Leslie D. Farrell & Dorothy Toran of Lauren Grace Media: “Our mission is to find a cure for lupus in our lifetime”

Like so many, we have struggled tremendously from the stress of 2020. This country’s reckoning with systemic racism mixed with the global pandemic has really created the perfect storm. Finding community has been our saving grace. Connecting with other people who are also deeply concerned about the state of our world has been very healing. […]

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Like so many, we have struggled tremendously from the stress of 2020. This country’s reckoning with systemic racism mixed with the global pandemic has really created the perfect storm. Finding community has been our saving grace. Connecting with other people who are also deeply concerned about the state of our world has been very healing. It’s helped us to remember that we are all in this together.


The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.

As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leslie D. Farrell and Dorothy Toran of Lauren Grace Media

Lauren Grace Media is a full-service production company focused on the development and production of nonfiction and scripted programming. LGM is deeply committed to shining a light on diversity and marginalized communities across the spectrum of gender, race, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic circumstance, telling these stories in a way that both informs and entertains. Lauren Grace Media is fully owned by veteran television producers Leslie D. Farrell and Dorothy Toran, former longtime Bravo executive producers. Lauren Grace Media is represented by Rebel Entertainment Partners, Inc.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

DOROTHY: I was born in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa. My mother is American, and my father was a Liberian government official, educator and minister. As a young child, I traveled to the States often, though I lived in Liberia until I was ten at which point we settled in New York for good.

LESLIE: I was born in Berkeley, California into a family of musicians and artists. My mother and her sisters were singers and they passed their musical talents down to all of the kids except for me. I was born a writer. I also spent some of my childhood in Europe and New York with my aunt and uncle.

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

President Barack Obama once said that ‘You can’t let your failures define you. You have to let your failures teach you’. Early on in my career failures felt so catastrophic. Today I understand that without failure, there can be no success. Leslie loves this quote as well as she mastered failure early in her career, and is still standing.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

A book that has had a significant impact is “The Rainbow Comes And Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Loss and Love” by Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper. Gloria and Anderson lay bare the idea that through even our most painful experiences, there is still beauty on the other side.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?

DOROTHY: I have been a television producer for 25 years across many genres including commercials, music videos, documentaries, music specials, independent films and unscripted programming. After working for several production companies, network and cable platforms, I decided to launch my own production company, Lauren Grace Media, with my producing partner Leslie D. Farrell. We made our announcement only a month before the coronavirus pandemic changed our world.

LESLIE: For the first fifteen years of my career, I was an independent documentary director and writer mainly for PBS. Then with the rise of cable in the ’90s I moved to NYC and began a new phase making celebrity profiles, documentaries and general entertainment programs. That led to producing a scripted series for Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee, as well as directing and producing indie feature docs. Eventually, I found my way to unscripted and that is where Dorothy and I first met and worked together.

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

When the pandemic first hit and the world shut down, the television production business did too. We knew we needed to keep the momentum of our newly minted company going. Leslie had this amazing idea that we should start a podcast as a way to keep ourselves busy and motivated. We enlisted our friends who worked in the TV and film industry interviewing them about their individual career paths. And with that, Producer’s Confidential was born.

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

DOROTHY: Leslie’s idea to start Producer’s Confidential was definitely our ‘Aha moment’. It created a new lane so that we could continue our forward movement.

LESLIE: The podcast has turned into much more than I ever conceived it could be and that’s because of Dorothy. We have such great chemistry. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner on this journey.

How are things going with this new initiative?

The response to Producer’s Confidential has been incredible. We have been blessed to interview so many legendary guests, including NBA icon Shaquille O’Neal, Phylicia Rashad, Vanessa Williams, Paul Sorvino and so many others. It’s been an extraordinary experience.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful to for helping you get to where you are?

DOROTHY: My dear friend, mentor and former boss, Joe Mantegna is at the very top of my gratitude list. Joe owned Zooma Zooma, a very successful commercial production company in New York. Not only did he give me my very first job as a line producer, he empowered me to meet that moment in my career. My producing style today and business acumen is very much built from Joe’s influence.

LESLIE: Honestly, it’s hard for me to choose only one person when so many people have helped me or come along just when I needed a door opened for me. But I think I’d have to thank Henry Hampton for giving me my first directing gig. He took a chance on me and I hope I made him proud.

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

Like so many, we have struggled tremendously from the stress of 2020. This country’s reckoning with systemic racism mixed with the global pandemic has really created the perfect storm. Finding community has been our saving grace. Connecting with other people who are also deeply concerned about the state of our world has been very healing. It’s helped us to remember that we are all in this together.

You are a person of great 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?

DOROTHY: My baby sister Weade died of lupus in 2016 at the age of 33. In the year following her death I became the National Ambassador of The Lupus Foundation of America. LFA and I have partnered to create The Color Me Happy Stem Cell Research Campaign. Together we are committed to raising 100K dollars for stem cell research. So far we have raised a little over 30,000 dollars. Our mission is to find a cure for lupus in our lifetime.

LESLIE: Dorothy has done amazing work with the Lupus Foundation. I support her and her cause.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

DOROTHY: President Barack Obama. To soak in his wisdom and encouragement would be an extraordinary experience.

LESLIE: Dorothy took the words right out of my mouth. Definitely, Obama!

How can our readers follow you online?

You can visit our website at laurengracemedia.com and follow us on Instagram @dorothytoran and @farrellpix. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and wherever else you can listen to podcasts.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health! Thanks so much for having me. Very Best!

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