Inspiration

Suzanne Lerner

for Michael StarsManhattan Beach, CAPhotos & Story by Lauri Levenfeld
Honored as a Woman of Vision by Gloria Steinem and the Ms. Foundation,  Suzanne Lerner has been recognized many times over for her lifetime commitment and achievements in furthering the agenda and rights of women worldwide. Through her role as President of Michael Stars, Lerner chose from the beginning to make philanthropy a quintessential part of the company culture.  The international fashion brand champions women in marginalized countries without the means to build businesses, while also initiating awareness and creating a solid role model for other companies to follow suit and as Lerner puts it,  “Get into the business of good”.  I could not ask for a better person to spearhead 2016 and TPFW’s social revolution The Power of One, a series dedicated to influential leaders who take small steps to ignite big changes within their community, outside communities, and the world at large. 

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 1. What were you like as a child? Who are you today?

As a child, I was very social and a tomboy. I loved having friends, playing and being in school, although I hated doing homework.

Today I consider myself, and hope other people do too, as a compassionate, open-minded and non-judgmental person. I try to be fun and loving, as I think sometimes I get a little too serious!

 

2. Describe your life’s work.

My life’s work is being the best person I could possibly be and not bringing harm to others. I truly value Ahimsa, the principle of non-violence, and the belief that one person’s life can make a difference to others.

 

3. Travel has always been a necessity and passion for you, what have you gained through your journeys?

Traveling became a passion of mine early on. When I was young…

… I read autobiographies of famous women, James Bond novels and historical fiction. I obviously wanted to escape from where I was raised! So at 21, I left to travel the world on my own. It was something I was driven to do.

Travel has always been a necessity to me. It has enabled me to gain a better understanding of people – and appreciate that we are all alike. I learned to embrace the understanding of beauty in other cultures and the value of humanity. All these experiences have given me a better perspective on living my own life.

 

4. How do you define love?

Love is so many things: smiles, friendships, having a glass of champagne, great sex, watching beautiful sunsets, taking a dip in the Aegean Sea, feeling warm and cuddly, and a life filled with friends.

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5. How have you integrated your life philosophies into your work life?

They are all one and the same. I do my best to integrate how I lead my life at work, how I behave with people and how I collaborate with them. I am certainly not perfect. I do find myself reverting to old patterns, but being at work helps me put these things back into focus and to make positive changes.

 

6.  You surround yourself with a core group of strong, dynamic women- who are these women and how do you support/ inspire one another for greatness?

I am continually inspired – from the incredible women I met in Liberia to political activist Jodie Evans who runs Code Pink. Jodie truly believes in supporting peace and human rights initiatives, and follows her life with discipline, passion and warmth. Then there are the strong dynamic women of all ages that I work with every day.  We support each other by being each other’s friends and mentors and giving advice from our own life experiences.

7. What has been your biggest curve ball? How did you deal with it?

I look at life as a series of challenges. There were two major ones for me. The first was at age 26 when I was living in India and I had run out of money. I was uncertain of my future, but then I discovered the clothing industry and subsequently moved to Los Angeles with my business partners.

The second curveball would pertain to health. My father’s stroke, my husband’s prostate cancer and my brain tumor really put life into perspective. I understood then the importance of continuing to live life in a positive way. So many people are impacted negatively by health issues and become depressed, but for me it was an opportunity to become a stronger person.

 

8. Life is full of surprises, what have been yours?

My biggest surprise was Michael walking into my showroom one day.

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9. What charities do you most identify with?

I support a variety of organizations, but focus specifically on charities that empower women, create gender equality and economic stability. It’s imperative that we help provide women with the resources they need. I believe women can succeed on their own, they just need the tools.

 

10. How does Suzanne Lerner “Show Up” (a term coined by Maria Bello)? And what does the world have to look forward to?

I love people, I love connecting people, I love being there for people. I am busy every day and every night trying to be there for others and I will continue to live my life like that.  

11. In celebration of TPFW The Power of One, complete this thought- Changing the world begins with you…

It begins with you every single day. From the time you get up in the morning, to how you speak to the person you get your coffee from, to how you respond to road rage. It’s your attitude around others. It’s also not thinking about yourself all the time. This whole entitled world is just getting to be too much for me. You should want to feel entitled to be giving, warm and loving, not to keep expecting things in your life.

Life is about working hard and taking the time to learn, discover, experience and build relationships.

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Suzanne Lerner

  1. In all my years of working for not for profit organizations, I have never met a person as dedicated, strong and committed to changing women’s lives for the better. She did that for me also, personally, as a friend. An incredibly smart and caring woman. our Suzanne Lerner.

  2. Suzi has been an amazing loving, compassionate and joyful friend for many years. I feel fortunate to have Suzanne in my life. She is such an inspiration to us all and lives life from a very humane base.

    Any human being who is touched by Suzanne’s presence in their lives is fortunate.
    Thank you Suzi

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