LA Opera Announces New Ambassador Program Featuring Major Entertainment Superstars

By David Salazar

The Los Angeles Opera has announced a new initiative to bridge the diversity gap.

Under its ambassadorship program, the company will build ties with major thought-leaders and diverse communities. Among these ambassadors are Whoopi Goldberg, Audra McDonald, Phil Handy, Marsai Martin, D Nice, Karen Mack, Nichol Whiteman, Lance Gross, Mashonda Tifrere, and Kahlana Barfield Brown.

“Our education and community engagement programs have been extraordinarily successful in introducing young people throughout Los Angeles to the magic of opera,” said Christopher Koelsch, president and CEO of LA Opera, in an official statement issued by the company. “We want to have similar success with adults. As a nonprofit, it is not only our objective, but our obligation to ensure that arts are accessible and welcoming to all. The sustainability of opera in younger, polycultural audiences heavily relies on boundless innovations, taking risks, exposure, and truly reflecting the world and community we are in.”

Below is the full list of ambassadors per the company’s official press statement.

-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

-Tomas J. Benitez, chairman, Latino Arts Network of California

-Julissa Bermudez, actress, entrepreneur, Latinx social activist

-Sonia Coleman, SVP of human resources, DGE Content and ESPN

-Tammy Dickerson, president and CEO of tbg Events (formerly The Baker Group); founding member of The Black Table; member of Meeting Planners International Southern California Chapter (MPISCC), National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP) and Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce (GLAAACC)

-Becca Doten, chief airport affairs officer, LAWA

-James DuBose, president / head of programming at FOX SOUL; producer; filmmaker

-Iman Houston Farrior, TV business affairs executive at Creative Artists Agency (CAA)

-James Farrior, former NFL linebacker; member of the Class of 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Honor; inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame

-Jeff Friday, film producer, ABFF founder (American Black Film Festival)

-Nicole Friday, executive, producer

-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

-Omar Grant, co-president of Roc Nation, advisory board member of Girls Make Beats

-Lance Gross, four-time NAACP Image award-winning actor, model, philanthropist

-Suzanna Guzmán, mezzo-soprano, one of the original Associate Artists of LA Opera

-Ronnda Hamilton, president, LeRock Productions

-Brenton A. Hamlet, senior vice president, wealth management advisor with The Markoff Hamlet Group at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

-Phil Handy, assistant coach of the Los Angeles Lakers (2016, 2019, 2020 champions), BBL champion (2000), player development trainer

-Lisa Johnson, founder and executive director of Private School Village, co-host, “eRaced” podcast, philanthropist

-Derrick Jones (D-Nice), disc jockey, beatboxer, rapper, producer and photographer

-Courtney Jones-Moore, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation

-Naima J. Keith, vice president of education and public programs at LACMA

-Keshia Knight Pulliam, Emmy-nominated actress, producer, director, founder of Kamp Kizzy, host for “Married at First Sight,” entrepreneur, visionary, advocate, culture shaper

-Josh Kun, professor of communication and journalism and chair in cross-cultural communication at USC; author; editor; serves on the editorial boards of Public Culture, Journal of Popular Music Studies and the Music Research Annual, and on the boards of Dublab and the University of California Humanities Research Institute; co-curates CALA Crossfade Lab; directs The Popular Music Project of the Norman Lear Center

-Dan Limerick, COO, William Morris Endeavor

-Dawn Limerick, founder and president of The Greenwood Standard®

-Dr. Stephen H. Liu, orthopedic sports medicine/surgeon and chairman/founder of Forme®

-Karen Mack, founder of LA Commons, television producer for CBS, author

-Alexandrea Martin, actress, film producer

-Marsai Martin, actress, entrepreneur, film producer, philanthropist, activist-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

-Norm Nixon, two-time NBA champion, Los Angeles Lakers (Showtime), executive vice president, co-founder/CFO of Debbie Allen Dance Academy, NBA analyst, former VP of NBA Players Association, board of Homeland Security Advisory Council

-Kalani Queypo, award-winning filmmaker, playwright, songwriter, actor

-Ferrari Sheppard, contemporary visual artist, writer, photographer, activist and record producer

-Renata Simril, president and CEO of LA84 Foundation, philanthropist; board of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, LA 2028 Olympic Bid Committee, Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission and the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation; formerly served as a Governor’s Appointee on the California Science Center Board, chair of the Board of Regents for LMU and as a member of the Lusk Center for Real Estate at USC

-Andrea Smith, director of representation strategy & early talent for Zillow, director of diversity representation strategist and recruitment leader

-Eula Smith, owner of EMS Consulting, Inc., founder of EMarie, philanthropist

-Jada Pinkett Smith, actress, television personality, award-winning television host for “Red Table Talk”, philanthropist

-Jaden Smith, rapper, singer and actor; founder of JUST Water, philanthropist

-Eduardo Soriano Hewitt, chief of public engagement, Office of Public Safety

-Jacqueline Stewart, director and president of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures; editor, author

-Mashonda Tifrere, author, singer, founder of Art LeadHer

-Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, president and bishop of Faithful Central Bible Church, board member and adjunct professor and dean of The King’s At Oxford, author

-Ms. Togetta Ulmer, first lady of Faithful Central Bible Church

-Gabrielle Union, award-winning NAACP Image actress, entrepreneur, producer, activist, published author, philanthropist

-Pablo Villavicencio, CEO at Alliance College Ready Public Schools

-Dwyane Wade, NBA champion, former Miami Heat guard, entrepreneur, author, advocate, board of trustee member for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, UC Davis executive leadership board for the department of Viticulture and Enology

-Karim Webb, entrepreneurial activist, LAX commissioner

-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

-Monét X Change, influencer, singer, podcaster, reality television personality

-Nancy Yoon, founder of “Asians in LA,” television host (QVC), actress