Laverne Delgado: “Today I’m here to heal with you”

I know the power of vulnerability. I also know how paralyzing shame can be. I want the world to know that we all have revolutions that live within us all. If we release the shame most of us carry, we’d soar together and create a new world. It’s a personal mission of mine to inspire […]

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I know the power of vulnerability. I also know how paralyzing shame can be. I want the world to know that we all have revolutions that live within us all. If we release the shame most of us carry, we’d soar together and create a new world. It’s a personal mission of mine to inspire leaders to share their strengths and weaknesses with those they lead in the most authentic and loving way possible.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laverne Delgado.

Laverne Delgado is a passionate activist, speaker, artist, and Executive Director of Freedom and Fashion. She is an alumnus of The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and has spent many years working in the fashion & beauty industry, with her experience encompassing everything from mass production to couture for the runway. Beyond fashion, Laverne has a love for young people overcoming human trafficking and other injustices and has built her life around serving them with her talents and resources. With her vast experience in working with survivors of abuse, single mothers, conquerors of injustice, and the LGBTQIA+ Community, Laverne’s track record upholds her connection to the human spirit and empowering one’s greatness. Throughout the years, Laverne has led many teams and activated generosity in thousands of people, which has led to providing resources to people in need around the world. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have a huge heart for youth and women. I can’t accept that so many are abused, trafficked, and killed everyday. This hits home for me. When I was 4 years old, I was sexually abused. Having my security compromised that young, in such a drastic way, impacted how I saw the world and myself. Later in life, I survived domestic violence. I can identify and relate with those we serve and understand that immeasurable power that can come from that pain when productively applied. To me, there’s an investment more worthy than that of an underdog.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

This starts as a bummer but has a cool upside! I was in a domestic violence marriage. This was challenging on its own but when it all started, I had just become an executive. This also happened to be during the 2016 presidential elections. This is definitely not political but at that time I remember watching the news and one commentator criticized Hillary Clinton’s ability to lead the United States because “She couldn’t even keep her husband happy”. This is nonsense but I was a new, young executive when I heard that, I was going through violence in my home. This all sent a message to my subconscious; “It doesn’t matter what I accomplish, I can’t afford to have a messy marriage.” Regardless of opinion, the fact is Hillary Clinton was making history and being judged for the mistakes of her spouse nearly 20 years later. I decided to “keep it together” and try my best to fix myself and my marriage, alone. Later I learned that this is something so many women leaders deal with. We generally do not feel like we have permission to have a “messy home”, to make mistakes as mothers, or to even take time off when giving birth. That’s a longer conversation.

Keeping quiet was one of the most conflicting things I did. When my spouse and I got a divorce, I decided to open up to my team and the women we serve. I walked into one of the domestic violence recovery classes our women were in and I sat down next to them. I remember one of them asking me what I was going to teach them that day (they were used to seeing me in the teacher position) and then I looked at them and said, “Today I’m here to heal with you.” With teary eyes, I told them my domestic violence story and they all hugged and prayed for me.

Something special happened that day. We reached a deeper level of love and trust and it ultimately served me and my leadership in ways nothing else could.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One thing I’ve had to learn to laugh at are my typos. I know some of you may be rolling your eyes but I’m slightly dyslexic and this actually was such a hard thing for me to get over when I was starting out. It was tied to some major insecurities and sometimes I’d stay up all night because I sent a really important email with an error. It still can hurt a bit when it happens but it’s not as often and at least now I can laugh at it and then sleep.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Freedom and Fashion is an innovative, local nonprofit organization creating big impact. Using the arts of fashion and beauty, we empower youth to overcome trafficking, homelessness, and other injustices.

Beginning as an awareness platform, F&F quickly became known for our compelling, story-driven fashion shows. Since its inception, this platform has been an opportunity for youth & women to rise above statistics & tell their true story of power.

In 2013, F&F incorporated educational, mentorship programs designed to unlock each mentee’s gifts, talents, and expression. Our programming goes beyond fashion, beauty, and the expression of art. We explore trade-driven industries while engaging in imperative conversations addressing self-image, vulnerability, leadership, character development, and more. By combining creative job training with coaching methodology, our programs strengthen the right hemisphere of the brain which enables our students to create a new vision and accomplish aggressive goals.

Annually, a fashion show is held in Los Angeles to celebrate all of the young designer’s creativity while simultaneously raising awareness & funds for the students that follow.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

We love full circle impact at Freedom and Fashion! Oftentimes our graduates come back into the classrooms as mentors to our new students to pay forward the love and knowledge they received while in our program.

One graduate, Chelsy, has gone above and beyond in serving other girls who have gone through abuse and trauma like her. She not only volunteers with us in the classroom but she attends our team meetings to help us cast vision and strategize ways to evolve our service. She’s also an advocate and travels with us to different companies to share about Freedom and Fashion and the impact we’ve had on her life.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?


  1. If we ever really want to see a world without trafficking, boldly address the pornography epidemic.
  2. If we ever want a world without mass shootings, boldly address domestic violence.
  3. Eliminate shame from these narratives as soon as possible. Leaders, be the example of vulnerability for you family, teams, and networks. The sooner we can rid ourselves of the stigmas that come with the topics above, the sooner we can address it in it’s integrity and love everyone affected, especially children.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leaders are rocket launchers. We exist to lift our team up and help them soar. Rocket launchers were created to go through a great deal of pressure and heat in order to get the rocket into the air. To me, this is a metaphor for the essential humility and unavoidable suffering of leadership. As launchers, we want our “rockets” to fly high, travel far, and defy the odds. When we accomplish that with our team, we also get to lead the applause.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1) Test your intuition. Pay attention to your gut for it always reveals something but it may not always be what to follow. Give a healthy amount of time and space to test what you feel to gain the results needed to guide you in your decision making.

2) How you do one thing is how you do everything. I used to give a lot of slack in certain areas if someone was a high performer in others. I even did this with myself. I justified it by masking it to be about “saving energy” or not being “a hard-ass”. Many leaders do this to avoid interpersonal discomfort. However, I quickly learned that we will not reach long term success this way. By allowing myself and others to cut corners, I laid the foundation for laziness and mediocrity. If we allow ourselves to be ok with 80% here, we’ll allow it everywhere. The process matters. It’s there where habits and patterns are created, which leads to our results.

3) If politics are present, it’s my fault! It appears that generally, politics have become accepted as an unavoidable part of work culture. I’ve made the mistake early in my career of underestimating the negative impact they have on teams and organizations. Trying to eliminate politics without addressing issues at the leadership level is pointless. That is where it starts. It’s now a top priority to confront myself and my peers about any disagreement that can possibly evolve into more and create politics within the organization.

4) Results reign supreme. This seems simple, but I hear of the demise of so many companies because the leadership team was driven by feelings and had moving targets. Define what success is often and adjust accordingly. Always put team results before individual issues. Face those results head-on and let them guide you forward.

5) It’s going to hurt! Embrace the pain, focus on what’s within you, and use it. Pouring yourself into anything you believe in comes with a great deal of vulnerability and sacrifice. Add leadership to the mix and that multiples while you get lonelier. There are many nights you will work alone, people will hurt you, tears will fall and no one will see. Channel that pain to build a resilient mindset. That mindset will attract everything and everyone you need.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I know the power of vulnerability. I also know how paralyzing shame can be. I want the world to know that we all have revolutions that live within us all. If we release the shame most of us carry, we’d soar together and create a new world. It’s a personal mission of mine to inspire leaders to share their strengths and weaknesses with those they lead in the most authentic and loving way possible.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There are so many great quotes that come up for me but one that is fresh in my mind is by Patrick Lencioni when talking about teams. “Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.”

Is this true for any team, whether it be in business, friendships, marriage, etc. Anytime I experience discomfort or a fear of conflict, I use it as an opportunity to create a stronger connection and bond with that person. This usually helps the process of achieving our goals more fun and fulfilling!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

This is such a tough one! There are so many but I’d love to connect with Neuroscientist, Dr. Caroline Leaf. I’m a spiritual person but I’d also consider myself a realist. Her work has filled in a lot of gaps for me when it comes to our mind, brain, and faith.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @loveverne and @freedomandfashion

Twitter: @freedomNfashion

Facebook: @freedomandfashion

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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