IRIS MAN – CHEYENNE JACKSON

Cheyenne Jackson is a master of his own destiny. From sleepy Spokane, Washington, to the lights of Broadway, and now in the luxe hills of Hollywood, Jackson has scaled the ladder of success to become a leading man on stage and in film.


Photography by Karl Simone | Grooming by Lacy Boughton | Interview by Benjamin Price
Sweater by Gucci and Coat by Firetrap

Cheyenne Jackson is a Grammy-nominated singer, actor, and songwriter who, as a musician, dancer, artist, writer, husband and father of twins, is the definition of a “Renaissance Man”. Cheyenne has starred in a litany of noteworthy television shows, theatre productions, and films including the American Horror Story series, the critically acclaimed The Most Happy Fella in New York City, and David West Read’s play The Performers opposite Henry Winkler, Ari Graynor, and Alicia Silverstone. His performance in Steven Soderbergh’s award-winning Behind The Candelabra, with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, was multi-layered and added a new dimension to his on-screen acting reel. Whether it is singing and dancing onstage, or marrying Lady Gaga in a demonic hotel in American Horror Story: Hotel, Mr. Jackson brings new life to each character he plays.

Cheyenne will soon be on our television screens once again as one of Ryan Murphy’s elaborately crafted characters on American Horror Story: Cult, a new comedy series entitled American Woman, and he continues to work on his own writing, music, and an upcoming project in animated voiceovers.

In addition to all his artistic accolades, Jackson is fully immersed in several charities focusing on a variety of social issues. Cheyenne is a strong advocate for LGBT rights, marriage equality, animal welfare, and HIV/AIDS research. He is an international ambassador for The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and serves as the national ambassador and spokesperson for The Hetrick-Martin Institute and the Harvey Milk High School. Jackson also actively supports “The Trevor Project” and the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network. Cheyenne Jackson sat down with IRIS Covet Book to discuss his journey as a small town boy on Broadway, our current political discourse, and dressing up as Wonder Woman.

How did your professional path as an actor take you from regional theatre in Seattle to the Broadway stage?

I had never had the guts to make the move to NYC up until 9/11 happened… and I didn’t want to waste any more time in my life. I was 27 years old at the time, which is considered late to be “starting”, I knew it was now or never. I decided to head to New York City because it is the home of Broadway. I was determined, I was prepared, and I was lucky. My first broadway audition was for Thoroughly Modern Millie and I booked it. I was on Broadway after six weeks of being in NYC. I was in the ensemble, was understudy to the two male leads, and it was heaven!

How did you make the jump from the theatre stage to television?

Tina Fey came and saw me in a production of DAMN YANKEES at the New York City Center when I was starring alongside Sean Hayes and Jane Krakowski, and she asked to meet me afterward. She said she liked my “big midwestern face” and my comedic timing, and I joined the cast of 30 Rock a few months later. It was the most amazing four years of comedy and television training. Baptism by friendly fire, as it were.

How young were you when you knew you wanted to be performing? Were there any signs as a child that you would be in the entertainment world?

As young as I can remember. I sang from the time I was 2 years old, and I knew music would be a big theme in my life. By the time I was 7 years old I was making my own Wonder Woman bracelets and tiaras out of cardboard, so there were signs that entertainment was in my future.

What is your favorite movie/musical and why?

It has to be Mary Poppins because it’s perfect and it reminds me of being a little kid when everything was safe and worry-free.

When your agent offers you a script or an audition, how do you decide which roles work for you?

For me, it is definitely a gut feeling that I need. If I find myself reading the material out loud rather than in my head, that’s usually a good sign. Then there is the logistics. I’m a new dad of twins so now I tend to pick things that will hopefully not take me away from them for too long. I took 6 months off to be a stay-at-home dad, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

You’ve had your time on the television screen, the stage, and the big screen, but is there a “dream role” that you would like to play?

I don’t think it’s been written yet. I’d love my own half hour dramedy series. Something that is topical, irreverent and funny. Like Veep on HBO.

Do you ever think of getting into the world of producing or directing?

I do sometimes. I love the whole process of film and television. I could definitely see myself pursuing something behind the camera at some point.

Speaking of behind the camera, how did you find yourself working with writer and producer Ryan Murphy on the American Horror Story series?

We met after he saw me in Xanadu on Broadway and he hired me for the second season of GLEE. We’ve worked together ever since. His mind is such a mystery to me, and I’m so thankful for him.

Can you tell us about your role in American Horror Story? What can we expect?

All I can tell you is my character’s name is Dr. Rudy Vincent and that I’m having a lot of fun this season. I’m sworn to secrecy, even in press, to give specifics, but I will say it was great fun to play a doctor. I learned a lot. It’s my third year on the show and it’s my favorite season so far.

Is there a dream actor that you would like to work with in your lifetime?

I’d love to have the opportunity to work on a project with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Nicole Kidman, or Robert Downey Jr.

What has been one of your favorite collaborations in your career?

I have a few so far. It was great working on Behind the Candelabra with Michael Douglas, 30 Rock alongside Alec Baldwin, a pilot called The Onion News Network with Jeffrey Tambor, and an episode I had with Gwyneth Paltrow on GLEE. These are just a few of the highlights.

When not on set or rehearsing for a role, how do you like to spend your time?

With my kids and my husband in a big dog pile in our TV room. I love traveling and I love to be outside. My mom lives in Laguna so we spend time with her.

Last year you became a father of two, how have they changed your outlook on life? Is it what you expected?

I always knew I was going to be a father. It’s the only thing I’ve ever been certain of. When it finally happened it’s as if my life began when they were born. Cliché? Maybe. True? Absolutely. It’s just so profound. My work is still important to me but my perspective has changed…the urge to provide for my family is stronger than ever, but the insignificant stuff I used to sweat in my career means so much less now that I know what’s really important.

You met your husband during at an AA meeting you both were attending, how did you two help each other cope with addiction during this period?

We were both newly sober and definitely at turning points in our lives. We found each other when we needed each other the most. In life, we just have to help each other get through this life together. He’s a magnificent person.

What advice would you give someone struggling with alcohol addiction?

Reach out and get help. There is no shame in asking for help; in fact, asking for help and admitting you need help actually takes more bravery than anything else.

What began your involvement with amfAR and Hetrick-Martin institute? Can you tell us about that work and why these charities are close to your heart?

I became personally affected by the disease when a friend of mine was diagnosed with HIV. I felt a desire to get more involved and help in any way I could. I contacted amfAR and asked how I could help. The Hetrick-Martin Institute came to me and asked me to come tour their facility and meet with their team. I went on the tour and loved the work they were doing, and I’ve supported them ever since.

You are involved with over a dozen charities focusing on social issues which include LGBT rights, marriage equality, animal welfare, and HIV/AIDS research, why do you find it so important to give back in this way?

Because I know how lucky I am to have what I have and live where I live. Giving back gets me out of my head and helps me focus on something other than what’s going on with me. I need to be of service in order to feel good about myself; it’s as simple as that.

Given the current state of the world in politics, environmental concerns, social change, etc. what advice would you give to anyone who want to get involved in giving back to their communities?

If you want more peace of mind, more relaxation, more harmony in your head, you should do some charity work. Being of service is the best way to get out of your own way and get some much needed perspective in this crazy world.

With the rhetoric coming from the White House that trans people should not serve in the military and legislature that will allow discrimination based on sexual orientation, are you worried that the LGBTQ community is in serious jeopardy?

How could one not be when under this abhorrent man that is our president? But I have faith in our community, and what I do know is that all this has lit a fire in many people who were previously fairly politically dormant. People are more awake than ever.

As a member of the media, and of the gay community, what do you think is your responsibility to the country when Hollywood and the LGBTQ world are under fire?

The best defense is to live out louder than ever. I am an open honest person and I live it out loud. I’m a gay father and I’ve been out of the closet for 23 years. I have no secrets and I treat people the way I want to be treated, and that’s what Jason and I are teaching our children. Live through example. Be open. Be interested in others.

What is next for you and your career? More music? More film? Maybe something completely different?

American Horror Story: Cult airs September 5th. American Woman airs early next year on Paramount TV. I’d love to continue to work on great television shows and continue to tell stories. I would also love to make more music. I am going to start writing again; I have a lot more to say now. I will always be open to making movies. Currently, I am getting into voiceover work now as well. I’m shooting my first animated pilot next month and have had the opportunity to work with some of the best animated voiceover artists in the country. It turns out I have all these voices in me. Who knew?

What advice would you give to a young actor/singer who is trying to make it in Hollywood or on Broadway today?

Be open. Do your homework. Be kind. Get a thick skin. Don’t google yourself. Don’t be an asshole. Work on your mix. Get it strong and consistent. (Singers will know what I’m talking about!)


Full Look by Calvin Klein

IRIS WOMAN – LAURE HERIARD DEBREUIL

Since launching her multi-brand luxury boutique, The Webster, at the peak of the recession in 2009, Laure Heriard Debreuil has forged a career as a respected authority within the ever-changing landscape of the fashion industry. An FIT graduate, Laure got her start at famed fashion house, Balenciaga, then under the creative control of renowned designer, Nicolas Ghesquiere, earning her fashion credentials, first as a part of the brand’s merchandising team before moving on to become a top merchandiser for Yves Saint Laurent’s RTW division in Paris. Now, catering to a cult-cool crowd and building a brand known for purveying a trend before it’s even had time to be set, Dubreuil is something akin to a mystic tastemaker. Her own recognizable personal style sets the aesthetic tone for an instinctual buying process when it comes to working with established, well-known design houses or of-the-moment designers at the top of their game, often times collaborating with both to create exclusive, site-specific products for her boutiques.

Responsible for editing The Webster’s recherché selection of designer offerings, the Parisian-born CEO quickly evolved the delectable brand over the last 8 years, developing worldwide brand partnerships with Le Bon Marche, Target, and the Ritz Paris while expanding its boutiques to include additional locations in Bal Harbour, Florida; Houston, Texas; and most recently, Costa Mesa, California. Each boutique provides the indulgent sensory experience of the ultimate walk-in closet, integrating a luxurious, intimate, home-like ambience with contemporary artworks and customized antique furnishings. Carrying exclusive brands such as Balmain, Balenciaga, Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Loewe, Saint Laurent, & Vetements, The Webster’s women’s and men’s selection offers expertly curated ready-to-wear and luxury accessories, including shoes, bags, jewelry and watches.

In 2012, just three years after opening her 20,000 square foot Miami Flagship, Dubreuil took the dive into the world of e-commerce, using the same attention to detail to translate the exquisite nuances of her brick-and-mortar into an online shopping platform for customers around the globe. Notably, and at no great surprise, for the past two consecutive years Dubreuil has been among BoF’s Top 500: The People Shaping The Global Fashion Industry, as well as participated in WWD’s prestigious annual CEO Summit. Currently serving on the expert committee of LVMH’s annual fashion prize which fosters young talent, Dubreuil has rightfully taken her place as a revered member of the fashion community.

Here, IRIS Covet Book shares a conversation with creative wunderkind and fashion-business queenpin, Laure Heriard Dubreuil.

IRIS07_LaureHeriard-Dubreuil-1Laure Heriard-Dubreuil photographed in Manhattan. Dress by Vintage YSL, Earrings by Aurelie Bidermann, Necklace and Ring by CVC Stones.


When did you first know that you wanted to be involved with fashion, and how did you arrive at that decision?

As a child, I was always interested in fashion, whether it was playing dress up in my mother’s closet or selecting new clothes for my brothers and sisters. As the oldest of four children, I was always making “looks” for them. After finishing university in Paris and Shanghai, I decided to act on my strong interests in fashion and enrolled in FIT in New York City, with a focus on visual merchandising.

Where did you first begin your career and did you have a great mentor in the early years of your career? What was your biggest take away from the experience?

I first began working in fashion through an internship while studying at FIT. Through this, I met Nicolas Ghesquiere who was at Balenciaga at the time and there was an instant connection between us. He hired me at Balenciaga to work within the creative studio and I learned so much from him. I consider him one of the most influential people in my career, still to this day.  

What made you decide that you wanted to become an entrepreneur and build your own business from the ground up? Was there a catalyst that acted as the motivation for change?

I would not say there was one specific catalyst, but it’s in my blood – I am from a very long line of entrepreneurs and my parents were always very encouraging and supportive of starting my own business.

Most professionals experience growing pains from time to time, and such experiences can offer us insight and learning. Can you relate a specific incident that at the time was a challenge, but in hindsight, has been one of your biggest sources of growth?

The renovation process of The Webster was a key learning experience; the process took so long and was much more challenging than I expected being in an historical building. We opened the South Beach permanent location in 2009 at the peak of the recession – I felt that things could only get better from there!

Define what success means to you? Is it a way of being, an attitude, or list of accomplishments?

Success is a way of being! For me, if I am happy, I am successful.

What double-standards for a professional man and woman do you believe exist in regards to society’s attitudes about power, success, and ways of being in business?

Double standards exist in today’s society, but I am hopeful things will continue to improve for women, especially within the workplace. I take significant pride in being the Founder and CEO of The Webster and hope that I can inspire other young women to follow their passions and take risks.

What qualities do you try to exude as a leader, in life and professionally?

Honesty, loyalty, hardworking, passionate, and understanding are the qualities I try to live by each day both in life and professionally.

What have been the biggest benefits of having a point of view and personal style that have helped you on a professional level?

Personal style has given me a confidence to think out of the box and not be afraid to push the envelope. It’s helped me to trust my instincts and have confidence when making quick decisions.

Personal style nowadays is one form of branding. Why is branding so important now, more than ever with the advent of the internet and development of social media?

With the internet and social media, the arena has become increasingly competitive, branding is how you differentiate and position yourself within an already saturated market. It allows you to speak to multiple audiences through  concise and clear messaging.

What adjectives would you use to describe The Webster brand? What methods do you use to reinforce this brand?

A few adjectives I would use to describe The Webster would be unique, exclusive, timeless, and sunny. We work tirelessly on ensuring the décor and ambience of the boutiques are inviting. We play close attention to every detail, including plush carpeting, customized and antique furnishings, contemporary artwork as well as a signature orange blossom scent that is consistent throughout all our locations. We are always collaborating with designers to offer site specific exclusive products. This has been a key defining thread present since we opened in 2009, and has become part of our DNA.

During an economic time when many companies were experiencing a downturn during the recession, what made you decide to launch your company then?

We made the decision and there was absolutely nothing that could stop me! I fell in love with the art deco architecture in Miami’s South Beach. We experienced so many obstacles but were so determined and felt such a tremendous sense of accomplishment once we opened.

How soon after opening did you begin to focus on the e-commerce market? Do you find a balance between the revenue your company creates through traffic online or in person?

We took our time, evolving organically by launching our website in 2012 and e-commerce (with Farfetch) and have continued since then to carefully expand online, while replicating the experience through unique, exclusive pieces and product drops.

Does The Webster have plans for greater expansion with more brick-and-mortar stores? Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations that you can discuss?

I am super excited to launch a worldwide exclusive collaboration between The Webster and Lane Crawford! It was inspired by our interpretation of the energy and spirit found in Miami, Florida, where The Webster’s first and flagship location was built. We will be launching over 70 products from more than 20 brands in all of our locations as well as online, collectively.

Do you find that the consumer experience of shopping in person is unique to your store?

I hope so, it’s our ultimate goal to ensure each visit to The Webster is special. We want our clients to feel comfortable spending time with us, especially with how fast paced our lives are, it’s important to make the experience special.

Who are your favorite new designers or who is on your radar?

ATLEIN, Wales Bonner, and Nadine Gosh!

What do you look for when you walk into a young designer’s showroom? How do you gauge what will sell in your store and does that differ in the various markets your store is present in?

I listen very much to my instincts as well which makes it special/different and we like to build long-term relationships with our designers, so it’s important for the young designers we partner with to have market and production knowledge, so they can grow and to have their collections to be sitting next to the biggest names in the industry. We also work very closely with our sales associates and in house stylists, listening to their feedback while ensuring our selection is interesting yet timeless. Our buys are uniquely tailored specifically to each of our four locations.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Do you find this expression to be true? What do you love about your job the most?

Absolutely, this is the motto in which I live by! One of my favorite aspects of my job is having the opportunity to visit the showrooms and spending time with the designers and their teams.

What practices or habits have been beneficial for you in the mastery of your career and personal evolution?

I attribute my success to my parents, who instilled in me at a very young age to be responsible, respectful, and to always work hard for anything I wanted. This has helped define who I am, both professionally and personally.

Are you involved with any charitable initiatives or organizations? If so, please expound upon which causes you support and why you were drawn to them.

mothers2mothers is a tremendous organization that is very dear to me and am grateful to be an ambassador. I had the opportunity to visit South Africa, where the charity was founded, and was completely blown away by the work they are doing. What is so special about this organization is that they empower women living in townships with HIV by employing them as mentor mothers, who work as support system to other new mothers that are also HIV positive. This helps to not only remove the stigma about getting tested, but encourages women to disclose their status while also educating them about the necessary steps to give birth to healthy HIV negative babies.

When do you feel most creative?

I feel my best creative ideas happen during holidays in the summer, when I am super relaxed and happy spending quality time with my family.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Never take no for an answer. I firmly believe that if you have determination, anything is possible!

What’s next?

You will have to stay tuned!! We are currently focused on the launch of Lane Crawford and continuing to grow within our existing locations!

IRIS07_LaureHeriard-Dubreuil-2Top and Skirt by Chanel, Hoop Earrings by Céline, Pumps by Saint Laurent | Shop Webster exclusive including a new collaboration with Lane Crawford on thewebster.us

Photography and Interview by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Hair & Makeup by Cari Duprey @ Wilhelmina

IRIS MAN – B. JEFFREY MADOFF

From fashion design to producing multi-media promotional content for luxury brands, and more recently delving into the world of entertainment through directing and producing, Jeffrey Madoff has proven to be  a modern Renaissance man of the creative industry.

Photography by Dustin Mansyur | Interview by Benjamin Price | Grooming by Heather Schnell
Jeffrey Madoff photographed at Madoff Production Inc. in Manhattan. Worn throughout this feature: Shirt byYSL, Vest by Engineered Garments, Tie by Fendi, Pants by J Brand, Shoes by Vintage Cufflinks, Watch by Seiko Limited Edition Arctura Chronograph

Jeffrey Madoff is constantly on the hunt for the next stimulating phenomenon in fashion, media, and marketing. He is a director, photographer, writer and professor in New York City. He is the founder and CEO of Madoff Productions, a company that handles film and video work such as commercials, web content, music videos and documentaries. His impressive list of clients include Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Hermes, Tiffany & Co. and Victoria’s Secret. His online videos for Victoria’s Secret has won a coveted Webby Award, and Madoff’s documentary films about philanthropist Brooke Astor and the iconic dancer Martha Graham have both been well received by press, such as The New York Times. In addition to these many accolades and accomplishments, Madoff also adds professor to his resume by teaching a course at Parsons School of Design, Creative Careers: Making a Living with your Ideas, which challenges students to explore various careers in the fields of fashion including photography, public relations, styling, becoming an agency owner, etc. Special guests of the class include Joe Polish, Founder and President of Piranha Marketing Inc., Sarah Laird, founder of artist representative agency Sarah Laird & Good Company, and pioneering stylist and Creative Director, Freddie Leiba, to name a few.

We met with Jeff in his Chelsea offices for a photoshoot and interview, surrounded by Jeff’s collection of antique televisions and radios which highlight his obsession with media and storytelling. He was dressed in a somewhat eccentric outfit of tropical leaf printed pants, white button-up, and brown leather vest which highlighted his personality and individual style. Speaking to Madoff, you instantly pick up on his cutting wit and intelligence, and his ability to take anything you say and make it into a clever joke or use it as a footstep into a more broad and intellectual realm of conversation. His brain is running at a mile a minute, it is almost difficult to keep up. However, past the dry sense of humor and sarcasm, you can find a trove of wisdom in each anecdote and joke. We sat down to discuss Madoff’s upbringing, his multi-faceted, ever-changing professional path, and new projects in the making.

In your class Creative Careers: Making a Living with your Ideas, there is a regular question that you ask each guest who comes to speak and share stories of their career development, so I am going to return the favor and ask you: If we knew you as a child would we have predicted this career path in any way?

If you knew me when I was young…It probably would be more informative of the direction that I’m going because I had a movie theater in the basement of the house. I took my dad’s eight millimeter projector, and I would go and rent films and design posters and walk around the neighborhood to get fifteen kids that would pay a quarter each to see a movie. That covered the popcorn, potato chips,and Coca-Cola.

When I got into film… that was a transition where I felt, “wow this is something I really want to do.” Fashion was almost a reflex. I wanted to start my own company, but I never had a desire to be a designer and probably the best thing that I learned after being in business was that I didn’t want to be in that business. But I learned, in terms of filmmaking, that they were very much the same business in terms of the protocol. When you’re designing clothes you come up with an idea, you sketch the idea, you cost it out, ask yourself what are the materials, what will the labor entail, how much can you sell it for, you have a deadline, etc. That’s the same thing with the movie business, the same thing with the play; the protocol and dynamics is the same for all of these business. I was able to take what I learned and apply it to the other things that I do. I have enjoyed telling stories since I was a kid, and that’s what I do, so the transition from fashion to film was not a big leap.

In your career you have handled media production for huge clients such as Victoria’s Secret and Ralph Lauren, but also have started your own fashion label, and are currently producing your own Broadway play, and film. However, do you think there is any validity in the phrase, “a jack of all trades, but a master of none”?

I think that one ought to explore whatever they are curious and passionate about. People may say “no” to you, but don’t say “no” to yourself. The most important thing is being engaged in what I’m doing. I’m excited about what I’m doing. The enterprising part you mentioned is figuring out how to make money doing this so that I can do what I want to do. The business side of the business I don’t find very interesting, but it’s necessary. You spend eighty percent of your time on the business of the business, and twenty percent on the creative stuff you really like.

Money is not the primary motivator; I’ve been fortunate enough to figure out how I can get paid for the ideas that I have. But for me, the primary thing, aside from providing for my family, is to create a platform that allows me to do what I want. It sounds nice and easy, but it’s hard work to do that.

Don’t say “no” to yourself if it’s something you really love, and go after it because you also never know what’s going to hit, you never know what’s going to manifest and maybe even change your life.

The brain works by being both pragmatic and business oriented, but also being able to create and tell stories and have both abilities. A lot of people think they don’t have that ability because they assume there is a “left brain” person and a “right brain” person.

The bicameral nature of the brain actually doesn’t function that way; there’s a tremendous amount of crosstalk between the hemispheres of the brain. That was a really simplified notion of how the brain works and a very inadequate study of cognitive neuroscience. I think a lot of times it depends on what’s at stake; if it’s something you really want to do and you’re passionate about it, you either figure out how to do it or figure out how to align with the right people that can help you do it.

The world is a really interesting place. I have kind of insatiable curiosity about so many things, and I don’t think there are really any boring topics, just a lot of boring people. So many people complain that they are so bored with New York, but if you’re bored in New York, there’s a problem with you. Nobody owes you an interesting life. You need to make your own life interesting, and you need to pursue what’s interesting to you so you can feel engaged.

You’ve worked with many different brands, producers, actors, etc.; how do you know when you have found the right people to work with or collaborate?

I am totally agnostic, and by that I mean that I don’t care about someone’s age, gender, religion, sexual preference, etc. all I care about is if they have a sense of curiosity, a sense of empathy, sense of humor, intelligence… and if you’re lacking in those I’m not going to be too interested. What’s meaningful to me as a person who has those qualities is that you can actually engage, learn from, and exchange ideas with them. Laugh, cry, embrace, and those are the things that are really interesting and important to me.

How has being a teacher at Parsons affected your view on these interpersonal relationships?

That’s part of why I teach; teaching allows me to continue to learn, and I love learning. You get an emotional connection with your students. As the leader of that classroom I want to foster participation and engage my own curiosity, and hopefully inspire. I don’t think that you get an education, I think you take education. That means that you’ve got to be aggressively involved in your own education and you’ve got to pursue those things. Having a sense of curiosity makes me a good teacher because I’m on that journey with the students. I learn a lot from the students you know, and just because I’m older and in front of the class doesn’t necessarily mean that my insights are more valid. It is a fruitful exchange of ideas that’s really fun for me.

It seems to me that fashion is on the precipice of great change. Companies across the board are no longer sticking with the methods of marketing, advertising, production, etc. and the consumer’s needs are changing. What do you think it takes now for a brand to stay relevant?

Lasting long enough to manifest stuff and having a strong online presence, which is so important, but also having something tangible. Because that’s what ultimately will build your brand more than an online presence. That’s why Amazon has opened brick-and-mortar retail stores and why Apple opened retail stores. Nobody knows yet the impact of this technology and what social media will affect.

What is something that you think is missing now in the digital age? How have people changed in their business dealings and methods of communication?

The operative phrase for me is: wherever you are, be present. Be present when you’re talking, be present in the classroom, be present when you’re doing your work, and I think that’s really important. We’re in a world with so much distraction. People are constantly checking their cellphones, and it shows a lack of respect for the other person there because you’re not showing them the attention they deserve just by being present.

How do you feel about the future? In this political climate, there are very dire concerns for art and media industries as well as the economy in general. What do you predict will happen within these realms for creatives in the US?

I think that there is actually a positive aspect to Trump’s election. I came up in the 60’s and was involved in marching against the Vietnam War, marching for civil rights, etc., and this is the first time since the 60’s where I wondered where the outrage is and why everyone isn’t marching on the streets.

Although I’m certainly not happy with his election, there’s a few things that we’re seeing that I think are positive outcomes. One is that it has mobilized a popular movement among all age groups who have become more politically engaged, and I think that’s really important. People take way too much for granted, even their right to vote. Liberals were too complacent; with complacency comes a certain kind of arrogance, so although nobody can believe Trump was elected, it’s time to get over that. We have to get involved on the local level in politics. Politics is not just a national game. Make your presence known; organize through populist gatherings, disrupt a town hall meeting, and ask your elected representative hard questions. That’s part of the American way: freedom of speech, right to assembly and protest, etc. Trump has fostered a rebirth of engagement with people in the political system.

The unfortunate thing is people talk at each other and not to each other, and eventually there needs to be cooperation and compromise, which is what politics is, so things can actually get done that benefit us as a nation. The environment is not a political issue. I was recently listening to someone arguing with Neil DeGrasse Tyson about climate change, and he said, “you know the wonderful thing about science is it’s true whether you believe it or not”.  I love that statement because I think that informed debate is really important, critical thinking is really important, and questioning things is really important.

What advice would you give a young student or entrepreneur who is starting their career?

Don’t take advice, learn for yourself. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn. Anybody who takes advice doesn’t have the requisite curiosity and initiative to do something. Talk to people who you trust and don’t be afraid to put yourself at risk, and don’t say “no” to yourself. Don’t short-cut your own opportunities by disqualifying yourself, enough people will disqualify you out there so don’t do their job for them.

I don’t have any big maxims of truth because I think you find out by doing. There’s no way you can know what you’re going to go through until you start going through it. I don’t know all the answers.

One of the guests that you brought into your class said, “success is opportunity meeting preparedness” and I think that that is great maxim for people to think of when entering the work world.

I think that’s true, but first I think you also have to develop the ability to recognize opportunity, and have the confidence to risk so you don’t stop your own progress. I have met people who are tremendous financial successes but who I’m surprised can make it out their front door without running into the wall.

I think you have to define success for yourself. People ask themselves that question and I think you have to ask what does success look like for me? What is success? Is it acquisition of material things or is it doing what you love?  

What does success mean for you personally?

I have two answers for success. On a business level, success means the ability to say “no” to opportunities without catastrophic financial consequences. Personal success, to me, is to love someone and be loved back…that’s my family, my closest friends.

For more information: madoffproductions.com Madoff Productions 224 W 29th St #10, New York, NY 10001 (212) 265-0137

IRIS MAN – SCOTT BROGAN

Photography and Interview by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Art Direction by Louis Liu

Scott Brogan is an outlier of altruistic intention with an optimism that radiates from his aura. His ability to lead with a passionate confidence is always tempered with a sensitivity towards those whom he is leading. Perhaps it is because his focus is outward, directed with goal for the betterment of many, not just himself.

After spending a decade of his professional life as a political consultant, in 2005 Scott founded his non-profit, Brilliant Lecture Series, to enhance the lives of Houston’s youth and community. With its mission to educate, inspire and entertain, Brilliant Lectures Series works to provide transformational experiences by generating new ideas through lectures, direct in-school and exchange programs, and cross-cultural opportunities. By presenting national and international leaders, humanitarians, philanthropists, artists, authors, entertainers and entrepreneurs, the non-profit brings the stories and lives of aspirational role models to a wide and diverse audience through its unique programming.

Since its inception, the organization has presented over 94 luminaries, including Queen Noor of Jordan, President Mikhail Gorbachev, Dame Julie Andrews, Maya Angelou, Lauren Bacall, Sidney Portier, Betty White, Joan Rivers, Diane Keaton, George Clooney and Diana Ross to name a few. Reaching more than 105,000 patrons through its Conversations with Brilliance series, and millions more through digital media, the program hosts someone “brilliant” who will take the audience through his or her life, always followed with a question and answer session. The events, which are open to the public, provide an opportunity to have insider access and individual dialogue with extraordinary leaders for those in the community who cannot afford to take part in the world of private receptions and galas. Recordings of the events are made available to local schools, hospitals, and organizations for research and educational purposes.

Committed to bolstering today’s youth, Brill Talks, one of the organization’s programs, focuses on engaging middle and high school students through direct, interactive learning experiences with local, national, and international members of society. Students are able to learn and become inspired from the life experiences shared by such leaders who speak to them about their own journeys in life and what has compelled them to reach their heights of success. With its goal to have open dialogue designed to improve interpersonal relationships and build cross-cultural understanding amongst students, Brill Talks motivates students to stay true to their dreams and set goals for themselves, while making a difference not only for themselves, but also for their communities, locally and globally.

Here Iris Covet Book, had a chance to catch up with the man who is as “brilliant” as his brainchild.

How long have you lived in Houston and what were you doing before you began your non-profit?

I’ve lived in Houston since graduate school – going on 25 years. Houston is an exciting and international city that I am proud to call home. Before founding Brilliant Lecture Series, I had a political consulting firm focusing on targeting and strategy for political campaigns.

What inspired you to create the Brilliant Lectures Series?

I founded Brilliant in 2005 at a time when nothing like it existed in Houston. So many times when iconic, positive role models come to Houston, they appear at very expensive events that are not realistic for most people’s budgets.

I wanted to provide a way for everyone to be able to see and hear these remarkable people. Our tickets begin at $25 to help make them accessible to nearly everyone.

What it is the mission and vision of your organization?

The mission of the Brilliant Lecture Series is to educate, inspire and entertain by presenting national and international leaders, role models, philanthropists, artists, humanitarians, performers, authors, and entrepreneurs to the great city of Houston.

How is your organization giving back to the community? What kinds of community outreach programs has it created?

We provide affordable tickets many times further discounted through various collaborations with other non-profit organizations in the community. We gift hundreds of complimentary tickets throughout the year to various groups and individuals that are uniquely impacted by the philanthropic interests of our speakers and artists.

Because George Clooney is very involved with helping resolve the genocide in Sudan, we invited all Sudanese refugees living in Houston and their families to join our Conversation with George Clooney. For our Conversation with Sidney Poitier, we provided complimentary tickets to students from 100 Black Men and College Connections so they were able to share this once in a lifetime experience with an American legend.

  Why do you value this cause or feel personally connected to it?

Over and over I have seen first-hand the impact the programs have on people of all ages and backgrounds. One grandfather brought his grandson to see Sidney Poitier. I was able to provide an opportunity for them to meet. The grandfather was sobbing with gratitude. Sir Sidney was able to put into elegant words the importance of having dreams, persistence and patience that his grandfather was not able to articulate for his grandson. It was a moment I will never forget.

Who have been some of your favorite celebrities to collaborate with?

That’s a tough question. Her majesty Queen Noor was our very first program so this one certainly means a lot to me. She is a smart, thoughtful and elegant lady born in New York who married a king. She has used her position to make a tremendous difference on issues from women’s rights to Middle East peace. I admire her a great deal. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were fascinating. Listening to their stories of Watergate and current political affairs from their very unique perspectives, shed new light on the important issues facing our country and the world.

I was asked to host George Clooney for his first program like this in North America. He is funny, smart and an all-around class act. We had some very enthusiastic fans that were convinced I could help make them Mrs. Clooney.

Why do you think it’s so important to share the stories of these individuals in the format that you do?

People come to each program with a very personal relationship with the speaker and how he or she has touched their life. Though they are the most famous people in the world, I try to provide a safe and comfortable platform for them to share the journey of their life – the ups and downs. Our speakers were not born into their fame or positions of influence. As they peel back the public persona in front of the audience and share stories not often shared publicly, people relate to them in ways they never thought possible.

Has there been any celebrity whose story surprised you?

I had the honor of hosting my friend Dr. Maya Angelou twice to sold out programs. With her majestic and powerful voice, she told her story. She spoke in 7 languages, sang, recited her poetry and spoke to each person’s soul like an old, treasured friend. The audience sat in deafening silence as she shared in brutal honesty her challenging childhood and sang with her in unbridled enthusiasm. Her words echoed through the huge theater and cathedral electrifying everyone with humility, grace, compassion and hope like only she could deliver. She used no notes or teleprompters. She sat alone in a regal purple dress urging everyone to rise – rise to fulfill their greatest potential.

Does the money you raise only benefit Brilliant Lectures or do you partner with synergetic charities?

We always partner with other local non-profits whose mission compliments the speaker’s message. I always want Brilliant to be a vehicle that amplifies the good work of other charities and schools in Houston so the impact of our work continues for many, many years. I believe that if charities work together more and compete less with each other, more can be accomplished and lives can be bettered.

Any upcoming Brilliant Lectures programs that you are excited about?

We are working on several exciting projects including Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cicely Tyson, Amal Clooney and the Vienna Boys Choir.

Do you have any personal experiences with the children who are benefitting from your organization that have been touching or uplifting for you?

I took twelve students to Amman, Jordan at the invitation of Her Majesty Queen Noor. The students lived in a boarding school with students from around the world for a week. The personal and cross-cultural experience for these lucky students was life changing. On the last day of the trip, all the students in the school created a large circle. Each student tossed the ball of yarn to another student as they shared a personal gratitude to the other student. At the end, every student was symbolically connected to each other in a web of yarn – there was not a dry eye in the room.

These are the future leaders of the world who now share a common thread through the global impact of the Brilliant Lecture Series.

How can others get involved or donate to your cause?

Ticket sales only pay for 40% of our annual budget so we rely heavily on support from individuals, foundations and companies to sustain our work. No contribution is too small. We encourage everyone to pay it forward so we can continue to bring the most influential and inspiring people to our great city. For sponsorship and VIP opportunities, visit our website at BrilliantLectures.org.

What advice have you received that has helped you navigate the process of forming a non-profit and developing it into a successful community asset?

This is a very timely question. Very few founding directors of major non-profits are still alive. There are thousands of charitable organizations with executive directors who do an amazing job as custodians of someone else’s dream but there are very few who have started these successful groups from ground zero. Every triumph and error is a teachable moment and I’m always learning.

How do you envision Brilliant lectures growing or evolving in the future?

You have to think big to be big. I want our programs to reach an even larger audience from around the world. As we boldly lean into our second decade, I will expand Brilliant to other platforms to reach millions of people around the world.

I also want to present speakers that never or rarely speak unscriptedly in public so the audience truly has an experience like no other. I am frequently told that an idea I have is impossible – that it is never going to happen. If I can dream it, it is possible and that’s exactly what I intend to keep doing.

What makes you feel confident / powerful?

Faith. I’m convinced that everyone can feel confident regardless of their circumstances with faith. Faith in a higher power, in mankind and most importantly in yourself. It can uplift the most desperate and frustrating of experiences.

We are not created weak or intimidated or fearful. These are temporary states of the mind. They are learned emotions that everyone has the strength to overcome. I feel confident knowing I am the only ‘me’ that will ever be created and my capabilities are as limitless as my mind, my imagination and determination will take me.

Define what success means to you?

I think everyone struggles with defining success for themselves. Success is being able to look back at the totality of my life and know that the world is a better because I was here. Some of the saddest people I’ve met have more money and influence than many people can ever dream of. Money, alone, does not make for a successful life. I have great enthusiasm for my work and I believe success and satisfaction come when your passion and your profit collide.

When I speak to students, I always encourage them to find their passions first – happiness and comforts will come. Being bold and confident to take the leap of faith to follow your passions can be the hardest step of all. But the rewards are beyond measure.

What has been your greatest fear (or challenge) that you have overcome?

I always try to approach challenges as temporary boundaries. There is always a solution though it may be hard to discover and take longer to get to than we would like. You either get through it, over it or under it. Many times, our dreams are bigger than our circumstances but your circumstance is temporary and your dreams are forever. In days of frustration or fear, know there is a way to the other side of the wall.

Have you ever reinvented yourself and if so, how did this prove beneficial in your personal evolution?

What a great question. I’m not so sure I would describe it as a reinvention, but rather a course correction. I am learning, and growing, and adjusting every day to be the best I can be. If we stop evolving, we get stagnant so I’m a firm believer that moss doesn’t grow on a rolling stone. There are so many opportunities that will present themselves to you in the future both personally and professionally that you can’t imagine today. Be open to change and prepared to seize the moment! Carpe Diem!

What would you like your personal legacy to be?

I hope that in some small way my time has inspired others to dream more, learn more, do more, become more and share more.


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IRIS WOMAN – DANCIE PERUGINI WARE

Photography and Interview by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Art Direction by Louis Liu

A fifth generation Texan who has risen to the top of the public relations game over the course of the last thirty years, Dancie Perugini Ware possesses a well-honed intellect and sharp wit with which she leads her all-women firm. Influenced by the life stories of many powerful women, the firm that bears her name is testimony of their impactful mark on Perugini Ware. At a time in the 80’s when female entrepreneurship was beginning to bud in the mainstream, Ware pushed through gender boundaries and staked her claim as a respected leader in her industry. Her nationally-regarded firm boasts representation of a diverse roster of influential clientele of national and global brands in retail, hospitality, real estate development, and the arts; including Fertitta Hospitality, Simon Property Group, Louis Vuitton, Texas Medical Center, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston Symphony, and the University of Houston.

Dancie is also passionate about historic preservation and serves as trustee of Galveston’s Rosenberg Library, Texas’ oldest public library, and is also an avid supporter of Houston’s Julia Ideson Library Preservation partners. Known for her love of architecture, Ware is collaborating with Ace Theatrical on the historic restoration of New Orleans famed Saenger Theatre, which suffered significant damage during Hurricane Katrina, as well as the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. Her own firm’s offices recently underwent a stunning renovation with Houston-based design firm Mayfield and Ragni Studio (MaRS) located in the historic Niels Eperson building in downtown Houston. A modern mix of high-gloss white floors, open-concept floorplan, mid-century furniture collected by Ware herself over the years, and contemporary art, create a space that is a slick and energetic hub for her team to work efficiently and be inspired in.

Here, Iris Covet Book had a chance to sit down with this issue’s Iris Woman during her recent photoshoot.

I’m curious when you first knew that you wanted to be involved with public relations as a career, and how did you come to that decision?

I’ve always been a reader, even from childhood. I started with Nancy Drew and typical children’s books. I used to think that The World Book wasn’t so tedious, so I’d read every one of them. History books were always a fascination of mine as well. I was always drawn to the biographies and autobiographies of particularly strong women, from Madame Curie to Queen Victoria. That wasn’t contrived, it was a just natural interest from childhood. We had a wonderful library growing up in Galveston, which I frequented weekly!

As I grew older, I began reading more popular magazines like Seventeen and Glamour. I was about fifteen or sixteen and I read a profile of a young woman, I’ll never forget it, her name was Karen Bacon. At that time, she was the head of public relations and special events for the Mayor John Lindsay of New York. I read about how she approached every project with a unique curiosity and creativity. I felt like I was Karen Bacon. I learned more about what she did and her background and I thought that’s exactly what I wanted to be doing.

So, I realize now that I have been influenced by women all of my life. Later, I was mentored by a remarkable and legendary advertising executive by the name of Anna Wingfield. She had an impact on my career post-college. By mentoring me, she gave me the confidence that I could accomplish it all on my own.

What made you decide that you wanted to then become an entrepreneur and build your own firm from the ground up?

After graduating college, I knew what I wanted to do, but opening that door with limited experience was very difficult. So, I created a couple of jobs for myself. At 21, I had a radio show, a newspaper column, and I worked as a teacher for high school seniors.

How did you balance all of those activities?

I created those opportunities so I made time for them all. I discovered that in life, if you want to do something and that path isn’t open, you just have to make it open. Find your path, set your goal, and things happen. I have always enjoyed hearing a young woman’s perspective. At that time in the 80’s, all of the radio broadcasters were men. There was the sports guy, the guy who talked about politics or there may have been a money guy, but there were no women’s perspectives. My talk show formed out of the desire to hear a woman’s perspective on these matters. So I started a half hour radio show that only interviewed women. I interviewed women in politics, women who were authors or writers, or women in the arts, about all of these diverse topics. It really worked out for me! The only reason I stopped doing that after about two years was because I was juggling too many things in my schedule between the column and teaching school. I still had in my mind that I wanted to pursue a fulltime career in public relations, but I was finding my way because that door had not opened yet.

And when did it open?

I volunteered for every charity or organization, just like you build up a portfolio. After about three or four years of doing these types of freelance PR jobs, I applied at a top-notch firm in Houston. It was a very large agency, primarily advertising and public relations that had the most prominent clients. I knocked on the door with the portfolio I had developed on my own, and they gave me a shot. I stayed there for about three years, working under the direction of the senior partner, Anna Wingfield. From there, I had an opportunity to work for a quite a prominent family of the name of George Mitchell who is now known as the “Father of Fracking”. He was an entrepreneur who was leading one of the largest independent oil and gas companies in America at that time, and his wife was focused on historic preservation. It was a natural fit. I worked for Mitchell for about three years while I was building up my additional clients and then my company really began to take off.

Most entrepreneurs experience growing pains, especially in the beginning when they’re starting something new. Was that ever the case for you?

Well, it took me awhile. I have to say that when Mitchell approached me, and we had a number of ambitious projects at the time, it took me about six months to get the nerve up to believe that I could do this on my own. It wasn’t an overnight decision. Once I did, I never looked back. I have to say that every year has been more positive and more profitable than the year before.

What double standards do you believe exist within societies attitudes about power, success, and ways of being in business for a man versus for a woman?

Candidly, there’s no question in my mind that women still have to work harder, smarter, and faster.

And did you ever experience discrimination personally simply because of your gender?

I’ve never felt totally discriminated against as a woman, but I have felt certain challenges throughout my life because of being a woman.

Is there a specific incident that stands out in your mind?

I think it’s a challenge when a woman has her own company and is then declined their status credit, and declined their status in a financial relationship with a bank. For example, when one of the first things a banker asks is a copy of your husband’s financial statement. That may be in the past now, but I think it’s still very difficult for women who are starting out on their own to be able to establish those types of financial relationships. For getting your company going, it’s good to find a banker who believes in you.

Concerning this topic of gender equality within the workplace, what do you think that it’s going to take to close the wage gap? Currently the national average is that women make 20% less than men.

I think there is no question that the wage gap exists across the board and in just about every industry. I think the only way that they’re ever going to succeed in wage equality, is for more women to be in executive positions in the decision-making world, then that ultimately will change. It is changing, and there have been dramatic changes. I look back when I started in my career, at times my salary was half of what a man’s salary was in the same position. It can be very discouraging and that’s why women have to work harder, smarter and faster. You have to take the risk and you have to have the confidence that you can move on, because there are many companies that will value you in the workplace. If you can’t find your niche, then you can make your own.

What advice would you give to your younger self, or to younger team members at your firm?

Become financially independent. That’s what I encourage for all women.

Can you define what success means to you? Is it a way of being, an attitude, a list of accomplishments, etc…?

I would say it’s an attitude and an overall sense of well being, as opposed to the latter. For me to be successful means to be insightful and innovative in your way of being. Accomplishments? They come and they go. But for me, when a client has confidence in you and values your opinion, that’s real success.

What qualities do you try to exude as a leader, not only professionally but with all of the community-related projects that you’re involved with?

I think that integrity is something that is very rarely found. So I would say high ethical standards with a sense of decency and respect. I think, respect and goodness are still very important. When you focus on demonstrating these qualities, ultimately, you will be respected and rewarded for that.

CEO’s like Jeff Weiner and Oprah have more recently promoted the idea of “compassionate management.” What are your thoughts about this management style and is it something that you incorporate at your firm?

We firmly believe in leading by inspiration. Wisdom and compassion are key components of any great leadership style, but inspiring your team is relevant at every touch point. We strive to inspire confidence, loyalty, and enthusiasm. We want to enable our team and motivate our team to deliver an inspired product that goes above and beyond our clients’ expectations.

When you first meet somebody coming in for an interview to be hired by your firm, is it something that you innately feel from them when they come in?

Without a doubt! I still prefer to do every interview. I really have to say a lot of it is intuitive to get a sense of whether or not they are going to have the commitment, perseverance and the passion that I’m looking for. We have a very active internship program, because of the fact that I did not have the opportunity to do an internship while I was in college. I have made that a very important core principle that we will give as many opportunities to new graduates as possible. Within a year, perhaps, we’ll have as many as 10-12 through the year.

Dr. Emma Seppälä is the Science Director of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. I recently read an article about findings from her research. One of the things she discovered is that high-stress environments in the workplace actually break down the culture and morale of the organization.

I very much agree with that. There are a lot of cues one can pick up. There are cues that someone is overstressed or having a client conflict. I can often pick up on those unique cues and it’s my duty and responsibility to size up and be the steward. It goes back to constantly reading. I know this sounds really strange thing. The only way anyone can grow in this business is if they’re attuned to the media. Today that includes blogs, stories online, video clips, newspapers, and books. Now, I read about everything online now. I read the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the LA Times, the Guardian and several local papers daily. I’m constantly learning with this whole mindset. You cannot sit back and not be fully absorbed with what’s happening in the world around you. In everything, we’re all connected. In our business, you have to be connected to just about every industry. That’s what I look forward to every day connecting with my team and interfacing with a broad variety of clients, so that everyday I feel I am learning and helping my team members to learn, and that’s very fulfilling!

With the development of social media’s popularity and it’s integration into business, many people are seeking to use this platform to achieve “influencer” status through a well curated brand. In light of this, what do you think makes for a lasting brand?

The brand has to be authentic and that’s the most important factor for a brand to survive. The DPWPR brand is all about authenticity and creativity. Everything we touch, we think about how to make it the most unique, how to make it totally relevant, but also how to create a campaign, a program, or strategy that is new, fresh, and different. And so, I’d say the brand, our brand is about authenticity coupled with creativity. There are many ways to create a brand. Everything we do–our space, our logo, our fonts, the paper we use, as well as digital presence on our social media platforms–no detail is neglected.

Andy Warhol said, “I never read. I just look at the pictures.” I think probably, nobody understands this better, than perhaps, a publicist. How does a captivating image help a publicist and her clients?

We value and believe photography is one of the finest art forms. Therefore, in that, we emphasize the need for the very best photography when working with our clients, to depict their product, their real-estate development, their food operation and presentation. The images are incredibly important, and that can only be achieved through good photography. Now, that said, I also feel the power of the written word is extremely important.

And when there’s a marriage of the two?

Then I think that’s when you got a winner.

IRIS MAN – ALEX LÓPEZ NEGRETE


Alex López Negrete shot at the offices of López Negrete | Suit and Tie by Billy Reid | Custom Shirt by Sid Washburn | Vintage Coral and Gold Buddha Cufflinks | Shoes by Donald J. Pliner | Vintage Patek Phillipe Watch

Can you tell us about the early beginnings of the López Negrete agency and how it became the empire it is today?

My wife Cathy and I opened in 1985, in the foyer of our little townhome in Alief, Texas – with a dream of building an agency dedicated to marketing to the burgeoning Hispanic community in the U.S., an agency that would create work that was culturally relevant, respectful and effective. The truth is that it takes a unique combination of perseverance, stubbornness, dedication, and vision to go from one pitch to another, winning and keeping each client as you go through the years. It’s been a wonderful journey – and we’re far from done.

What is your favorite part of being CEO of your own advertising agency? What is the most challenging?

There’s nothing quite like leading a large number of talented and creative people in a day and age where it’s all about creativity and innovation. To see your work and that of your teams get published and create great results for your clients is one of the most thrilling experiences I can describe. And, to do that, consistently for three decades is very fulfilling. Cathy and I are a different breed of CEO and COO. We’re in the business, in the trenches, in the work, every day. I don’t know how else to do it. To be sure, there is pain and there are sacrifices – at least there are if you are truly dedicated to your business, your people and your clients. The hours are long – and the risks are high. But then, again, nothing truly worth doing is easy or without risk, is it? I’m glad we chose the road we chose.

How vital is the Hispanic consumer in this country?

Tremendously so. Latinos are one of the key drivers of the American economy and that is undeniable. Just think: This is a population of 55 million people, growing to 100 million people. It is essential to the American future. It is already making a major contribution in many areas of American life, from religion to politics to entrepreneurship and to corporate business and as consumers. There’s about a trillion-and-a-half dollars of spend by Latinos in this country today, growing at $80 billion to $90 billion per year. On top that, over the last decade, 51 percent of all new home mortgages taken out in the United States of America have been taken out by Latino families. When you look at entrepreneurship, in the last half-decade, 86 percent of all new business formations in the United States shows that Latinos were creating 86 percent of all new business formations. Without Latinos in the mix, we as a nation would have had net negative business formations. America’s Latino community is composed of Hispanics from many parts of the world all having their own unique tastes and customs from one another. How does your agency tailor its marketing efforts from one Hispanic culture to another?

This is a big and deep question. We have to realize that, over time, what has happened is the creation of a very unique U.S. Hispanic Identity that is unique and different to the identity of other Latin American countries. The U.S. is where all Latino roads meet. This is the only market where you have people from Mexico, Salvador, Nicaragua, Argentina, Cuba, Chile, Colombia, Puerto Rico…(and so on), meet, work, live and create together. That does not happen anywhere else in the world – and in the United States that has been happening for decades upon decades. And, as a result, we have a very unique Latino identity that is as diverse, deep and nuanced as we are.

What charitable causes are you currently involved in?

We are consistently involved with the Advertising Education Foundation Houston, Purple Songs Can Fly (Texas Children’s Hospital Oncology), Houston Food Bank, and many others, either through individual donations or an actual program. We’re very proud of the community involvement unit we have created inside the agency called “APOD” (Advertising Professionals On Duty). You see, we use the analogy that you cannot be a strong tree with big branches if you do not have deep roots – and as such, individually and collectively, we are very involved in the community. The number of schools, organizations and events we engage in is very large – and it’s an amazing thing to witness.

As a CEO and Hispanic marketing guru with a busy schedule, what do you do to disconnect?

As an entrepreneur, I don’t know that you ever really do disconnect from your business. Nevertheless, music is one way that has been close to my heart since my youth. I’ve been playing guitar since the 4th grade. The other thing I absolutely love to do is to play with my 2 year-old granddaughter Mia. That’s become my favorite pastime!

What would you like your legacy to be?

As an entrepreneur, a legacy that serves as an example that if you dream it, you can do it, as long as you are willing to work for it and put everything on the line for it. Every day. As a marketer, a legacy that leaves undeniable evidence that the Hispanic consumer is an undeniable source of growth for marketers in this country who have the courage and open-mindedness to pursue it on a consistent, dedicated basis and are willing to invest in the opportunity accordingly.

Photography by Rodolfo Michel | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Art Direction by Louis Liu | Interview by Pauline Snyder-Goodwin

To find out more, visit LopezNegrete.com

IRIS WOMAN – STEPHANIE VON STEIN


Stephanie Von Stein Shot at her Houston residence | Dress by Ralph Lauren | Hair using Orbie products | Makeup using Tom Ford and Hour Glass products

Can you tell us how you became interested in working on the administrative side of fashion?

My mother had stores when I was growing up and I enjoyed working alongside her and learning the business. When I was in college I worked for a woman whose husband co-founded an international franchised chain of restaurants. I learned a lot about entrepreneurship and relationship building through her and spending time with her family. I worked on a lot of fashion shows and because I loved fashion so much it really didn’t seem like a job to me at all!

What do you think is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Traveling away from my children is the most challenging part. When I worked as a regional manager I had nine stores in the USA and had to travel internationally every few months. I soon pursued a different career which would keep me home with my family. They mean the absolute world to me.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to pursue the business side of fashion?

I would tell someone to find a mentor in the fashion business and offer to be an intern or a paid assistant on some level. Be ready to work and be humble. Do any job they ask. If you have a great personality and are willing to work you will be successful.

Can you tell us about some of your charitable causes and which one’s do you feel the most connected to?

I worked with crimestoppers last year talking with women about domestic violence. I was invited to be on a panel which included representatives from the police, district attorney’s office, and women victim’s advocate groups. This is my passion to help people who are caught in the cycle of domestic violence and show that it can happen in any socioeconomic group.

You have turned your experience as a domestic abuse survivor into something that has been able to empower women. Can you talk about what motivated you to speak out for the greater good?

I spent a long time being very humiliated and embarrassed about my personal situation and what had happened to me. I blamed myself for not seeing the signs and getting out sooner. When the man I loved called me names, screamed at me, said I was fat, ugly, stupid over and over again I started to believe it. When the person I loved hit me, pushed me around, and then blamed me for his behavior, I began to think I deserved it. I realized that by hiding this situation I wasn’t helping anyone or myself. Once I began talking with other victims and survivors I realized I could help them as much as myself. I have finally felt I wasn’t alone and many women come to me even privately now for assistance and guidance on the cycle of violence.

Can you explain what some common reasons domestic abuse victims continue in abusive relationships?

I loved my abuser and kept thinking if I could get him help he would be ok. He would desperately apologize and beg me to stay and tell me how much he loved me. Then the abuse would start again after a period of calm. I wanted to keep our family together and had a newborn baby at the time. No time is ever a good time to destroy your family life. But one minute everything was fine and then something would trigger him and the abuse would start all over again.

Have you ever experienced any stigmatization or victim-shaming in or around your circle of friends?

People do not like to talk about domestic violence. People tend to stick their heads in the sand and don’t want to think this happens to their friends and neighbors. It’s the elephant in the room. Most people have been very supportive of me and have shared their experiences too. I have been very blessed in this regard.

What are practical ways that those close to a victim can offer support?

Listen to them and believe them when they tell you what happened. It took me a very long time to ever discuss what had happened or go to the police. Often times, abuse victims don’t want to leave because of the financial stability their partner or spouse provides because they may not have an income of their own. Sometimes they are also threatened by the abuser that they will be killed or that their family will be harmed if they leave.

In Houston, AVDA is a great resource because they have attorneys who can assist with filing restraining orders. Be strong for them and contact the hotline for domestic violence: 1-800-787-3224. This hotline is especially helpful because it will give you the names of resources that can provide practical assistance such as housing, legal, and financial advice. It will also aid you in coming up with an emergency safety plan.

What are some of the methods that you use to engage and empower women?

I try to tell women and friends to remember how smart and beautiful they are. Remember to use your voice even if you think it has been lost. I also encourage women to find an outlet to read about domestic violence, narcissistic abuse,
and the domestic violence cycle so they can recognize the signs in dating and marriage. This will help prevent them from getting caught again with someone with those tendencies.

What makes you feel confident & powerful?

When my children tell me how much they love me and are proud of me. There is no greater confidence and power boost to me than having a happy and peaceful home.

Photography and Interview by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Art Direction by Louis Liu | Hair and Makeup by Tarek El-bjeirmi @ Cerón Hair Studio

Abuse is never a one time event. Learn more about the Violence Wheel: domesticviolence.org/violence-wheel/

IRIS MAN – DR. TED VOLOYIANNIS


Dr. Ted Voloyiannis photographed at his apartment | Jacket by Bogosse | Shirt by Hugo Boss | Pants by Gucci | Watch by Rolex Submariner | Vintage Roman coin necklace, Dr. Ted Voloyiannis bought in Jerusalem

What made you decide to get into medicine and become a surgeon?

I always wanted to help people since I was a kid, but I needed to see the practical results right away. Also, I am very competitive. So, I decided to get into medicine when I was in middle school and to become a surgeon by my second year in medical school. I decided to immigrate when I was 25 from Greece and pursue my surgery training in the US at one of the most competitive programs in the country at Baylor College of Medicine.

You received criticism and scrutiny for the methods you proposed in the surgical procedures that you spearheaded and discovered. Was there a time that someone told you that you couldn’t accomplish all that you have accomplished today?

Yes, a few surgeons who were close to retirement. It still frustrates me because it delayed the innovation in our field. Senior surgeons are often hesitant to adapt new ideas from their younger colleagues. I need to remember not to do the same when I get older!

You’re actually known for your personable and friendly disposition and relationship that you build with patients. How do you try to relate to or connect with your patients as a care provider? Does this practice naturally carry over into your personal life?

Don’t become a doctor if you don’t love listening to your patients. Surgery can’t be successful if you can’t connect with your patient’s background problems. Being more personal helps alleviate the fear, anxiety of the anticipated surgery and builds trust. I am usually “accused” of being too nice and trying to help everybody in my personal live even if sometimes this is not feasible.

You are an avid supporter of the Human Rights Campaign, devoting your free time for surgical services which benefit the LGBT community and patients with HIV in need for the greater Houston area. Would you consider yourself an activist?

I am an activist behind the scenes as well as in the operating room; I strongly support the LGBT community’s fight for Equal Rights in our society, the same way I fight daily for excellent surgical care for all my patients regardless of sex, race, religion or sexual orientation.

You and your husband are interior design enthusiasts, what are some of your favorite pieces that you have collected?

Our favorites are The Baccarat Crystal “Marrie Coquine” Floor Lamp by designer Philippe Stark over our dinning table and the Jan Paul Gautier floating master bed!

Do you have a favorite design feature in your apartment?

The master bathroom! It features a unique design that incorporates Italian “Agape” fixtures, digitally printed tile, glass, ipe wood, and infinity views of Houston’s city and skylines!

Additionally, you and your husband are avid travelers, what are some of your favorite trips you’ve taken & what are some upcoming trips you are excited about? Other than Greece and Mexico?

Israel, Egypt and Brazil were unique trips and now we are getting ready for our first cruise ever in Mediterranean Sea, to be followed by exploring Australia!

What is something you can’t live without when you travel?

I can’t lie: lots of shoes!

What advice would you give to your younger self or to young people in general?

Set great goals early in your life and work hard for them. It will pay off! Don’t go to medical school! ( joking)

Words of advice that you live by and whom was it given by?

“Don’t let the demanding multi-year surgery residency training change who you are!” My chief resident gave it to me the first day I started my surgical training.

Photography and Interview by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Art Direction by Louis Liu | Grooming by MakeupByDiego

IRIS WOMAN – MARIANA VALDES DEBES


Mariana Valdes Debes photographed with her dog in her home in Houston, TX | Dress by Helmut Lang | Shoes by Marni | Earrings by Cartier | Behind her, Painting by Rodolfo Morales and Sculpture by Javier Marín

Who are your favorite up-and-coming artists on your radar at the moment?

I would say the mexican multidisciplinary artist, Nacho Rodriguez Bach, and the international critically-acclaimed Danish artist, Olafur Eliasson. Rodriguez Bach is
an artist I have been promoting and representing for several years. He is always reinventing himself.

What kind of art are you drawn to?

I am most drawn to art that is congruent within an historical context. The art that shows me other possibilities of reality, of feeling, of thinking, or being.

For you, is it an emotional / intuitive process or is it a more objective approach when you are deciding artists to collect?

Both. I am first attracted and seduced by an art piece or a body of works, then possessed by it. Before I make a final decision, I get to know the artist and establish a relationship with him or her. I believe this is most important. By doing this, I get to understand the artist’s body of works from another perspective, and allow myself to make a connection with it.

Do you have a favorite piece that you have collected?

Yes, I acquired a painting 10 years ago called La Romeria by the Mexican artist Alfredo Gisholt. Like every painting,
it has a beautiful story behind it. I love it because of it’s amazing power, but also because it was included in the first exhibition I curated for the opening of my gallery in Mexico City. It tells a story from my country through the eyes of an artist who lives and works in Boston. At the same time it is a remarkable painting for the artist itself. It’s just one of those paintings that takes your breath away.

Can you describe what your curatorial process is like when doing an exhibition? What helps you collaborate with the artist?

I always take into consideration that it needs to be eloquent within the context that we are living. Most of the time I don’t follow an established process or a rule since each project is different and is curated for a different audience. I am very spontaneous in the way that I bring up an exhibition, and at the same time I am a perfectionist in every single detail. I prepare with as much information I can obtain and then I allow myself to create a bridge between the artwork and the public for which it is being created, like an alchemist.

Are you working on any upcoming projects to look out for?

The contemporary art world has been transforming rapidly over the past decade. It has expanded its boundaries, making it almost indescribable, yet understandable. There are more collectors and art fairs, but at the same time there is a gap between the art and the its audience. This is the reason that for the last few years, I have been providing art knowledge to a select group of collectors and art enthusiasts called Sensei: “Art Promotion Through Experience”. Through thematic and curated experiences that involve all of the senses, Sensei has as its mission to establish a connection between art and the person, that promotes the development and understanding of artistic values and self awareness.

Are you involved in any upcoming charity events or galas?

Yes, my husband and I have been involved with the gala for St Jude’s Children’s Hospital for the past several years. It is a fantastic organization with a beautiful mission.

What advice would you give to young women who are seeking a career in the arts?

To explore, investigate and renovate constantly looking for their own artistic proposal.

Would you say that it’s important to invest in the arts?

Art enriches your life. It has the unique ability to evoke so many different emotions. A painting can make you happy or sad. It can make you introspective or thoughtful. For this reason alone, I believe that it is very important for our cities and our communities to invest in art. On an individual level, one needs to know that not every artist nor every piece of art will appreciate in value. But if it brings you joy, isn’t that the best investment of all?

Photography and Interview by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Art Direction by Louis Liu Hair | Makeup by MakeupByDiego