Follow the Leaders: Wise Words from Los Angeles Magazine’s Breakfast Conversation on Mentoring


If the latest panel discussion in Los Angeles magazine’s Breakfast Conversation series had a tagline, it would have to be—as Drybar founder and featured speaker Alli Webb quipped—from keeping the city safe to keeping it pretty.

The event, held Tuesday morning inside the Vantage Room at Hollywood & Highland, brought together women and a few men from across industries for a talk about the importance of mentoring young women in Los Angeles. The ladies on stage represented personal backgrounds and career experiences as diverse as the audience that showed up for bacon, eggs, and inspiration: Webb was joined by Ford Motor Company Communications executive Debra Hotaling, Step Up CEO Jenni Luke, LAPD Sergeant Emada Tingirides and Los Angeles magazine editor-in-chief Mary Melton, who moderated the discussion.

One nugget of wisdom from the group? Mentoring sure isn’t what it used to be. From where and how it’s done (hello, social media) to the increased impact it can have on future generations, mentoring has undergone a major makeover. Here’s what else we learned:

Acting like a mentor is being a mentor.
Long gone are the days when mentoring youth meant one-on-one counseling in a traditional setting. Luke, who was herself inspired by Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition speech as a teenager and whose organization provides after school programs for girls and connects mentors with mentees, spoke about “promiscuous mentoring”—that’s when girls have an opportunity to learn from multiple leaders at a time. Webb, who makes it a priority to interact personally with as many Drybar stylists as she can, agreed that behaving like a role model is as important as being one in an official capacity. “I feel a deeper sense of responsibility now,” she said of running a company.

Good conquers all.
Thanks to the reach of social media, bullying does more harm now than ever. But, as Sergeant Tingirides explained, we have tools to spread positive messages, too. She asked everyone in attendance to post something good to their Facebook pages and to show a greater interest in media stories with happy endings. The goal of her work with kids in South L.A.: to show them “there is something better out there.”

People don’t outgrow the need for positive role models.
Tingirides also talked about the importance of mentoring families. She said mothers and fathers in the Watts community she serves need to see more examples of success, too, and that the LAPD sees youth outreach as its first step towards addressing problems that affect residents of all ages. “No one calls the police to say let’s go have coffee,” she said of her job. “We see people at their worst.”

Risky behavior has its rewards.
Asked what she does to stay centered and keep her own engine going, Hotaling, who worked as a journalist before launching a second career in PR, answered, “Surfing.”

“I’m super bad at it,” she said of riding waves alongside lots of boys, but “doing something scary helps me keep track of what’s important.”