You're the Inspiration

It’s the fuel of passion and the action in possibility. It’s the will to take the tough roads and voice the hard truths. It’s the basis of our best selves and the backbone of our dreams. Inspiration defines who we are … and it’s rarely sparked alone.
Reflecting on the question “Who inspires you?” seven South Bay women speak about other women who influenced their perspectives or gave meaning to their achievements. The assurance they find in their respective choices—the role models they see in friends, family or a historical figure—also show that inspirational women often help create even more.

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  • Written by
    Kelly Dawson

Barbra Fontana inspires Lane Carico

It’s one thing to dream of becoming a professional volleyball player as a child and another to actually become one. After recording a perfect season in her senior year and progressing on to a celebrated college career, Lane Carico has worked steadily to make that wish a reality. And yet, even as a current member of the AVP, Lane still has aspirations to chase—including a possible turn as an Olympian. As she moves forward, Lane looks to fellow volleyball player Barbra Fontana to help her keep her head out of the sand.

“Barbra Fontana’s career has been extremely inspiring to me because she is someone who embodies many of the characteristics that I value and strive to master,” Lane says. “Her incredible work ethic as a player, her dedication to creating a healthy and exceptional learning space for those young and old in the sport, her professionalism and integrity, and last but not least her commitment to family are particularly inspirational to me.”



Meg Hall inspires Adrian Hall

There are life’s big questions, and then there’s food. In order to feel satisfied by both, a little creativity is needed. As the owner of One Heart Counseling Center and a licensed marriage and family therapist, Adrian Hall has to navigate the daily concerns of her clients by being resourceful. To meet these ever-changing demands, Adrian finds guidance from her sister Meg Hall, whose imagination helps her run a successful catering business.

“What inspires me about Meg is that her vision is limitless,” Adrian says. “Sure, her goals are different than mine. I don’t dream of building a station at a wedding for candy that looks like jewelry and then have it served from a jewelry case, but I am totally inspired by that level of creativity. Her vision pushes me to think about what I want to create … to think about how my gifts can have a wider reach and have a more significant impact.”






Kimberly Robinson inspires Cindy Whitehead

When Cindy Whitehead became a professional skateboarder at 17, she proved that her skills on half-pipes and vacant pools didn’t need to be qualified by her gender. But it still happens, and she still speaks out against it. Apart from her job as a sports stylist—which has allowed her to work with the likes of Kobe Bryant and Mia Hamm—Cindy advocates for equality with her brand: Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word. She’s encouraged by the camaraderie of Kimberly Robinson, owner of Vanguard Surf and Skate in Torrance, who also isn’t afraid to be as good as the guys.

“I see and hear what she does for girls in both surfing and skateboarding, and it always makes me know that there is someone else out there fighting for equality for women in these sports,” Cindy says. “I know I am never going at it alone. She has my back and the backs of many other women 100%.”



Bessie Coleman inspires Kellee Edwards

Kellee Edwards isn’t afraid to try something new. As a travel journalist for her own brand, Kellee Set Go, she has ventured throughout the world to explore locales on her own terms. One of the many ways she escapes is by air—and since she is also a licensed pilot, Kellee looks to pioneer aviator Bessie Coleman to instill her perseverance. Bessie was the first black woman to receive an international pilot’s license in 1921—after refusals in America forced her to move to France to do so.

“Her tenacity was unparalleled; it’s truly incredible. She took countless No’s, put her destiny into her own hands and turned it into a Yes,” Kellee says. “There are dreamers and there are doers, like Coleman. I am definitely the latter as well. I’m not afraid to fail, because at the end of the day I can live with myself knowing that I tried.”






Linda Kay inspires Lori Ford

When Lori Ford thinks back on the memories she has of her mother, Linda Kay, she remembers how her mom went to all of her soccer games and joined a new country club so Lori never felt excluded. As a single mom, she created a clean, fun home where Lori’s friends wanted to play. And after she remarried, she made sure Lori was the first person in the family to go to college. Now that Lori is an adult—and the owner of Gum Tree and Gum Tree Kids in Hermosa Beach—she continues to find confidence in her mother’s leadership.

“I really did grow up believing I could be anything I wanted to be. I’m not sure how my mom did that other than she was always telling me that I was smart and beautiful, and she made me believe it,” Lori says. “I hope I can inspire that feeling in my own daughter. My mother and I are very much alike, and I can already see our strength, determination and stubbornness in my 8-year-old daughter! We are no shrinking violets, that’s for sure.”



Jasmine Sharp inspires Stephanie Franz

As the creative source behind an ever-changing variety of desserts at The Strand House in Manhattan Beach, Stephanie Franz admits that her interest in Pilates seems a little out of place. But when her sister suggested they attend a class at Formu+La Pilates and Juice two years ago, she met Jasmine Sharp and welcomed the unexpected. Jasmine’s classes have helped Stephanie lead a healthier life and introduced her to better ingredients that flavor her menus.

“As a pastry chef, I have a very fast-paced career. Working in a kitchen can take its toll on you physically and mentally if you don’t take care of yourself properly,” Stephanie says. “The studio creates a sense of community, and Jasmine’s classes are addicting, inspiring, challenging and fun. Her healthy practices have motivated me to put more plant-based foods in my diet, and vegan cooking has become a new passion of mine. It gives me more energy and a greater sense of well-being.” 






Deb Patrick inspires Theresa Plakos

Theresa Plakos is no stranger to the devastation that comes with a cancer, even if it is felt at a distance. She encounters many people finding ways to cope through her work at Cancer Support Community (CSC) of Redondo Beach, but she was particularly struck by Deb Patrick. Deb came to CSC after her husband was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. During her counseling, Deb’s sister and stepmother learned of their breast cancer. After her husband passed away, Deb was diagnosed with breast cancer as well. Given these circumstances, Theresa saw how Deb continued to seek help and eventually become a speaker herself. Deb will be among the featured speakers during the Girls’ Night Out event in October.

“Deb’s spirit, determination and strength have inspired me to be a stronger and more resilient person in my own life. Obviously, I hope that I won’t be faced with all the things that Deb has had to deal with, but she did not let her situation victimize her. She used the free resources offered by CSC to rise above her situation and take charge of her life,” Theresa says. “Deb’s subsequent progress has really shown me that it is OK to seek help and support from others when we are going through a difficult situation. No one should have to face something as difficult as cancer alone.”