Storm Reid, Marjorie Harvey, Jordin Sparks & More Honored At The 2019 Ladylike Foundation Luncheon

Many of us in college remember how daunting it was to go through the application process. For some of us it was difficult figuring out how we were even going to afford higher education in the first place. However with the LadyLike Foundation, many young women are now equipped with the tools, knowledge and money so that they can confidently attend any institution they please. Founded by Leah Cher Pump, LadyLike Foundation has existed for 11 years now and they have only grown to be more successful in changing young women’s lives. The mission of the LadyLike Foundation is to empower and inspire young women from underprivileged communities to achieve their highest potential and become well-rounded and intelligent woman. To achieve these ambitious goals, the foundation has built a repertoire of resources for their members.

Resources such as financial literacy workshops, public speaking seminars and life skill lessons teach young women from different communities about the necessary skills it takes to be successful and independent. Whereas other resources like their Girl Talks help open up conversations on important topics that can oftentimes be uncomfortable to talk about such as bullying, safety around strangers and personal hygiene. The LadyLike Foundation also holds annual visits to UCLA where the young members are exposed to STEM and other aspects of higher education. In addition to the endless skill strengthening workshops, the LadyLike Foundation also gives over 100 scholarships to young women who have a 3.5 GPA or higher and are continuing their education with college.  

The annual “Women of Excellence Luncheon” took place at the luxurious Beverly Hilton Hotel. It had a myriad of sponsors including AT&T, Shea Moisture, UCLA School of Engineering and the Los Angeles Rams to name a few. The venue consisted of grand chandeliers, elegant rose table arrangements and an abundance of tables filled with eager and proud attendees as well as willing donors. For an event whose theme revolves around excellence, the menu certainly impressed us as well. Each table was served bleu cheese salads, roasted chicken with risotto and intricate desserts like deconstructed tiramisu and apple pie. Here is where the LadyLike Foundation honored this year’s scholarship recipients with scholarships ranging from $1000 to $5000.

From silent auctions to emotional scholarship giveaways, to even a special performance by singer-songwriter Kelly Price, the luncheon had an engaging agenda. From the moment everyone was seated, we were greeted by sociable Holly Robinson-Peete, known as the Mistress of Ceremonies, or the host for short. She kept the mood lively as celebrities were encouraged to donate money to the foundation. Almost every table had a donor by the end of the day. One table housed special guest Sean Diddy Combs who ended up being the first and only donor to give a more than generous $100,000 that afternoon! Other celebrities such as Tina Knowles and Martin Lawrence were also in attendance.

After the public donations, each 2019 scholarship recipient lined up on stage to give brief speeches expressing their gratitude for their awards. The speeches ranged from giving thanks to their parents to expressing their appreciation for the LadyLike Foundation. However one speech stood out and that belonged to scholarship recipient Aramoni Gumbs. Gumbs' emotional speech brought herself and every audience member to tears as she recounted the challenges that she had to get to where she is today. She explained that she rode the bus to get to the Luncheon, struggled through the days when she had no food or basic resources, and even dropped out of high school for a year. But through all of her hardships she knew that she belonged right there, on stage with everyone else. Gumbs was able to overcome her challenges and with the help of the LadyLike Foundation, she is now able to have her first year of college paid for. The founder and president of the LadyLike foundation, Leah Cher Pump, also shared some words of wisdom. “I never thought that my little dream in my little group of girls in my backyard could be as big as this, that’s why I give God all the glory and the praise for what he has done.” Pump continued with her speech inspired by Yolanda Adam’s song, “Still I Rise."

“The LadyLike foundation teaches this, in fact we are this. We rise over the challenges of building strong confident young ladies who can stand up for themselves and realize that the problem is not theirs, the problem is with the bully. We rise over the fear of believing that as women we can’t ever be successful in STEM because in our STEM workshops it shows us that not only are we good at STEM but it’s fun and there are a lot of women that look like us in the field. We rise over believing that we cannot attend the college of our choice because of a  lack of opportunity and access when we learn that if we just work hard enough and study hard we can go to any prestigious university we want. We rise above the negative connotations of being a woman of color and learn how to properly speak eat and talk, we rise by conquering the low self image of our girls and teaching them that they are intelligent and destined for greatness.” It was apparent through Pump’s speech that she firmly believes in the impactful work that her foundation is doing.

In addition to educational programs, the LadyLike Foundation also helps the homeless by offering services that give care packages and resources for showers to those in need. The foundation also provides money for boarding school costs and personal care for girls in Ghana. Halfway through the Luncheon, all of the energetic young women took to the stage for the annual LadyLike Fashion Show. Ladies of all ages ruled the runway as they added their own personal flare to their walks. Diddy’s daughters were amongst the young and bubbly girls modeling their graceful dresses. The lovely college-bound women were not the only ones receiving awards that afternoon. Attendees Carrie Odell, Marjorie Harvey, Storm Reid and Jordin Sparks were honored with the Women of Excellence awards for their notable achievements in their careers. Carrie Odell was honored for her extensive work as a board member for organizations such as the Jewish Federation, Portrait of Hope and Teach For America. Odell encouraged honorees when she said, “Never let setbacks define you, they are only temporary but you need to push through them.” She went on to say “You are in control and will write your own stories.”

On a somber note, Jordin Sparks could not attend the event as she was currently mourning the recent passing of her step-father James Jackson. In the past, the Grammy nominated singer attended the 2018 LadyLike Foundation Luncheon. This year, her manager received the Women of Excellence award on her behalf. During her brief speech, Sparks manager gave an authentic and beautiful quote that afternoon. “It’s not the color of the balloon that makes it rise but rather what’s inside. Live your life authentically, powerfully and with courage.” The accomplished actress Storm Reid also gave a brief yet inspiring speech. Reid expressed that she loved the amazing work that the LadyLike Foundation did for young women of color. Reid went on to say “I want seats at the table for people who look like me. A big thank you to Leah for creating an organization that empowers and uplifts Black and brown girls!”

Marjorie Harvey’s heartfelt speech reminded everyone of the purpose and importance of organizations like the LadyLike Foundation. With her husband, Steve Harvey, the couple have their own foundation called the Steve & Marjorie Harvey Foundation. And Harvey has a scholarship fund called the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Endowed Scholarship. Her organization aims to provide enriching and educational environments for young people in young people. The philanthropist also created the Girls Who Rule the World program which promotes the importance of a positive self-image and mentoring in a young woman’s life. While giving her speech Marjorie described her past struggles in life. “I remember being a youth from the hood of Memphis and now I’m here in Beverly Hills being recognized as a woman of excellence… It definitely takes a village to help people succeed.” In reference to Aramoni Gumbs, one of the scholarship recipients, Harvey was so moved by the young lady’s story that she offered to pay for the rest of her college costs and a personal ride back home. This moment was definitely the peak of emotion that afternoon as not a single eye was left dry.

The final portion of the Luncheon was dedicated to a jaw-dropping musical performance by singer-songwriter, Kelly Price. Price pumped up the audience as she sang her empowering hits “It’s Gonna Rain” and “It’s My Time." To conclude the event, Leah Cher Pump led the audience in a heartfelt and inspiring prayer. We are so thankful to have been given the opportunity to attend such an important and empowering event. We highly encourage looking into the LadyLike Foundation as a possible support system, to nagivate the world of higher education. After seeing the elated faces of the scholarship recipients, it is apparent that the LadyLike Foundation is a necessary and uplifting foundation that will continue to equip young women with the tools they need to succeed.