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 thatthe 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.