When I arrived at her office, Lea Black greeted me with the kind of hello you might offer your next door neighbor. It is the kind of welcome that immediately puts you at ease. Dressed in a pink blouse and jeans, The Real Housewives of Miami star was as sunny as a typical South Florida day. To meet Lea is to immediately like her.
Ms. Black’s office is at once comfortable and professional. With numerous desks, a conference room and many of her beauty products on display, you get a sense of an enterprise that deftly lends business know how with personal attention.
Lea is a great conversationalist and is ready to discuss any topic you might have in mind. Considered the mayor of Miami’s social scene, she has put her business sense and likability to good use, raising substantial monies for her various charitable endeavors. In fact, Lea Black’s star studded, annual event coming up in the Spring, the Black Gala, is one of Miami’s biggest yearly events.
We have, on a number of occasions, had the pleasure of speaking with Lea’s husband, nationally recognized attorney Roy Black, to gain his expert insight on various issues. Now, it is Ms. Black’s turn to share her compelling story with us.
You can read the highlights and listen to this wide ranging CYInterview with Lea Black below:
Listen to the entire Lea Black CYInterview:
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From her experiences on both seasons of The Real Housewives of Miami, Lea says she’s learned how much she enjoys intelligent conversation:
“I’ve learned that I am not a person that really relishes small talk. I like to have substantive conversations. That’s one of the things I guess. We’ve had some substantive conversations on the show, but a lot of it is, you know, kind of small talk, a lot of it.”
Reflecting on her wit and sense of humor, which was on display on the Bravo show this season, Lea said this:
“Maybe I am a little sarcastic from time to time, but it’s innocent sarcasm and you know I found out since being so, let’s say observed about my sense of humor, that really smart, intelligent people get sarcasm and you kind of get out of it what you want to. If you think, if you want to find it funny and interesting, you will. If you want to find fault with it, it’s always there like in anything. It’s also taken out of context because if you look at the late night shows and the comedians, that’s all they do is you know kind of sarcastic, funny things and people find it funny. But when you do it in a social setting or amongst friends or people that you’re socializing with they maybe don’t find it so funny.”
Often referred to as “the Mayor of Miami,” which ties to her social contributions in South Florida, Lea’s active involvement in this city is undeniable. One of the biggest social events she has held was President Obama’s first ever fundraiser in the State of Florida:
“Well, you know Cristy Rice gave me that title and then Elsa [Patton] gave me that title and then, I mean, people just started calling me that. I kind of find it funny considering I’ve never been in political office. … I spoke with him [President Obama] on the phone at length about it twice and I think he was a little nervous that I was gonna be able to deliver what I promised and I kept saying, ‘Chill out. Call somebody else. You don’t need to follow up with me. It’s done.’ And we did it in a big way and it was fun. I loved doing it for him.”
Though it has not been focused on much during The Real Housewives of Miami, Ms. Black enjoys a successful career and professional life. She tells us about it:
“I guess what’s always driven me is I’ve always wanted to be able to be independent and make my own decisions and I never wanted to be dependent on anyone to support me financially, emotionally or otherwise. It’s nice to have that support, but I don’t want to be dependent on it. So throughout the late 80s and the 90s, I did seminars every weekend. I traveled around the globe. I did like, I had a product line called Sudden Youth, which I still have that product line.
At that time it was called Lea, but I used it as a vehicle to teach women how to make money that they thought never would be possible for them. So I would do seminars on how to build a career, how to build a business, how to build a customer base, how to make your own money, how to make your own decisions, how to build your own business, how to be successful, how to have fun, how to be resourceful and I traveled around the globe and I did that for years and I did it every weekend.”
Defining success, the Bravo TV star says it’s the simple things that make her the happiest:
“I consider myself successful in that I don’t want for anything, I don’t need for anything and I’m very happy with my life. Everything is relative. You know, to me I’m successful because I’m pretty much a basic, simple girl. I’m happy with a pair of jeans, a pair of thongs and a ponytail and a little bit of makeup, as long, of course, I have my fabulous jewelry. But I’m not attached to those things. I really could live a very simple, one bedroom apartment life, you know. As long as I can take care of my son and my dogs and my husband was happy, I could be happy.”
I wondered what Roy thought when Lea told him she was going to be a real housewife. This is what Lea shared with us:
“I don’t know what he thought and I think he thought, my wife is gonna do whatever she wants to do anyway, she’s gonna be fully self-expressed anyway, what you see is what you get and she’s unfiltered and you know let’s buckle our seatbelts and hope that we don’t get kicked out of town. But what he thought, I don’t really know, but he was very supportive about it.”
Her tireless work for her yearly, star studded Black Gala is one of Lea’s greatest contributions to the city of Miami. The event raises money to assist at risk youth with educational, cultural, and mentoring opportunities among other things. Lea provides a history of one of the city’s most famous annual events. This year’s Gala is set for April 6th, but the date could still change:
“The Black Gala is something I’ve done, this will be my 18th year. It started out where a guy asked me to help raise money for kids that would otherwise wind up in jail and then every year I did it again and again and again. And I tried to get someone else to do it and no one ever took it on and so finally I just took it on and we started doing it out of my house and we went to the country club in my neighborhood and we went to the hotels and now it’s like one of the biggest, most talked about events in Miami and it’s because of the talent that we’ve been able to get every year.
And my first big break on talent was the year that Barry Gibb came to my home and sang in my home and he’s a personal friend and he did it as a favor. And then we’ve just been able to just get talent basically saying, ‘Well, Barry did it. Why won’t you?’ And we’ve gotten everybody from Natalie Cole to Dionne Warwick to Patti Labelle, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Pharrell, Pitbull, Tony Bennett, Queen Latifah, I mean, Paulina Rubio. I mean I could on with the list and every year that’s the number one challenge is to get the talent and that’s what we’re working on right now.”
Aside from the charity work she does to help today’s youth, Lea does believe we have failed them overall:
“I think we have failed today’s youth. I don’t think we’ve failed the wealthy and affluent youth because they can afford private schools and tutors, but I think the underprivileged we’ve failed because we’ve kind of gutted their resources, increased their classroom size, cut teacher’s pay or if we didn’t cut it we didn’t incentivize it and it’s tragic because that’s the future of the world. And if there’s ever any place to put resources, it’s into those kids. … It’s unfortunate because we can afford, you know, to go bomb a country or afford to do all sorts of crazy things with our money, but yet the most valuable resource we have is the next generation and we don’t invest in them as much as we should.”
The Miami socialite is in the process of finishing up her novel about the city. A work of fiction, it will be based off of her real life experiences living in South Florida. She gives us a preview of the upcoming book:
“These are characters that are compositions of characters. So I would take four or five personality types in Miami and put them into one character, but they’re hopefully camouflaged enough that no one will ever be able to tell who’s at the root of those characters, but they’re interesting and fascinating characters and it’s a social scene. It’s a lot about who’s who, the flash, the air kisses, the cars, it’s a lot about that. It’s a little bit of a mystery. A lot of people get exposed and it’s all about, if I had to sum it up, I guess it’s kind of like who people are, who they think they are who other people think they are all wrapped up in one and how far people will go for fame and greed.”
Miami has changed a lot since Lea arrived at the end of the 1980s. She gives her perspective on the state of the city today:
“Well in the 80s it was kind of the, it was a little bit of the drug scene, even though I wasn’t in it, it was just well known, you know, that it was kind of the capital of the drug scene and then along came, you know, the taskforce to get rid of the drugs and then the nightclub thing changed a little bit. It kind of leveled out and then along came the new generation and the new wave of nightclubers and they determined how they could make an incredible nightclub atmosphere in Miami without it being, you know, people having to be on things to keep ‘em awake all night. So I think it’s changed in that regard from the social setting.
I think South Beach was nothing and now it’s everything. The skylight has changed. You see bigger yachts, you see more ostentatious people, you see it’s more worldly. It use to be very, it is still very Latin, but it use to be like, it was Latin and now it’s like everything. I mean, Fisher Island is loaded with the Russian community. People from all over the world are coming here now. It’s become a major trade center. You know downtown Miami has become a major trade hub. So it’s kind of like, to me it’s the gateway to the Caribbean, but it’s also like the heart and beat of keeping the U.S. kind of on the global stage.”
With these being some of the most challenging times in American history, the entrepreneur, philanthropist and mother shares some worthy advice:
“You have to stay grounded. You have to circle the wagon of yourself, your family, your ideals, your values, your character, your integrity and who you are and stay grounded because if you get caught up in the world of wannabe fame, bigger cars, bigger jewelry, bigger houses, you’re gonna be setting yourself up for a miserable life. If you can enjoy what you have and who you are and live in the moment, you’ll be surprised how those things will just start to show up around you. So I say that you know, live where you’re planted. …
I think also when you start to get down, look for something to get up to, you know get up to something. If you’re not feeling good and you’re feeling a little down, a little blue, a little depressed, just get busy. … There’s a great book out called Do You QuantumThink? and I think people that read that book have a sort of bit of transformation in the process and it really is about who you are, who you choose to be and owning your life and not trying to live someone else’s life or get somewhere at the expense of someone else and if you do those things, chances are you’re gonna live a happy fulfilled life.”
Now that we’ve CYInterviewed Lea, the next step is a CYInterview with both her and Roy together. Lea’s response to that was full of laughter:
“Oh God, he doesn’t get a word in. I don’t know if he’ll agree to that.”
We thank Lea for her time and entertaining and insightful conversation. She truly is one of Miami’s best and brightest stars.
You can find everything Lea Black at her official website at www.theworldofleablack.com.
The Black Gala’s official website is here.
You can follow Lea Black on Twitter here.
You can follow Lea Black on Facebook here.
You can email Chris Yandek at ChrisYandek@CYInterview.com
You can follow Chris Yandek on Twitter here.