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The Leadercast Podcast
The Leadercast Podcast

Episode · 2 years ago

41. Francine LeFrak on Her Legacy

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

When your social issues film is canceled, the next logical step is to start a jewelry company to benefit female victims of genocide, right?

 

It was for Francine LeFrak, a producer who has changed thousands of lives with her entrepreneurship and social justice leadership.

 

On this episode, Angela Raub, CEO and President at Leadercast, launches the inaugural edition of Leadercast Legacy by interviewing one of the most influential people she knows: Francine LeFrak, Founder at Same Sky and Francine A. LeFrak Foundation.



What we talked about:

  • Francine’s legacy of social advocacy for women
  • The earliest influencers in Francine’s life
  • Stories that make Francine proud and what inspires her

 

Check out these resources we mentioned during the podcast:



Check out the full podcast with Francine LeFrak by clicking here.


If you don’t use Apple Podcasts as your audio player, you can find every episode of the Leadercast Podcast at this link.

This is the leader cast podcast, helping you be a leader worth following. Hi Everyone, and welcome to this episode of the leader cast podcast. I'm Bart but I'm actually not the person conducting the interview for this episode. This is the start of the new series of episodes here on the leader cast podcast that we are calling the legacy series. This is the brainchild of our president and CEO, Angela Rob who will be interviewing the guests on these select shows. Now, Angela wanted to reach out to people in her personal network, people who have mentored her, people who she has mentored and just people she has a strong connection with and have really influenced her leadership and her career. So Angela's spotted a lot of people in her network, if you can imagine, and especially interesting are the people that she's connected with throughout her time and business and giving back on our own accord. So this is the leader cast legacy series of the leader cast podcast and for our first episode we have someone who is very near and dear to Angela's Hark, Francceen lea fray. Now you may know France seen as an actress and director and producer of both film and Television and theater. She's a fantastically real and woman in terms of business and filmmaking and theater, but but she's transitioned into it later on in her life and her career is really astounding. She has founded the same sky, which is a jewelry co opt to help women and families, specifically in Africa, get a leg up as they either move out of Africa or better themselves in the country, and she has also founded the Francine Ale Frac Foundation, which changes the lives of people and extreme poverty by giving them access to success...

...opportunities. So francine really does believe and giving back, but it's more about helping those to get out of a bad situation, and this is something that Angela and Francine talk about on this episode, as well as what France seen learn from her most notable teachers in her life. So this is all about the legacy franc scene is leaving behind. In the series will be all about the legacy that these guests are leaving behind and, as I said, these are people who are very close to Angela and that's why she's doing the interviews. But I just wanted to jump on and introduce the concept in the series so that you all understood what we were doing here, and I really hope that you are excited for this episode of the Leader Cast podcast starring Francine in the fract. So I'm going to step aside. You'll hear and add for leader cast and will move into the interview between Angela Rob and Francy in the FRAT. Leader cast is committed to filling the world with leaders worth following through live and experiences and on demand education. Leader cast exists to guide you on your leadership journey. Learn more about what leader cast can do for you at leader Castcom. This is Angelo rob the president and CEO of leader cast, coming to you with our inaugural addition of leader cast legacy. I am so excited that I have a friend that is helping us to launch this series, perhaps one of the strongest women and one of the most influential in the world that I know. It is pleasure to have francine left Rac, the founder of same sky, with us today from Manhattan. Francine, welcome. Thank you, Angela. Wonderful to be here and I'm excited to be part of this inauguration. Thank you so much, francine. When I want to share,...

...and I don't know if you know this story or if you remember how you and I first met, but you were coming to Atlanta for a same sky event at our mutual friend Elizabeth's home, and I'll never forget Elizabeth saying that she needed someone to help with picking up an our amazing founder of same sky. I and I don't know if you remember that, I was the chauffeur for you and your husband Rick or about a day and a half. Do you remember that? I do, I do, and I don't. talented. Oh, I am so multitalented, and remember I had a very clean car. So I hope you gave me a five on my uber rating that day. You got a five on your Uber rating and we wanted to find you a husband right away. Frank we son, you were great catch. You're so sweet. So let's get started with this. I can go over all of your accolades, but, as I gave you an idea of what this is about, this is about your legacy. I think the audience to learn from you about people that had influence on you, that really spoken to you about leaving a legacy in the world, and I'd really like to get started with tell them a little bit about what you'd like to highlight in your career and then I'd like to ask some questions of you. I've had such an amazing, varied career, or starting in working in the art world and wanting to be so badly and show business and then producing on Broadway and winning Tony Awards and, you know, as you mentioned, a pullet surprise for one of the productions. But I went to Hollywood with the idea of making social issue movies and I'm so proud of the you know, getting into social issues and shedding light on them and they really changed my life. So from there I started a, you know, a trade initiative in Rwanda,...

...as you know, and I'm incredibly proud of that. And now I have, you know, income building programs and ways to give women a chance to have their own life and their own dignity and their own work and to show their own talent. So I'm incredibly proud of that too. But that's just the tip of the iceberg for me. So it amazing some of the things that I'm able to be part of. We have fifty girls in Rwanda now studying science and math who couldn't afford to be in school. We have fourteen students in America who are at some of the best universities that are rewanded and east African students that promised to go back to their home countries after they take the knowledge from here. And then we just did a program in Birmingham, Alabama, with a hundred and six minarty women who want to be artisans and need business training. So we did a business training with them and it was just so exciting. So I don't really know where to begin, but it's help that answer the question for in scene. It certainly does, and I know that anybody that's listening to this podcast right now sits here and thinks when they go out in Google you and look at how young you are, how much of an influence and how you've impacted the world. It's just absolutely incredible. And so talk about you talked about social issues and what you planned on as far as making movies it. That is how this started, with you going to Rwanda correct and helping to builds for the women. Can You you expand on that a little bit? Oh well, here's what happened. I had to fill up to film that won a lot of awards, that won the peabody award, which I was very proud of. Cold shot through the heart, which is it's a story of the Bosnian war and it's told about...

...two best friends and one becomes a sniper and the other is forced to hunt him down. And from that movie, which impacted people so deeply because people didn't really know about what that conflict was about, a woman named Amy Linear came to me with a story about an American healthcare worker that went to Rwanda and fell in love with a Rwanda man and God caught up in the Maelstrom of the war and what happened to that couple. And I was so moved by the story of not knowing anything about the Rwandan genocide, where a million people were murdered in a hundred days, and that Holocaust and the idea of what happened to the women and women were used as a weapon of war and were raped, and we found out the UN said a quarter of a million women, they felt, were raped and about seventy percent became HIV. And I hear I had my movie script and was in preproduction with Helen Hunt and Jim and Hansu and the director, Shaker Kapoor, but hotel Rwanda was released and I all of a sudden I got, you know, a coal from the head of Fox studios. We're very sorry, we're giving you you movie back, and I thought, I can't believe it, and I felt like this hole in my heart that how could I not shed light on this story? What was I to do? And a dear friend of mine was making baskets in Rwanda and I met with her and she said to me, you know, you always had a talent for jewelry. The women are so talented with their hands. Why don't you go to Rwanda and start working with the women and come up with an idea for jewelry? Well, it took me about a year to come up with an idea. It wasn't that simple, and we started with four women who literally were waiting to die and built a...

...jewelry where they were able to use their amazing talents and we were able to use the jewelry as a ribbon to the cause to create this company called same sky, the idea that all women are under the same sky and we need to be connected to each other and they are talent is a reflection of our talent. So that's how it all started and I had no idea that it would transform my life completely and my show business career. And you surp it because it was so compelling and so meaningful to me to see transformation in these women's lives and see women who had such bad health getting healthier and being stronger and seeing the impact on their kids, who now go to college. I mean, and all of these people had no plan because they didn't even have money to get transportation to pick up the medication that George Bush and pet farm made available to them. They didn't even have the ability. So now, if you see them, they are like rock stars and they have their own businesses. You know, fancy. The thing that I just when I've heard you talk about this before at the events for same sky and you talk about it, I always hear a little bit more about how it evolved in the thing that is just so incredible about you as a person, as a human being, is the fact that you went there motivated with the movie and what those plans were in and I think the thing that comes to mind for me is we make plans and God laughs and and I think sometimes people are so focused on what the initial goal was and I just like I honor you so much and just being so present and being so intentional with wait a second. You talked about your heartbreaking. Sometimes people can be involved in situations like that...

...and they just keep moving towards their own personal goal. I just think that's the beauty and and at the heart of who you are is that you stopped and said, I'm going to provide solution here, and that's that's just again, why everything that you're involved with, whether it be a words which are just earthly accolades, but I look at the women. Now you talk about students that are here in the US. You've really have brought to fruition generational legacy and generational change. Well, I want to just go back to white point, which is that the universe taught me that you put your energy in one place and it pays off some place else, and any energy that you ex expound it just it's mushrooms and grows and morphs and you've got up allowed the universe to take you on that journey and the journey sometimes leads you to places that are so unexpected that you can't even imagine in your wildest dreams, like starting a business in Rwanda. Really really. I'm just saying that. You know, that's such a great life lesson and I really felt that, you know, being a producer in the theater or understanding all that I did in movies really really helped me produce what I needed to do to make an impact on someone else's life, which made the biggest impact on my life, because you know, you say that, you know I've had this impact, but you have no idea how it's impacted my life and how filling and how much gratitude I have. So it's it's this perfect circle and I've been so blessed to be part of it. But it's just allowing the universe to take you on that journey and sort of not holding on to what you expected,...

...but allowing yourself to kind of take the plunge and go into this dark place that you know nothing about and sort of say, Oh my God, I'm going to start a jewelry company in East Africa. And you go, Oh, I mean, I don't know anything, I don't know anyone. It may see's what am I going to do, and realize that you know you have the talent to do these things if you allow yourself to dream. Amen, I mean this is this is just beautiful. Thank you for those thoughts. What's the total amount? I know you gave some numbers about the fifty students and then fourteen students here that are in university and then working with women in Birmingham. What are the what's the total number of women that have come through programs or participated with the same sky? Getting close to a thousand, which wow if you multiply it with the amount of children the women have and all over. I mean it's really phenomenal. But you know, we're scaling now, so it's going to be a lot more than that, because I'm absolutely determined. You know, I'm not sure how it's going to happen, but I'm just keeping my head down, I'm working as hard as I can and I'm we're coming up with innovative solutions to poverty and it's working. For this Monday we did our fifth graduation at the women and need homeless shelt in East Harlem and we've graduated a hundred women now and forty percent of those women have gotten jobs and twenty percent have gotten permanent housing. So we're going to build on those numbers and we're going to find better solutions to get those numbers up, but those numbers, even the first time out of the bat or phenomenal. That's absolutely amazing. You know, you may not know this, but at leader cast our mission is to build leaders worth following and you can now understand why having you on this inaugural addition of the podcast was so important,...

...because you leave a trail of leaders and all of your programs are just continuing to build and expand a skill set for the women that come through the program it's just why you're admired so much, francine. So you're amazing. I want to ask some questions that go all the way back to when you were little. What were some of your earliest memories of your parents speaking to you and your siblings or teaching about being involved or how to how to give back, or legacy, or what were some of the earliest lessons you remember that have impacted you and are always a part of you every day from your parents? Well, I think you know, my father was a great builder and he built cities and he built housing for the masses, not the classes, and that was his motto and he always felt that he needed to give back to those communities that he had created. So he built the concert hole at Queens College or the gymnasium at Barnard College, but he really did not want to leave the communities that a that he helped create. So I saw how important that was for him and that had a big impact on me. And you know, some of us are born with compassion and empty to see and it was great to have a father who really believed in helping middle class people have a better life. But remember, for him, I mean in the s and the s, the kind of poverty that we see today. We didn't see them, yes, and so with your mother, with with someone, that was just what he was out doing. And you talk about building for the masses, not for the classes, and having, you know, impacting communities that he was working to build. You know, how did they work as partners and what were things that you equally, you know,...

Glean from your mother, and she was my mentor because she was a behind the scenes player and he was out building dreaming. You know, very few people I know had fathers that were such visionaries, but you know, she had the skill set to encourage me to do and to be and he was very busy creating cities. So he did have that kind of one on one time to really nurture the way she did. So she was phenomenal and so brilliant. Well, obviously the apple does not fall far from the tree. Talk about I mean when you look at your siblings in the end, how did each of you take those lessons and and because you're one woman and I look the impact that you've had in your career and and now and in the world, when you get together with your family, it has to be incredible, credible the collective works that you've all done to impact the world. Can you highlight that a bit? You know, we all give back in our own ways, but we're all very hard workers. We grew up with an understanding that work conquers old that was our family motto. So nobody got you know, everyone knew what their responsibility was and how much effort and energy they had to put into the world. So you know, my passion was for philanthropy, but both my well all of my siblings, are very philanthropic. It's beautiful. Now, I told you I was going to go deep. So, because I always love to hear from people, who was your favorite teacher growing up, I would say that my mother was my best teacher because, you know, at age like eleven, she gave me a book God's graves and scholars where Schleiman discovered troy and she said to me, what are you going to do? And I thought she must be kitting I mean,...

...you got to be kidding anyway, but she was a great teacher of mine. My other great teacher was my art history teacher, who taught me how to see the world and through art and she taught me so much about histories through art and gave me a limbs to go into the world. That gave me confidence. It's beautiful because you, in talking to you, ran seeing you have such a calm spirit and and I think that that I mean. Have there ever been times? Every time I've been around you, it's just it draws you in because of the piece that you have and the intentionality of the words that you say. How are you always or I know we all have times where we can maybe not feel peaceful but we can act peaceful. You know what guide you? How do you always find that peace? What do you do for yourself, for self care to continue to make world impact? Wow, that's such a tough question. I mean, if I didn't exercise, I would die very last year I broke my knee, which was so horrible because I couldn't run on the treadmill, I couldn't do the things that center me. But I find exercising very centering. You know, I find work very centering. So those two things. But I mean, I don't meditate, I don't have a secret sauce. You know. I think that I draw my inspiration from all the women that I work with and and that keeps me going, you know, and it's women like you who feel what I feel that keep me going because I get so much back. So it makes me want to keep giving. I'm just sitting here with a lump in my throw right now. Also, thank you for that compliment coming from someone that I respect so much. So thank you for that. Talk about if you could highlight every time that I have seen you speak or been with you at one of the events, you've highlighted just some incredible stories of the...

...women and I know you've talked about some of the students, but really, can you expand on a few people most recently that, as you talk about, continue to fuel you to continue to do more? Some of those stories I I'd love for our listeners to hear just the work that you're doing, but how you also just continue or are fueled by the women that participate in the program. Well, I mean if you think of a woman like Specio so who, during the Rwandan genocide in one thousand nine hundred and ninety four, was gang rape and was very, very sick and had a HIV to Hive of children and you know, when she was able to buy, you know, a mattress for her kids or shares in her house or, you know, have a job, it gave her dignity in her community and it gave her a sense of purpose. Or someone like Clementine, who had terrible HIV numbers and when she went back to the doctor, the doctor said what are you doing? You're so much healthier. She said, I'm working, and the impact of work gave her the opportunity to not only by good medication, but to have a non HIV positive baby because she was able to get the health care she needed and she knew what she had to do. And clementine also, you know, I know you know this, open to bank account and she learned to read and write. I mean it's just unbelievable stuff. And you know, when you work one on one with these women, it just you know, and you know one of the formally incarcerated women, Cassie, started her own hair weaving business, you know, and she worked at super cuts. But the transformation in Cassie to this glamor queen who says everybody should walk down the red carpet. So she has a red carpet in...

...her Salam. That's awesome, because she said everybody deserves to walk down the red carpet. So, I mean they are, but the grace of God go I I mean these women did not have opportunity, they had no support and they made, they may have made wrong choices and you know, they paid a huge price, whether they live in homeless shelter or have been formally, you know, incarcerated or in the prison system. It's amazing to see the transformation when they come out and they realize how talented they are and that they can have a job and they can support their family and they don't have to live alone and be filled with shame. Absolutely. I actually, Francine, have just been involved in my first prison visits to both a male and female correctional facility and it's only been about a month out from that, and so that's been hugely impactful. So the next time you're on the podcast I'd love to go more into that because I'm doing a lot of investigative work and trying to understand some things and I know that's a real passion for you as well. When did you start those programs? was that three or four years ago or five now? It was it was almost seven years ago and I have to tell you we worked with two hundred women in the justice system and not one of them in almost seven years has going back to prison in a population with seventy five percent go back to prison in the first twenty four months. So I have leavaball perfect track record and the secret sauce is really, you know, job opportunities, earning an income and just getting those women to feel like they're not invisible. It just works. It's really exciting. I am very excited. I look forward to I'd love to connect some point, like I set offline, to talk more about this. That is that is...

...wonderful. Well, we've heard from people that have impacted your life. Your mom was your number one teacher, and then talking about what you learned in art, history and the presence and view of the world. Now that you have are you talking about stealing the programs? What are ways that we can obviously this message will be out through this podcast that, but how can people get involved with the same sky? How can we support the efforts and be a part of this world change with you? Well, I mean people can volunteer to the same sky to use their talent and we can help them and guide them how they can use their talents to help others less fortunate. They can donate to the same Sky Foundation Fund which you know, helps to finance these projects. They can go online and buy same sky jewelry, which you can still do, but we've transitioned from making jewelry to making baskets and bags and the women have their own businesses and they're selling the baskets and bags to west down target, bed bath and beyond, and they're doing much better than when they were selling the jewelry, you know, when they were making jewelry. So now they have their own businesses. So if people want to get involved, they can go to same sky, you knowcom or same Sky Foundation and find a way to interact with us. You know, we need a lot of talent and we want to, as we said, scale as much as we can and to give more women the opportunity to succeed and to lift them out of poverty by their own efforts. So I would love people to know, if I could leave them with one thought, that they have talent. Everyone listening to this podcast has talent and it's sharing that talent with the world that will change the world. And if you could think of your talent...

...and honor that talent, we could find a way few to share it, and I think that's the best message that I can leave you with. It's beautiful. Francine, I was going to ask you just I mean, I know with with your husband Rick, his family background. I think his parents were both educators and and just the two of you are a force to be reckoned with as far as the impact that you have in the world. Thank you for that, because I do believe it. People do share their talents. You know, my team can can speak to the fact of me coming back from those prisons and what was sue. I think profound for me, Francine, is that could have been any one of us. We have to be involved, we have to like you say get in there and share our talents and I came back to the team and said I'm embarrassed that on my Linkedin I say that I would like to build connection of people, to be two degrees away from anyone to make the world better. It was not thinking about here are underserved women that are coming out that, to your point, have very little connection and and professional women in particular have got to get involved in this because we really can just make even I mean the trajectory of how we can impact it with your organization could be huge. Yeah, well, listen, when a man gets out of prison, he goes to his wife, he goes to his mother. When a woman gets out of prison, many times she has no way to go and she has children and very, very difficult and a woman needs a lot more support and help and we've got to figure out a way to give it to her, because the amount of women in prison now has risen six hundred percent. Yes, it's such a vulnerable population and we've got to find a way that women in the sea suite or professional women can figure out a way to make their lives better by connecting...

...with women who don't have opportunity but yet you know, want to, you know, change their circumstance. So if we could figure out how to put them on the same frequency, it's a win win for everyone. So I have to leave you with that, Angela. You'll have to figure that one out. I will work on that one for you. So one final thought to young women that I feel have so much opportunity. But but, Francine, we hear about so many people, men and women, both young men and women, that struggle with anxiety depression. There's just so much opportunity, but there's so much information and it can be very overwhelming. What would be what you would deem just some sage advice that you'd like to share too young young women out there? I think people need to follow their passion and allow themselves to dream. I think it's so important and so healthy and, you know, to take the plunge really and to try what really speaks to you, because you need to live in authentic life and if you start out living other people's dreams or other people's pressure, what they think you are or who you think you should be, it's at the end of the day, it's not going to satisfy you and you're not going to be at your best. So, in order to be at your best, do the things that you really love. I'm standing up and would love to cheer right now, just I so applaud you for that, because I feel like authenticity is where so many people are struggling and hopefully we're creating a world now that people can walk into that and feel comfort ble, because it's true, we can make world change if we're all being our true self and and just feel that we can...

...act upon our passion and where we're really fueled. For my career, I know when I most recently, in the last ten years since I've known you, I've seen my career go and wonderful but very different direction than I had expected, but it's when I really realized what I was passionate about and not worrying about what other people thought about my career, but what I actually wanted to do and achieve in it. So thank you for those incredible words well, thank you for being who you are and I wish you're so much success with these podcast. Thank you so much. We appreciate your patients, we appreciate your time and look forward to this going viral. Francine, don't forget to subscribe to the leader cast podcast. However, you're listening right now, give us a rating. We'd love to hear the feedback and it does help the podcast grow. And if you don't mind share it, you know, this is a fantastic episode of great wisdom and leadership tidbits. We'd love for you to share our podcast with your net work. Thanks again for listening. I'm Bart and bill be a leader worth following. Thanks for tuning in to the leader cast podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player.

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