We had the good fortune of connecting with Mona Elyafi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mona, how do you think about risk?
To me the word “Risk” means to be bold. Taking a risk is an opportunity to succeed. If you don’t ever chance it you never move forward. Everything in my life and business has always been centered around the idea of “risk-taking”. Early on, when the Civil War started in Lebanon in 1975, my brother and I, amidst the daily bombings, were put on a plane by ourselves to escape the danger. I was 4 years old but very clearly got the sense that the fact that my family and I were taking a leap of faith and throwing ourselves into the unknown was a liberating feeling. Being a risk-taker actually rids you of “fear”. You also become more in tune with your intuition thus opening the door to internal growth, getting to know who you truly are. You only learn and advance in life when you’re at risk. Following a back surgery, I battled a drug addiction (to crack cocaine) for three years. At the age 33 I luckily hit rock bottom, picked myself up and commenced the long road to recovery, which led to the launched of my own PR firm, ILDK Media, in 2004. ILDK Media was as well created on that very concept. The day I decided I was going to launch my own PR company, I simply did. I focused on LGBTQ PR campaign when it was not much of trending topic among mainstream media. But taking the risk to change the dialogue, I went against the grain and eventually succeeded in making LGBTQ agendas move into mainstream culture, making front-page news. Taking a risk represents a fantastic opportunity to stand out and be a leader, not a follower satisfied with the status quo. I am currently working toward becoming an accredited Champagne expert (a new leap of faith I am taking in my professional career) and when reading about the history of the Champagne region and the people who have given the region and famous wine its’ prestigious notoriety I am not surprised to learn that the many larger-than-life characters who have in all actuality changed the face of Champagne are women: Veuve Cliquot, Madame Pommery, Lily Bollinger etc. Veuve Clicquot, probably the most famous one, built her champagne empire on bold decisions. Beyond the notion of “Risk Taking”, I believe the core idea is “the power of the mind”. The adage “whatever the mind can conceive, it can achieve” is the essence of success. Veuve Clicquot wrote in the later years of her life in a letter to a grandchild: “The world is in perpetual motion, and we must invent the things of tomorrow. One must go before others, be determined and exacting, and let your intelligence direct your life. Act with audacity.”
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
ILDK Media is a one- woman owned business that was created with one tiny seed and in just a few years turned into a widely respected PR expert positioning the company as a dominant voice and authority in special events, LGBTQ+ PR strategies Staying at the forefront of change, ILDK has been instrumental in making LGBTQ agendas move into mainstream culture (Forbes, LA Times, NBC.com, NY Times, CNN, to name a few). The many LGBTQ PR campaigns led under the ILDK marquee have, in their own way, aided in the empowerment of the LGBTQ community, helped spark more than a dialogue about diversity and equality, and contributed to changing the conversation about gays, lesbians, bi, non-binary individuals and/or transgender today. From transgender activist Michaela Mendelsohn (Transcanwork.org), to internationally known queer women festival such as The Dinah Shore Weekend (Thedinah.com), ClexaCon Las Vegas (Clexacon.com), to tellofilms.com and LA Equality Fashion Week, among others, these are all LGBTQ PR campaigns that spark more than a dialogue about diversity and equality, they’re also leading the mainstream headlines making front-page news. The drive in me to amplify women’s voices runs in the family. Of course my maternal grandmother was my role-model and inspiration; but also on my father’s side, my great uncle, Abdallah El Yafi, former Prime Minister of Lebanon, was a pioneer in defending women’s rights & equality. He was at the forefront of the struggle to give women the right to vote, which he was able to achieve with his cabinet in power in 1952. This is a man who had quite an ‘avant-garde’ ring to conservative Muslim ears. Like many individuals, the pandemic has forced me to put my PR business on hiatus. This break has given me the opportunity to concentrate 100% on my champagne education. My wife and I launched “Locked Up and Uncorked”, a YouTube Docu-series retracing through short (5-8 minutes) episodes the history of Champagne, France, and its milestone moments. Much like my own story, the history of Champagne is about survival, and of course about larger than life characters that have and continue to give Champagne its effervescent, sparkling and glorious personality. For the past few years, I have been an inveterate student of all thing champagne related – from its history, economy, viticulture, viniculture, laws and regulations, marketing and PR strategies. It is an absolute passion of mine! On top of completing a course with Comité Champagne and receiving my accreditation as an official Champagne expert, I am currently pursuing the Wine Scholar Guild Champagne Master-Level Online Program. I also just started an Instagram Champagne account: @champagnesvp
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
LA is filled with fun and entertaining places to go to. I would certainly recommend Wallys in Beverly Hills to enjoy a cheese and charcuterie board with a glass of Champagne (I suggest the Krug Grande Cuvée); I also love the rooftop bar of the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills; Try as well Bon Vivant in Atwater Village and Ombra Bar at the Americana. Another great venue is The StoneHaus in Westlake Village.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
For me there is no doubt that I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for my (maternal) grandparents. Both were exceptional and beyond inspiring. My grand-mother was (and continues to be) my mentor – she epitomizes the definition of women empowerment. Early on she was rooting for me to become independent and succeed on my own. She was the one who would always tell me to not underestimate the “power of the mind”. She used to call me her “petit soldat de bois” (little wooden soldier). That was a metaphor to remind me that when the wooden soldier falls it doesn’t break, it stands right back up and keeps going. She was an extraordinary woman. Smart, kind, fierce and bold … she never gets enough credits. I named my PR company after my grand-mother’s initials. My grandfather was my rock and the man I looked up to growing up. He is the one who instilled in me leadership, sense & knowledge of business, my passion for politics, and most importantly how to be street-smart! I miss them both dearly. But not a day goes by I don’t thank them for making me who I am.
Instagram: @champagnersvp and. @ILDKMedia
Photo Credit: Marlene Despax