower mart.

What would you do with 15 minutes of fame (or 15 more minutes!)? Use it to thank someone who has helped me.

If you had a time machine, where would you go? To 18th century Versailles. The dinner parties in particular! Would have loved to style out that tabletop! Though standing on a chair to get that overhead shot might be a problem.

What is the inspiration behind your business or career path? I’ve always been inspired by creating experiences and connecting people. Even when I’m off, I throw events and parties. It’s what I thrive on. If you truly love what you do and would be doing it even if you didn’t get paid—you know you’re in the right field.



Skin is always in. As a renowned dermatologist with a Harvard Medical School degree who is a favorite of Gwyneth Paltrow, Linda Evangelista and other A-list clients, and has appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s show, Karyn splits her time between offices in New York and Santa Monica and is always in demand as an expert on the human outer layer. Recently Dr. Karyn Grossman has leveraged that expertise and launched her own line of naturally based skincare products called Karyng Skincare.

Where do you find inspiration? I find inspiration in my children. I love the way they look at the world with fresh eyes. I also find inspiration in travel and nature.

What would you most like to be remembered for? I want to be remembered for being an amazing mom, friend and for never aging but looking normal!

What is your guilty pleasure? John Kelly chocolates—salted caramels are to die for.

What would your super hero power be? The ability to be in two places at the same time.

If you had a time machine, where would you go? 1920’s Paris—opulence, elegance.

One thing you would change about yourself: I would love to love to work out.



In 2015, Kiki became the first Latina President of the Board of Directors of Center Theatre Group, and also serves on the boards of the Los Angeles Opera, The Music Center and Pomona College. Kiki and her husband, David Gindler, support many other non-profit organizations on both coasts, including Antaeus Theatre Company, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. During her stint as a big firm attorney, Kiki received recognition from the State Bar of California for her work to establish low income housing for women and children, and subsequently spent time as a entertainment executive before retiring to focus exclusively on the arts and philanthropy.

What impresses you? Wildly successful people who remain humble and kind.

Your life in three words: Blessed. Abundant. Unpredictable.

Who do you admire the most? Young artists who remain brave and true to themselves.

What are your best and worst qualities? Sensitive and intuitive. Impatient and compulsively opinionated.

What would you do with 15 minutes of fame (or 15 more minutes!)? I would tell as many people in positions of influence as possible that arts education saves lives.

If you had a time machine, where would you go? Medieval England. But I would have to be young, noble, rich, and most importantly, male.



Laurel kept it simple, but the ripple effect of her influence in fashion design is too complicated to digest in one sitting. Through the impeccable elegance and flawless construction of her iconic “Jackie O” dress, she drives the modern-day conversation about the essence of style in her business. She gave up a legal career to create her company, so not surprisingly Black Halo refers to the rebel hidden within each woman.

What impresses you? Authenticity

Your life in three words: Beautiful creative chaos

What would you do with 15 minutes of fame (or 15 more minutes!)? Bring awareness to women’s health and rights as well as educate about the issues we are facing with Global Warming/Climate Change.

If you had an audience with the President, what would you say? Close your Twitter account and read a book.

What compliment about yourself gives you the most pleasure? That people love and feel confident in my dresses.

If you had a time machine, where would you go? The Future: Always looking ahead.



After working as an art consultant in Texas and Florida, Leisa moved to Southern California in 1991 and opened Imago Galleries in downtown Palm Springs. Now located in Palm Desert, the custom designed 18,000-square-foot architecturally significant structure with a humongous sculpture garden (which also houses her private residence and is quickly becoming known as the desert’s premier pop-up venue) celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. She is extremely active in her community, including a position on the board of the Barbara Sinatra Center for abused children at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage.

Where do you find inspiration? Oddly enough, I’m a magazine addict. I like feeling the paper and the act of turning each page. I want to breathe in the scent of the ink. I am happiest when I find a few hours of quiet time in an otherwise hectic life, to crawl into bed—a dog on either side—and lose myself in an array of magazines, with topics ranging from art and architecture to design and fashion. I will never give them up nor read them digitally.

Your life in three words: Art. Work. Dogs. In no particular order.

Favorite hidden spot in L.A.: Any cove with whales dining on krill in late summer, preferably aboard a boat I am captaining.

What are your best and worst qualities? One and the same: I am honest. To a fault.

What would you most like to be remembered for? Making someone laugh.

One thing you would change about yourself: I may want to take it down a notch. Perfectionism is perhaps asking too much of those around you?



As a teenager waitressing in Milwaukee, Rachel fell in love with the food & beverage business and dreamed about a career in the restaurant industry. Now, she’s one of the country’s most sought-after restaurant leasing agents & consultants. The petite powerhouse broker has spearheaded several high-profile projects and arranged leases with some the city’s hottest new restaurants, including Catch and E.P. & L.P. in West Hollywood, as well as casual favorites like sweetgreen and Le Pain Quotidien. Up next: transforming the Beverly Center into a food lover’s paradise.

Where do you find inspiration? In the details.

Your life in three words: Grace under fire.

Who do you admire the most? My Mom. And every other woman that sets the bar high.

What would you most like to be remembered for? The way I order a meal for the table. It’s my most treasured skill-set. A great menu is like a love letter from the chef.

If you had a time machine, where would you go? Sinatra’s last concert in L.A. in 1971. That set list gives me chills every time I read it.

Most treasured possession? My Grandmother’s hand-written recipe for Chicken Soup.



A former schoolteacher, including a stint in a gifted children’s program in South Pasadena, Rosemary is now schooling other realtors. She is consistently among the top five deal-makers in the rarified territories of Los Feliz, Silver Lake and the Hollywood Hills, and among the reasons for that are her knowledge of the architecture and history of her areas.

What impresses you? A person who reads a lot and offers much to the conversation; someone who is full of enthusiasm and knowledge.

Who do you admire the most? Sonia Sotomayor. She is a Supreme Court justice, a female attorney and judge who worked her way up from humble beginnings to hold a seat on the highest court in the land -- and she’s a minority! A truly great accomplishment.

What would you like to best be remembered for? Having raised responsible, honest and successful children and grandchildren.

Who would play you in a film about yourself? Probably Li Gong.

What would your super hero power be? To make sick people well.

Greatest regret? That I didn’t take the train up to the Andes Mountains.



Luxury and comfort are within reach, an arm’s length away you might say. A longtime handbag collector herself, Suzan founded Suzan Lee Handbags (formerly Jessica Grant Handbags) in order to make sure that an item not only serves its practical purpose, but is also an extension of the woman holding it. She wants the confident woman who carries one of her bags to be a trend-setter, not a trend-follower. And when you consider Suzan’s sense of style and individuality, you get that completely.

What impresses you? Good design impresses me. I love when someone comes up with a better, efficient way to get something done, and it is well received by those who appreciate it.

Who do you admire the most? I admire those that faithfully do their work behind the scenes, not asking for recognition, but simply caring about the job that needs to be done.

What are your best and worst qualities? Sensitive, caring, go-getter. Sensitive, stubborn, go-getter.

What would you most like to be remembered for? My faith.

One item/service you could never live without: My mobile phone!

One thing you would change about yourself: I wish I were taller….only 4 more inches please…..



Tami has ascended to the penthouse of her profession despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She is the No. 1 real estate agent in Los Angeles and her company is the No. 1 brokerage on the Westside, responsible for $2 billion in properties since starting in 2005. She has received kudos galore for her professional and charitable work, including Good Housekeeping’s “2016 Awesome Women Award” and being named Philanthropist of the Year in 2016 by the Los Angeles Business Journal.

What would you most like to be remembered for?
For being a down-to-earth LIFE CHANGER who inspires hope, courage and purpose by motivating those I touch!

What is your guilty pleasure? Definitely listening to country music—I love Garth Brooks.

What’s on your bucket list? There are so many: heli-skiing in Iceland, rafting the Colorado River at the Grand Canyon, summiting Mt. Hood, and to go on an African safari and volunteer in Africa. Those are just a few at the top of my list!

What would your super hero power be? I would want to be able to read peoples’ hearts and minds. I would want to do this so I could help them!

If you had a time machine, where would you go? Honestly, I would go back to the 1970’s so I could disco-dance my life away!

One item/service you could never live without: DryBar—I love a good blow out! One item would definitely be a tape measurer.



Equally accomplished at both the creative and business sides, the native of Chicago moved here with her husband in the late ‘90s to work as a freelancer, after having honed her skills at ad agencies in the Windy City. She transformed her one-woman operation into a thriving design firm that works with a bevy of premier brands. Hilary, in addition to her role as President of the National Association of Women Business Owners’ LA chapter (NAWBO-LA), has received numerous honors, including the Comerica Bank | Los Angeles Lakers Woman of Entrepreneurship Award.

When/where are you happiest? At my desk creating. With my family around the dinner table. With my girlfriends hashing about our days, laughing and sharing.

Favorite hidden spot in LA: Monsieur Marcel in the Farmer’s Market. Also my backyard, but you need a reservation for it and we book it a year out.

Who would play you in a film about yourself? Jennifer Beals, Jennifer Aniston or Jennifer Jason Leigh. Anyone named Jennifer. Apparently, I like Jennifers.

What would you do with 15 minutes of fame (or 15 more minutes!)? Talk about my motivation to make the world a better place. I’d share how LDM helps our clients set, meet, and surpass their goals. And I’d talk about our ability to remind our clients what’s so uniquely awesome about them.

What is the last thing you liked or commented on in social media? Our March 8th post by NAWBO-LA: “Smart strong women working together making the world better.” And my husband’s post about the Chicago Cubs. (Go Cubs Go!)

What scares you the most? The embracing of ignorance by many in our society. Knowledge is power, and knowledge changes lives for the better. Embrace knowledge instead.

Categories: People Feature