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Women of the Year leader
Bryan Mayes

10 amazing women who are making Los Angeles a better place this year

Meet Time Out L.A.’s astonishing Women of the Year, who are each giving the city something to talk about.

By Michael Juliano
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To mark Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating some of the artists, entrepreneurs and advocates who are shaping a better future for Los Angeles.

Though their areas of focus differ, the women on this list are all united by using their platforms to enact change, whether through political power or on-the-streets activism. They’ve kept us safe with PPE or armed us with tools to defend against hate. And in this year where we’ve spent so much time at home, they’ve reminded us to focus on self-care, offered something tasty to eat or delivered some over-the-top joy to our doorsteps.

Read on to catch up with the women that we think are making L.A. a better place, and to find out the on-the-rise women in their own fields that they think we should be paying more attention to.

Written by Michael Juliano and Sarah Medina.

RECOMMENDED: 11 amazing women who changed the world in the last year

Meet the women who are making L.A. a better place

Lindsay Rose Medoff, suay
Lindsay Rose Medoff, suay
Photograph: ATIBA JEFFERSON / Design: Time Out

Lindsay Rose Medoff

Lindsay Rose Medoff was very surprised to learn she would be a part of this list. “We’re over here with our heads and hands down; I never know if people know what we’re up to,” she says. But here’s the thing: Everyone should absolutely know and pay attention to Medoff’s 100 percent vertical sewing and production shop in Frogtown, Suay.

The activist sew shop puts reclaimed textiles at the center of their revolution in an attempt to eradicate the massive amount of waste that comes from the fast fashion industry. In 2019, Suay diverted over 250,000 pounds of garments from landfills. In 2020, Suay started a food distribution program that feeds more than 200 garment workers and their families each week, and partnered with national Indigenous organization Seeding Sovereignty to get much-needed PPE into the hands of Indigenous communities.

But Medoff isn’t stopping there in her “unwavering dedication to the liberation of all people of the earth.” The shop recently launched SUAY S.O.S.(Save Our Stuff), which includes collecting thousands of pounds of textile waste to recycle each week, offering a national repair program where anyone can send in their clothes to be repaired by a professional garment worker, and selling products such as linen quilts constructed entirely from post consumer waste.

“Suay exists to prove you can supply open air, bright light, a true living wage, security, safety and career advancement to your production team and still have a business,” says Medoff. So don’t be roped in by false promises from other brands; the sustainable fashion revolution is here, and Suay is the space to watch. She adds, “We don’t need giant corporations to save us, because we’ve got each other.”

A Q&A with Lindsay Rose Medoff

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to have a positive impact in their communities? 

Start a Suay or something like it—I’ll help you! Create a donation bin, build a free rack, repair clothes with friends.

What’s the best way for someone to break away from fast fashion?

Drop it fast and entirely. Just because a brand is claiming to be sustainable or ethical doesn’t mean it’s legit. 

What’s the one thing you wish everyone knew about the work you’re doing?

If we think we have started to make a dent in “sustainable fashion” we are wrong. It took years of blind consumption to get here and it will take years to dig us out.

How has the pandemic permanently changed your industry? 

Covid made rich people richer in industries that are notorious for abusing people and the planet—that’s terrifying. I feel up against more now, pulling back the curtain of brands “doing good.” Suay is up for the challenge but we need your help.

Who’s someone in your field we should be paying more attention to?

I give it up to every single woman working hard to make positive change in their own communities. It’s tireless work, unforgiving at times, and takes an incredible toll on you. To those women: You are seen, respected and celebrated, every day in Suay’s book.

Show your support: Donate a farm box to a garment worker. Shop Suay’s line of reusable, upcycled products made entirely from landfill-bound textile waste. Send in your garments to be repaired.

Alex Floro
Alex Floro
Photograph: Courtesy Jessica Pomerantz

Alex Floro

Plants can be unapologetically political, and Alex Floro’s floral imprint proves that point. Under New MGMT designs bold and colorful pieces that draw upon experiences as (and exclusively  partners with groups that align with) people of color, immigrants, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Then last summer, as social justice demonstrations took hold, Floro decided to fuel the revolution. She launched a mutual aid group, the People’s Bodega, to provide protesters with free snacks, water and little plastic bags packed with masks, hand sanitizer and sunscreen.

The People’s Bodega quickly expanded in both size—with a sister extension in New York—and scope: Floro teamed up with other guerrilla aid groups to set up and stock no-questions-asked communal food pantries and fridges, as well as pop-up shops that distribute free care packages to essential workers and those in need.

A Q&A with Alex Floro

How can Angelenos keep the momentum from this summer’s activism going?

I understand and recognize that burn out, combined with the collective grieving of this pandemic, is incredibly real. This work weighs down on the soul. It might be very alluring for some folx to try and go back to “normal”—that’s a privilege that many don’t have.

Activism is more than joining a march once or reposting a political infographic. Activism is working directly within your community, utilizing your special skills to lift up voices that are seldom heard. It’s a practice, much like tending to a garden. Your consistency is what helps the garden grow. We can all pay attention to who we put into office, we can all choose to support POC-run small businesses, and we can all choose to treat our neighbors as equal, housed or unhoused.

What’s been the most eye-opening part of running the People’s Bodega?

Realizing firsthand how fast and effective social services can be if the heavy boot of bureaucracy isn’t involved. There are so many mutual aid groups running truly effective assistance; it’s heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time that citizens are taking it upon ourselves to provide services and assistance the government should be handling.

What tip would you offer to anyone thinking about starting a mutual aid effort in their own neighborhood?

You have to be ready to show up for your community and be ready to put in the work. This is paramount. Setting up the project is, quite frankly, the easy part; the difficult part is ensuring that this new community project has longevity.

What’s your project going to look like in a few months once our attentions have shifted somewhere else? The social problems we are all fired up about, the injustices that we post and protest about are not going away once everyone gets vaccinated. 

Any quick tips to help people not kill their flowers?

Just like humans, flowers need access to clean drinkable water at all times. Switch out the water in the vase every two to three days, snip the ends of the flowers and watch them thrive! 

Who’s someone in your field we should be paying more attention to?

Zara Bloom. She is the founder of Care Packs L.A. and she is one of the women activists I admire in L.A. I have seen firsthand her consistency and commitment to her community,  East Hollywood, and how she makes it a point to lift up community members. She is on the ground every day listening to her community and answering to their needs.

Show your support: You can pick up flowers and merch from Under New MGMT’s website or keep up with the People’s Bodega’s Instagram for donation requests.

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Ava DuVernay
Ava DuVernay
Photograph: Shutterstock

Ava DuVernay

In a city full of filmmakers, no director has managed to politically and socially engage Angelenos both inside and outside of the industry quite like Ava DuVernay.

In late 2019, she added a movie theater to the ARRAY campus, the complex on the edge of Historic Filipinotown that houses her distribution company and nonprofit alliance. But unlike your typical theater, the 50-seat Amanda Cinema hosts free screenings for the local community that specifically showcase films made by women and people of color—with a particularly timely focus on political pieces in the run-up to the 2020 primaries.

Fast forward a few months and, like the rest of the city’s screening series, ARRAY flipped its events into a drive-in format, with free showings of Selena and Purple Rain. Whereas other car-friendly events could boast some free popcorn at most, these ones were busy registering new voters, and a Halloween weekend edition with Get Out and DuVernay’s Selma even served as an in-person early voting center.

For those on the other side of the silver screen, DuVernay’s work this past year has been just as impactful. In June 2020, she launched the Law Enforcement Accountability Project to fund projects in the arts that hold police accountable for the abuse and murder of Black people. And then just this February she debuted ARRAY Crew, a database meant to bring more visibility to the women, people of color and other under-represented groups who work behind the scenes in Hollywood.

Show your support: You can keep up with all of DuVernay’s programming and endeavors on the ARRAY and LEAP websites, which both welcome donations.

Esther Lim
Esther Lim
Photograph: Courtesy Jeremy Knies

Esther Lim

Esther Lim was starting to worry about her friends’ and family’s safety. In the first seven months of the pandemic, Stop AAPI Hate recorded nearly 250 hate crimes committed against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Los Angeles County—and likely many more that went unreported.

So the second-generation Korean American made it her mission to fill a void in available resources, especially for non-English speakers. In May 2020, Lim started to print off and distribute booklets, titled How to Report a Hate Crime, in the San Gabriel Valley and Koreatown. The paperback handouts clearly communicate how to recognize and report a hate crime, with translated phrases for seeking help and what you should know when contacting the police.

Now the bilingual booklets are available in seven languages (Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Spanish, plus an English-only version) as downloadable PDFs and as printouts all over L.A., Orange County, the Bay Area and New York.

A Q&A with Esther Lim

What made you gravitate toward booklets?

I initially was looking to make one-page pamphlets, but the more that I researched how hate crimes affect society, what state remedies were out there, preventative tips and more, I realized all this information was necessary to include to educate more of the AAPI population who may not know this—especially because most of the information I found was in English only.

How can Angelenos help fight anti-Asian violence?

I think we all have to come to terms with relearning human decency and human kindness. There are systems in place that put us against each other. We have to combat hate with finding good again. We have to look out for each other.

One thing that people can do is start knowing the people around you: your neighbors. Talk to them and get to know them and from there you start to build community and a support system. If you see an elder struggling with a bag of groceries, help them. If you see an elder trying to run to make it onto the bus, stop the bus and make sure he or she gets on safely. There are so many things that everyone can do that are kind.

More actionable courses are to pick up one of my booklets from either Hwasoban in Koreatown or Banks Journal in DTLA and give it to someone you may know. Buy whistles (as this is a universal SOS alarm) and pass this out to everyone you know. These are the cheapest but most effective safety alarm. 

What do you think sets L.A.’s Asian communities apart from other cities?

I honestly think L.A. is the most beautiful city. This is my home. We have so much diversity in this wide land and I honestly think Asian food here is the best.

Are there any gestures that you’ve seen recently that fill you with hope in the fight against discrimination?

What gives me hope is the younger generation. Since my booklets have gone viral, so many high school and college students have reached out to me asking how they can help and asked for permission to share to their student body. Some even offered to volunteer and pass out booklets with me, which is so sweet.

One high schooler, Justin Lee, came with his mom and my BFFs to pass out booklets in my neighborhood. The way he ran after some speedy walkers and spoke in Korean to the elders to explain the importance of reporting while giving them whistles made my heart so happy. 

Who’s someone in your field we should be paying more attention to?

I think we should be paying more attention to what we all can do as individuals to promote equality. We all need to reevaluate our standards. We all have different skill sets, so let’s utilize that, create a team and make it a community effort.

Show your support: You can download a book or contribute to the initiative on the How to Report a Hate Crime website, or follow along on Instagram to keep up with Lim’s work. 

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Nithya Raman
Nithya Raman
Photograph: Courtesy Eric Kelly

Nithya Raman

One of L.A.’s bluest City Council districts once again going blue may not seem like a big deal. But when an urban planner can unseat a well-funded incumbent though grassroots activism and small-donor fundraising? When a Bernie Sanders-backed progressive can win over some of the city’s wealthiest residents on a platform of affordable housing, rent relief and more assistance and services for L.A.’s homeless population? That’s huge.

Nithya Raman’s 2020 election victory has placed her in the top levels of city leadership as the representative for Council District Four, which includes areas in and on both sides of the Hollywood Hills. Her goals: to reform the LAPD, end homelessness, fight climate change and thwart corruption and lobbying in local politics.

They’re ambitious targets, but the council member certainly has the credentials: Raman started a data-driven organization to combat urban poverty in India, where she was born; wrote and researched a key report on L.A.’s spending on homelessness; co-chaired a committee on homelessness in Silver Lake and started a related coalition; and served as the director for an advocacy group that demands women’s equity in the entertainment industry.

A Q&A with Nithya Raman

What can the average Angeleno do to help with the homelessness crisis?

One thing I would encourage for anyone looking to help is to get involved with an organization in your neighborhood. Ideally, you could find one that engages in policy education and advocacy in addition to helping provide services or meals.

But truly, any group that gets you talking to and listening to people experiencing homelessness in your neighborhood is invaluable, because it’s a gateway to greater understanding and compassion and getting involved at all sorts of other levels.

How can renters join the fight for affordable housing?

My advice to renters is similar to my advice for those interested in helping the unhoused: Join a group, either one focused on tenants’ rights or more inclusive zoning in our city, and don’t get intimidated by the jargon! 

It’s very important for renters to get more involved in citywide and neighborhood-level conversations about planning and land use so a more diverse set of perspectives are brought to the table.

What’s the biggest challenge been since being elected to the City Council?

The voter turnout for the general election last year quadrupled from the election before that—over 130,000 people cast votes in my district. Something that is interesting to me is that we don’t hear from 130,000 people now that we’re in office. 

We did a lot of work on this during our campaign, but there is a lot more we have to do in office to engage with all the residents in our district and ensure that conversations about the priorities of the city include all voices and perspectives. 

What spot in your district are you most looking forward to getting back to?

Shane’s Inspiration. It’s a playground in Griffith Park. It was closed for a while during the lockdown. It might be reopened now, but I haven’t gone yet with my kids, and I’m just so looking forward to taking them once it’s safe.

Who’s someone in your field we should be paying more attention to?

There are so many exciting women doing amazing things in L.A. right now, but I would like to call attention to a woman I spoke about in City Council. Her name is Mollie Lowery, and she was an incredible advocate for people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. Her motto, about doing “whatever it takes, for as long as it takes,” to help the most vulnerable people in our city is a constant inspiration to me and my work.

Show your support: You can keep up with Raman’s initiatives on the Council District Four website.

Of the Night
Of the Night
Photograph: Courtesy Of the Night

Courtney Nichols + Blakeshine

A little bit Versailles and a little bit Studio 54, Disco Dining Club’s every-few-months parties brought 50 or so people together for a lavish, underground bacchanal of oysters and wine and dancing—you know, basically the embodiment of the sort of in-person fun we’ve all had to abandon this past year.

But founder Courtney Nichols found a way to keep the excess alive, both safely and for a good cause. She teamed up with comedy and music festival producer Blakeshine to form Of the Night, a party pack delivery service that mixes largely local liquor and snacks with—among the many different themes—garden gnomes, CBD bath bombs, body glitter, instructions and materials to build your own bong and a (socially distanced) Prince-inspired performance at your door.

Your at-home debauchery makes a difference, too: 10% of the proceeds benefit a different nonprofit each package, from Gays & Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society to the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, while a Ruth Bader Ginsburg-themed Election Night package donated every dollar to Planned Parenthood. 

A Q&A with Courtney Nichols and Blakeshine

What made you land on a delivery service over a virtual party?

CN+B: During quarantine, we felt a tremendous sadness as our go-to moments of joy were no longer within reach. Virtual events left us clawing at the screen, wanting to feel, touch and taste the event. To fill this void, we created tangible, delivery experiences for those craving—needing—that good-time feel of a night on the town.

What’s your go-to home party starter?

CN+B: For ourselves? Ambient lighting to transform a humdrum space into an extraordinary space. For the more rebellious? We suggest poppers. And for quite literally everyone? You gotta have your themed playlist on lock.

Are there any Of the Night ideas that’ve been too big to pull off?

CN+B: Currently, Of The Night is a four-person, all-female team. Our size has limited the amount of party packages we can hand-deliver in a week. But we are always in the midst of growing and evolving. Currently, we’re in the throes of a crowdfunding campaign to pivot to a nationwide shipping model, rebrand and launch a new online platform—sometimes we gotta pour ourselves a large cocktail of truth and acknowledge that we can’t do it all.

When Disco Dining Club returns, what sort of soiree is at the top of your list?

CN: Oh my! I am salivating at the thought of Disco Dining Club’s return! We want full-bodied freedom to take centerstage. Just know that the soiree will personify our mantra of: consume everything.

Who’s someone in your field we should be paying more attention to?

CN: I am all about the Fingerjoint, [architect Lauren Amador’s] self-described “future lesbian bar.” Its end goal? To open a space for queer people to “have a cocktail and a convesation.” I look forward to their concept taking flight once bars re-enter our everyday.

B: Victoria Rawlins! A vinyl-spinning, fashionista, DJ goddess that has been providing the soundtracks to a ton of my evenings spent inside. She is a fierce female in the male-dominated music scene, who just so happens to be curating monthly themed cassettes for our campaign contributors. Most importantly though, her music taste is beyond.

Show your support: Party packages are available on the Of the Night website, and you can currently contribute to a campaign to grow the project nationwide.

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Leah Guerrero
Leah Guerrero
Photograph: Courtesy Yomahra Gonzalez

Leah Guerrero

Prickly pear, mango butter, peppermint, maca root, palo santo: Brujita Skincare’s ingredients read like a list of things you’d actually want to put on your body. But maybe even more importantly, Leah Guerrero’s ethically-sourced line of cleansers and balms considers the types of bodies and skin colors, as well as the budgets, that big beauty brands often overlook.

The holistic esthetician hatched the idea for the affordable brand during one of her many visits to Mexico City’s mercados, which Guerrero still turns to for her sustainable, organic ingredients. Together with Yomahra Aquino, who you can thank for the brand’s Twin Peaks meets The Shining design vibes, Guerrero launched her witchy line, which operates out of Downtown L.A.’s Piñata District.

Brujita pop-ups started to grace local makers markets in 2017, but now you’ll need an alarm or a little bit of luck to nab one of the limited-supply drops: The Brujita Cult, as the brand’s followers are dubbed, swiftly snatches up the bespoke supplies. Those same customers helped Brujita to give close to $30,000 in mutual aid in 2020, notably to trans youth, undocumented food service workers and Black liberation advocacy.

A Q&A with Leah Guerrero

What do big beauty brands overlook about women of color?

The biggest overlook has been people with characteristic tattoos and bodies or features. Women of color have always been token to the beauty industry with very limited exposure. Being a misfit was something to talk about during “spooky seasons” and wasn’t celebrated everyday. I feel like the beauty industry still lacks personality and vultures off indie brands who make life real. 

What positive changes have you seen in the skincare industry in response to holistic lines like yours?

There are brands like Vive Cosmetics, Beladoce Botanicals and XiCali Products who are making big waves in Latinx self-care—brands that have the same ethos as Brujita: celebrating each other.

Latinx self care is on the rise! Ingredients that celebrate our Latinx cultures, product names that are in Spanish or native languages, bilingual business owners, hiring friends because mutual aid is important in our communities—this is how we contribute, but not for the industry, it’s for our communities. 

Are there any aspects of L.A. that influence the vibes of your products?

We specifically wanted our manufacturing studio to be in DTLA. All the action and productivity was something we wanted to be in the middle of. The magic and mystery of this city is felt in all corners of the studio. Having it in DTLA is something I never dreamed could happen—mostly because it’s so hard to make it in this city. Most of my rituals are done at the studio. That is where our main Altar is. This is where all the vibes are! 

Our altar is packed with crystals, gems, personal totems, candles, seeds, nuts, hydrosols, incense and tarot decks. I like to think that all this magic combined is infused energetically into Brujita products. 

What sort of other altruistic actions are you thinking about going forward?

Mutual aid will be forever ingrained with Brujita. We have a responsibility to all the communities who support us and buy from us. We are currently searching for land, land that is going to be home for all our businesses and outreach that we have in mind for the future like Brujitas Garden and artist residencies. This land will also be home to outdoor coworking spaces and art installations from POC. There are so many ventures we want to accomplish with this land. Brujita Skincare is just the beginning.  

Who’s someone in your field we should be paying more attention to?

I love Millie Del Oro—an Afro-Latina star! This person is full of life. I love their content and what they’re all about and being unapologetically her. She launched her brand Tropical Touches, which features lifestyle goods and apparel. 

Show your support: You can keep up with Brujita Skincare’s latest product drops on its Instagram account or online shop.

Aliza Sokolow
Aliza Sokolow
Photograph: Courtesy Aliza Sokolow

Aliza J. Sokolow

Like a lot of us, Aliza J. Sokolow has spent plenty of time baking over the past year. But when the food stylist and photographer started firing up fluffy loaves of challah in April 2020, she did so with a sense of purpose that many of us can only aspire to: she took orders over Instagram and donated the proceeds to charity. And every week since then, Sokolow has kept at it.

The recipes change (though the OG challah and some must-order cookies are always on the menu) and so too do the nonprofits: One week it’s chocolate chip for the Natural Resources Defense Council, the next it’s sesame scallion for Stop AAPI Hate.

Whether inspired by chef team-ups, influencer friends or her own birthday, she’s continued to use the proceeds from garlic knot, jalapeño cheddar and funfetti twists on the braided bread to support food banks, grief counseling, social justice organizations and public schools—and, of course, to keep Angelenos’ bellies full of delicious challah.

A Q&A with Aliza J. Sokolow

What inspired you to start baking for charity?

I started my bakery sort of by accident: I started baking and giving 100% of the proceeds to charity and posted on my Instagram account and it took off! I’m able to give back and have a creative outlet during this crazy time. 

Which recipe has been your most unexpected success?

Daniele Uditi from Pizzana and I collaborated on a cacio e pepe challah. It was crazy delicious and people were so happy. Also Phil Rosenthal and I did a garlic knot challah that is everyone’s favorite.

What’s the toughest part about running a home baking operation in L.A.?

I rent a kitchen at the moment. When I was baking from home my oven was super uneven and I wasn’t able to be as consistent as I wanted, but luckily I moved on to a bigger space to be able to be a better baker. 

What’s your favorite local go-to to indulge in sweets?

I love Joules and Watts Coffee in Malibu. Max makes the most delicious coffees, I’m really into his baklava latte. I go every Friday and it’s literally the highlight of my week.

Who’s someone in your field we should be paying more attention to?

Hannah Ziskin from House of Gluten. She makes the most gorgeous cakes and a weekly sheet cake slice drop. We actually went to UC Berkeley together. I love what she’s doing, she is insanely talented. 

Show your support: Follow Sokolow on Instagram (@alizajsokolow) to keep up with this week’s recipe. Orders open up on Mondays on her website.

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Amanda Gorman
Amanda Gorman
Photograph: Shutterstock/ Image: Time Out

Amanda Gorman

In a single day—January 20, 2021 to be exact—Amanda Gorman went from relative anonymity to national icon (and, as an L.A. native, a hometown hero). We know we weren’t the only ones completely enraptured by the then 22-year-old National Youth Poet Laureate, who literally shone in a brilliant yellow coat as she recited her now-famous poem, “The Hill We Climb” at the Biden inauguration. (Let’s be real, it was the best part of the show.)

The youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history Gorman has continued her meteoric rise with three forthcoming books, a seat on the board of 826 National and a slew of writing credits and awards with everyone from The New York Times to Nike to the NFL hitching themselves to her wagon.

Still, Gorman remains immensely likeable and cool, as she advocates for Black artists and Black women everywhere, inspires with talks about conquering her speech impediment and navigates her new life in the spotlight. In the face of a racial profiling incident outside of her own apartment that she tweeted about, she followed up with aplomb that it’s “how it’s going, but not how it will end.” And honestly, we can’t wait to see what she does next. 

Show your support: Buy one of Gorman’s three books currently for sale. (Go ahead and order them from a Black-owned bookstore, too.) 

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