First Ladies High Tea to honor local women May 18

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

BEVERLY HILLS — The 26th annual First Ladies High Tea will honor some high-profile women in the Black community at 11 a.m. May 18 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

First held in 1998, the annual tea is a red-carpet affair for the who’s who of women in the Black community, featuring celebrity guests, community leaders and honorees and has become an annual tradition.

In the more than 20 years since its inception, the tea, which is expected to attract more than 700 attendees this year, 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 God while also providing scholarships to at-risk youth and galvanizing the faith community around critical issues. 

Actress Yvette Nicole Brown will receive the Spirit Award. AIDS Healthcare Foundation Vice President Anita Castille will be presented with the Focus Award for her corporate outreach efforts and U.S. Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove will be honored with the Gamechanger Award.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized with the “Gamechanger Award” at the 26th annual First Ladies High Tea, an event I look forward to each year,” Kamlager-Dove said. “Beyond the festivities and ladies turning out in all of their hats, this tea serves as a powerful reminder of the remarkable contributions women of faith make to our community. It also brings to light some of the urgent challenges faced by the district I represent, all the while providing scholarships to empower the next generation of game changers.”

Church first lady honorees include Hanelory Molina of Restore LA Church, Shonta Hilton of Brister Memorial Baptist Church, Patricia Weaver of Atherton Baptist Church and Karen Coston of Grant AME Church. Each is being honored for their service to their respective churches and the community.

“We’re not just celebrating, we’re acknowledging the trailblazing efforts of women who’ve reshaped our societal landscape,” said Lisa Collins, founder and publisher of L.A. Focus, who puts on the event. “This tea is set to be a symphony of inspiration, honor and unity. 

“We stand at the brink of another memorable edition, excited to spotlight these luminaries who illuminate our paths with their resilience and leadership. It’s not just a tea, it’s a beacon of hope and a circle of empowerment, woven into the very fabric of our community.”

KCAL reporter Jasmine Simpkins, who is also a regular on the KTLA lifestyle show, “L.A. Unscripted,” will co-host the event with actress Wendy Raquel Robinson (“The Game,” “Insecure”).

“The First Ladies High Tea is absolutely one of my favorite events to host,” Robinson said. “It’s a deeply moving and immensely powerful experience and I am astounded by the remarkable women gathered in that room.”

Past honorees include Vice President Kamala Harris, KCAL anchor Pat Harvey, award-winning actress and choreographer Debbie Allen, gospel singers Yolanda Adams and CeCe Winans, former California First Lady Maria Shriver, the late Cicely Tyson, TV One founder Cathy Hughes, actor/activist Hill Harper and more.

Gospel singer Lena Byrd Miles and Grammy-nominated soul singer Major will perform. 

The winners of the L.A. Focus Annual Essay Contest also will be announced.

The grand prize-winner will receive a $2,500 scholarship, and 11 runners-up will each receive $1,000 scholarships.

Sponsors for the annual tea include Los Angeles County, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, CVS, Walmart, Compassion International, the United Faith Collaborative, Planned Parenthood, L.A. City Council members Heather Hutt and Curren Price and the L.A. Department of Water and Power.

“The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is proud to be a sponsor of the 26th annual First Ladies High Tea, which honors women of faith who have impacted the community in ways most don’t know,” said Latonya Bogin, director of partnership development and strategic engagement. “Our commitment to the tea is part of a larger effort to partner with the faith community which we view as vital in our efforts to advance equity and inclusion as we work to build a stronger and greener Los Angeles.”

Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at

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