LA Focus’ 22nd AnnualFirst Ladies High TeaAn Elegant Affair

Photo credit: Foxxmedia Written by: Teryl Warren

(Top Photo L-R): Apostle Beverly “BAM” Crawford, Marla Gibbs and Lisa Collins) (Bottom Photo L-R: First Lady Togetta Ulmer, Erica and Warryn Campbell)

(Los Angeles, CA) — Publisher Lisa Collins, LA Focus hosted the 22nd First Ladies High Tea at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Apostle Beverly “Bam” Crawford and Actress Wendy-Raquel Robinson were the Mistress of Ceremonies and on a day when so many powerful and inspiring words were shared, one word captures the entire event most accurately: beautiful. As Legacy Award Recipient Marla Gibbs quipped “This isn’t low tea, it’s HIGH tea!” From the elegant lavender lighting in the International Ballroom, to the exquisite plating of the meal, itself, no detail was overlooked – ensuring that the 1000 attendees representing some of Los Angeles’ most respected congregations were treated to an elegant and beautiful affair. On the red carpet, celebrities and fashionistas from Hollywood and the faith community dazzled – donning everything from couture dresses and jumpers to, of course, elaborate custom-made hats rivaled only by last year’s Royal Wedding. But that only covers the day’s external beauty. Because what sets the annual First Ladies High Tea apart from so many other beautiful events in the City of Angels, is that the true beauty of the women who are hosted and honored each year is far more than skin deep. While many First Ladies are known for their fashion sense, the First Ladies High Tea annually honors women who are known for pushing up their sleeves. First Ladies Barbara Hendricks, Juanita Edwards, Melinda Campbell and Erica Campbell were each presented with the Faith in Action Award to acknowledge their tireless efforts to make a positive impact on the lives of others. In recognition of her career success, her success as a mother and her commitment to raising awareness about AIDS, award-winning actress Essence Atkins was presented with the Focus Award. Dr. Kristi Funk received the Spirit Award and Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn was recognized with the Community Service Award. Four high school-aged young ladies – Sydney Hooks, Crystal Anderson, Miaya Richards South and Ashley Hackett – were also presented with a cash award of $1,000 each for their participation in the annual First Ladies High Tea Essay Contest. As is the custom, the First Ladies High Tea award recipients are presented by the people who know and love them the most – their husbands. And among the many lovely words that the men shared, none were more beautiful than those of music producer and California Worship Center Pastor Warryn Campbell, when presenting his wife and First Lady, Grammy Award-winning gospel singer, television star, radio host and author Erica Campbell. “She’s the first person I see when I open my eyes,” he said. “She’s the first person I want to impress. The first person to pray for me when I’m going through a rough time…and she’s the first person I want to share all my good news with…” She’s also my last. She’s the last woman I’ll ever kiss on the lips, the last woman I’ll ever love. She’s my first and my last. And I love her with all my heart.” The crowd rose to its feet to receive Legacy Award recipient actress Marla Gibbs. And in her heartfelt acceptance speech, Ms. Gibbs offered the sort of sage words befitting a grand dame of her status. “You and God the father are one,” she said. “Everything that happens to us happens for a reason. Challenges are given to you to climb over so you know you can climb over. Drop all your fear. Start being bold and stick to your goal. We can do anything and I am proof…because I am still 30 and I’m still working!” In what was, perhaps, the most beautiful moment of the day, co-host and actress Wendy Raquel Robinson invited Ms. Gibbs back onto the stage so that she could personally honor her. “When I say Marla Gibbs is my fairy Godmother…you don’t understand. Without Marla Gibbs, there would be no Amazing Grace Conservatory.” As she spoke, Robinson became a bit emotional – a testament not only to the sincerity of her words, but also a reflection of just how greatly Marla Gibbs is treasured for her career accomplishments as well as her decades-long commitment to the community. Robinson concluded her poignant remarks by addressing Ms. Gibbs, directly. “You are an unseen, unsung hero who has been serving our community for a very long time. You are magical. There are angels who walk among us… and you are one of them.” Multi Award winning music artist Anthony Brown & Group therAPy gave a moving performance. Sponsors included; Prudential Insurance and DFree powered by Prudential, AIDS Health Foundation, Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, and Walmart. About First Ladies High Tea This afternoon tea is a red carpet affair for the Who’s Who of women in the church and black community, featuring celebrity guests, community leaders and honorees. In the decade since its inception, the tea has served to inspire women, both young and old, to join forces and create a movement of service towards each other, the communities in which they live and to God. Past honorees include former California First Lady Maria Shriver, Oscar Nominee Cicely Tyson, former LA County Supervisor Yvonne Burke, renown vocalist Nancy Wilson, gospel recording duo Mary Mary, TV One founder Cathy Hughes, actor/activist Hill Harper and The Honorable Kamala Harris, Attorney General of California, to name a few. About L.A. Focus and Lisa Collins Founded in 1995, L.A. focus Newspaper–which boasts a readership of 120,000+ provides coverage that mirrors the concerns and issues facing the African American community, reflecting the importance of the church as both its heart and cornerstone. In addition to traditional circulation stops, L.A. Focus gets to the heart of the African American Community via its strongest institution: the church, with distribution in more than 350 churches. No other newspaper can make that claim. We, however, can back it up with numbers, with influence, and with trusted relationships, while our “Ultimate Guide To Churches in Los Angeles” has become a key resource for those seeking to understand and navigate L.A.’s black faith community. If you’re targeting faith-based community. Lisa Collins is a publisher, senior editor for, syndicated columnist, writer and former Billboard Magazine columnist. In 1995, frustrated by a void in quality publications serving the African-American community and the church as well, Ms. Collins founded L.A. Focus. A community-based publication, L.A. Focus On The Word strives to acknowledge the role of the church—and it’s growing clout—in the progress, state and politics of L.A.’s African-American community, while spotlighting news and issues of interest to the Black community at large. In 1998, L.A. Focus established its first annual First Ladies High Tea, which draws upwards of 1,000 women and 90 churches together each year for an afternoon of inspiration and praise. In April 2005, the newspaper launched its first annual “Ultimate Guide To Churches In Los Angeles.” Collins, a Los Angeles native and resident, also publishes “The Gospel Music Industry Roundup (dubbed “the Bible of the gospel music industry) and has served as a segment producer for BET while contributing well over 300 articles on a variety of issues for a number of national publications from Essence to Upscale, including a 12- year stint at Billboard Magazine. Her background in the field of entertainment reporting is extensive, featuring cover stories and interviews with the likes of Richard Pryor, Michael Jackson and Prince. Her career in gospel began in 1988, with her creation of “Inside Gospel”, a daily/weekly syndicated radio series that provided news, profiles and product updates relative to the gospel music community. For the next eight years, she would also serve as executive producer of the show that was broadcast in more than 100 markets nationwide. For more information or to buy tickets visit:

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