Writer + Chief Strategist + Content Creator + Storyteller


Yes, Leslie is a content creator, marketing & communications strategist and business development professional who’s passion and purpose are fully aligned. Yes, she is known as an expert in providing innovative, effective messaging and delivering operational strategies that increase brand awareness and engagement.

But at the heart of it all, Leslie Gordon is a storyteller.

Amazing, powerful and gifted. Leslie’s writing comes naturally. She has an anointing to draw readers deep into the story. Every article I’ve read – I walk away feeling inspired to pursue my purpose.
— Jackie Parker, Managing Partner & Founder, JWP Consulting
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Sol Man & Queen Sugar Star, Dondré Whitfield Talks Acting, Purpose & Family

Dondré Whitfield is one of those incredibly principled Sol Men who lives a life of purpose. The Brooklyn, New York native has blessed us with his on-screen talent for more than three decades, bringing passion and intention to each role he plays—from Robert Foreman on The Cosby Show to Terrence Frye on the daytime soap opera, All My Children.

In 2016, Dondré was cast as Remy Newell in the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)'s beautifully written and directed drama series, Queen Sugar, produced by Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey. Queen Sugar, now in it's third season, won the top award for Television Show of the Year (Drama) during the 2018 American Black Film Festival Honors in February and we cannot wait to see how the remainder of the season—and the lives of the Bordelon family—continue to unfold and evolve. 

Sure, he’s a talented actor with great screen presence but many don’t know that Dondré is one of the deepest men out here.

Seriously, there are levels to his intellect.



Essence Self Care

A Love Letter To My Sister Circle

A popular quote from Oprah rings true when I think of the sisters in my life: “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo—what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” This is especially true within my sister circle. I appreciate that they are with me in the very best of times and the very worst. My girlfriends have lifted me when I thought I couldn’t go higher and picked me up when I’ve fallen. They’ve loved me in the most non-judgmental way possible and told me the truth when I needed—but didn’t necessarily want—to hear it. I would not be the woman I have become without them. Period.

My sister circle is about real women supporting other real women. It’s about helping each other launch businesses, manage careers and relationships and fight through life-threatening illnesses. It’s about listening to one another’s point of view. It’s about standing in the gap and holding space for each other when life goes sideways. It’s about loving one another even when we don’t agree.



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Defining Delicious: Ayala Donchin, Owner of Evelyn's Kitchen

Ayala Donchin is one of the finest chefs this side of Southern France. Try her red velvet cupcakes, blueberry morning cake, garlic rosemary rack of lamb, shrimp scampi, chili lime crab cakes, carrot cake sandwich cookies or fried chicken and you'll find yourself sitting outside of her kitchen before sunrise the next morning praying that she’ll feed you just one more time. And her signature blondies? Addictive.

Word on the streets of New York is that Ayala’s cooking is par excellence. Judging from the legions of loyal followers who are in on the secret of Evelyn’s Kitchen, there must be some truth to this. Since opening the business in 2009, her list of clients has grown to include Madison Square Garden, Nike, VH1, Belvedere Vodka and Momentum Worldwide. Evelyn’s Kitchen manages personal gifting for several high profile athletes and executives at the NBA and the NFL. They also provide private cheffing services to a select clientele and Evelyn’s Kitchen goodies can be purchased at several high end cafes in NYC including Lily O’Briens Chocolate Café, Resette Restaurant and Little Brown.



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When Your Life Comes Calling, Answer It: Five Tips for Living An Authentic Life

You’ve made it to the end of an incredibly busy work week and you have a few moments to sit alone in your office and reflect on the month, the year… hell, the entire span of your career. You look around at the degrees and certifications hanging on your office wall and you smile. You glance at the handsomely framed photos sitting on your desk next to the computer monitor. One photo in particular catches your eye — the one of you posing with your colleagues and the industry’s most influential thought leaders at a star-studded gala. You lean back in your chair, clasp your hands behind your head and whisper to yourself, “Wow, I’ve done a lot that I’m proud of.”

 As you stand up to grab your coat and turn out the lights, you sigh knowing that you’re pleased with all that you’ve accomplished, yet the familiar feeling that you haven’t even begun to discover yourself and your true purpose wraps itself around you like a straight jacket. 

So many of us have been there. We earn the degrees, land the dream job our parents can brag to their friends about and steadily advance in our careers only to get to a point where we can no longer hide the truth.

This is not your purpose. This is not your life.


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Female Entrepreneurs Explain How Becoming Your Own Boss Can Be The Ultimate Self Care

Becoming a successful entrepreneur—with income, ideas and business flowing—is not for the faint of heart. Admittedly, everyone isn’t up for the challenge, but bringing your vision to life and having the courage and the tenacity to create wealth by providing service to others is the stuff entrepreneurial dreams are made of.

The number of women-owned businesses grew 114% from 1997 to 2017 and there were an estimated 2.2 million African American, women-owned businesses in 2017, according to the Annual State of Women-Owned Businesses report, commissioned by American Express OPEN. The surge in Black women-owned businesses is an indication that we aren’t afraid to take risks and control our destiny on our own terms. Whether starting a tech firm, a private practice or opening a franchise or bakery, Black women are increasingly charting their own professional course and embracing the idea of being your own boss as a way to enjoy more happiness and fulfillment.


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Road Warriors

The idea of traveling—whether to visit family, vacation with the one you love or seal a business deal—is enough to make the average fitness-conscious woman sweat. We often ask ourselves, how will I resist the temptation to go hard on my favorite raspberry Caipirinha cocktail at the client happy hour? Where will I find the motivation to get my workout in after devouring my uncle’s insane baby back ribs and playing spades with my cousins until 3am? What will stop me from losing complete control after tasting that first bite of my grandma’s Arroz con pollo at the family reunion?

Failing to plan ahead often means self-sabotage is at the top of the agenda but many women tell us there are other culprits that derail their ‘fit & fabulous’ game when they leave the comfort of home: “It’s too difficult to fit my workout in.” “A gym isn’t available at my hotel.” “My family isn’t into working out so it’s next to impossible to stay in track when I visit.” “I’m not in a good head space when I’m away from home so I just go with the flow and I’ll get back on track…tomorrow.”  Sound familiar? We’ve all played the blame game and made excuses for not taking care of business on the road, but there are valuable lessons to be learned about staying motivated and prioritizing while you’re away. These lessons include planning, not beating ourselves up.

Dare to Be Extraordinary: A Collection of Positive Life Lessons From African American Fathers

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A few years ago, Leslie was hired by executive, entrepreneur and community servant and leader, William Middlebrooks to write a non-fiction book entitled, Dare to Be Extraordinary: A Collection of Positive Life Lessons From African American Fathers, featuring some of the country’s most successful men and women—from broadcast journalist, Robin Roberts to business magnate, Russell Simmons; from former mayor of Detroit, Dennis Archer to corporate leader (now COO of Starbucks), Rosalind Brewer. Leslie lost her father at the young age of 13, so this project was personal for her. She believes without question that the opportunity to write the very personal, poignant stories of twenty extraordinary people and the lessons they learned from their fathers was, in a word, divine. 

Dare To Be Extraordinary breathed life into one of today’s most compelling familial and social issues — fatherhood. Business leaders, cultural icons, athletes, politicians, activists, doctors, newsmakers, and some of the best and brightest minds of our time shared—with honesty, wit and intellect—poignant lessons from their fathers. Part chapter-memoir, part call-to-action and part inspiration, Dare To Be Extraordinary provided real stories of courage, unwavering love, adversity and hope.

Read a few of my favorite excerpts below.


Robin Roberts

Colonel Roberts never had to sit Roberts or any of his children down to talk about going to college or doing something important with their lives. Greatness was just expected. Roberts spent her childhood watching her parent’s example. She remembers a time in college when she had her heart set on buying a motorcycle, and she felt that she needed to tell somebody. So she called her sister, Dorothy, and said, “I saved up my money, and I’m buying a motorcycle. But don’t tell mom and dad!” 

Her sister replied, “Oh Robin, why are you doing this to me?” 

About an hour later her telephone rang, and Roberts’s roommate announced that her mom was calling. She picked up the phone to talk to her mother. “Dorothy won’t tell us what it is but she said that you’re going to do something you shouldn’t do, so technically she didn’t violate your trust,” her mother said. 

Roberts told her mother the truth: “I’m getting a motorcycle tomorrow.” 

Immediately her mother put her dad on the phone. Her father firmly said to his youngest child, “Under no circumstances will you buy a motorcycle. No daughter of mine will do that. You know it’s a deathtrap. You have a car to get you from point A to point B. You know, if that’s gonna be the case you can bring that car home, and you can just ride your bicycle to your classes.” Her father went on and on until Roberts relented. “Fine, I won’t buy a motorcycle!” Robin said and hung up. 

Many years later, her dad asked her, “Did I handle that right, Robin? Because I really don’t think I handled that right with you.” 

Robin replied, “Dad I’m fine! It’s okay. I’ve really let it go.” This lesson and his firm but gentle guidance has always stayed with her.

Knowing that her father came from humble beginnings and went on to fulfill his dream of becoming a pilot influenced her to pursue her own dream of becoming a sports journalist. “It was almost like, how dare I not try to do this. My father, who had nothing, went on to do extraordinary things in his life and when we look at the generations of blacks that came before us with very few rights and even fewer resources. How could I not go for it? How could I not try?” Robin shares. Her father’s life and the examples he set, dared Roberts to reach as high as she could to pursue her own passions. Her dad, through his actions and his commitment to giving his very best to his work and his family, taught her that with everything she did she should put forth her best effort. 

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“My dad never played the race, gender, or any other card. That’s the simple, yet beautiful thing about my father. There was nothing grandiose about Colonel Lawrence Roberts. He was just a good, good, good man.”

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Allan Houston

When true basketball enthusiasts speak of Allan Houston, the label pure shooter typically spills from their lips as they pay homage to the two-time NBA All-Star’s phenomenal shooting game. Some of today’s NBA greats might argue that their baseline turnaround jumper is better than Houston’s, but very few can prove it. With unrivaled focus and dedication, he brought an extraordinary work ethic to his venerable twelve-year NBA career, finishing as one of the league’s all-time greatest long-range shooters and one of the all-time leading scorers in Knicks history. As a preeminent figure in basketball, he demonstrated a sense of maturity and selflessness that eludes many players. He was recognized for four straight years as one of The Sporting News’ “Good Guys in Sports” and helped Team USA bring home the gold medal in the 2000 Summer Olympic games in Sydney, Australia. But for all of his on the court success, Houston’s extraordinary work off the court makes him a distinguished figure in the civic and philanthropic communities.

Houston is in the second phase of his basketball career as the New York Knicks' assistant general manager. He is also principal and co-founder of the Allan Houston Legacy Foundation, a non-profit entity with year-round programming that focuses on family, mentoring, and relationship building between fathers and their children. Houston was named father of the year by the National Fatherhood Initiative in 2007. In 2011 he received the President’s Council on Service and Civic Engagement Award from President Barack Obama’s administration. 

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Houston is especially proud to have his father and mentor, Allan Wade Houston, Sr., by his side as a member of the Allan Houston Legacy Foundation management team and his de facto wingman. Houston’s father has fueled his love for basketball and his desire to succeed since he first picked up a basketball at age six. He draws from the life lessons his father taught him and looks to his father for advice on how to make the greatest impact in the lives of countless families. To understand where Houston’s extraordinary sense of integrity, exemplary values and overall greatness comes from, one only needs to peer into the window of his father’s life to witness an undeniable legacy of leadership.

In the midst of building a tremendous legacy as a college coach, Wade never lost sight of his most important job—being a husband and father. To this day, Houston cherishes the times with his dad growing up. He recalls sitting on the couch when he was a young kid watching boxing while his dad cut his hair. His also remembers that his father wasn’t afraid to give him a hug, show affection, and tell him, I love you. These experiences with his father fueled Houston’s confidence and taught him that he had to look no further than his own family to feel loved and supported. “He's very humble man who doesn't have to say a lot, but whatever he said, it's like gold because he backs it up with his actions,” Allan says. 

“When I played in the NBA, people in the professional ranks of basketball — from referees to coaches, from managers to players — would say that my dad is one of the classiest men they’d ever met. For me, this is very consistent with the example he set and what I saw growing up.”

Rosalind Brewer

Rosalind Brewer, COO, Starbucks

Rosalind Brewer is in the business of making history. She is the very first African American woman to hold the position of Chief Executive Officer of Starbucks. She was also the very first African American woman to become president and chief executive officer of Sam’s Club, one of three major divisions of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and the nation’s eighth largest retailer. Brewer leads more than 100,000 associates across 616 stores that generate close to $54 billion a year. She joined Wal-Mart in 2006 as regional vice president overseeing operations in Georgia. From 2007 to January 2012, she was division president of the Southeast before taking the helm at Sam’s Club. Despite being one of the most powerful women in corporate America, it’s her “realness,” her approachability, and her outright brilliance that wins over skeptics who find it incredulous that a woman could achieve and sustain this extraordinary level of success. 

Brewer’s father was born in 1929 in Bessemer, Alabama where he lived until he fled the South after being falsely accused of making a pass at a white woman. Brewer recalls talking with her dad about racial incidents that he and his eleven siblings endured, particularly the three male children in the Gates family. His mother, fearing that she would one day find one of her sons hanging from a tree, shipped all three boys out of the South when they were roughly 18yearsold. George went to live in Gary, Indiana where he worked in the steel industry. After a couple of years he moved to Detroit while he looked for work in the burgeoning auto industry. He moved into an apartment building with his first cousin where he met his future wife, Sally, and found a job with General Motors. George and Sally married in the 1950s and had five children. Rosalind, born in 1962, is the youngest of their children.

Despite putting in long hours, Brewer’s father came to every school event and was present for every award she ever received. “I don’t care where it was. If I got an honorable mention, I’d look out in the audience and he’d be sitting there,” Rosalind says. “I was the youngest of five and he was present at all of my violin recitals and piano recitals. He never missed one of them.” This show of love from her father is indelibly stamped on Brewer’s heart. It made her feel a huge sense of responsibility because she felt like someone was always watching, that someone cared—and that someone was her father. His absolute presence in all areas of her life, from the grandest school plays to the smallest violin recitals, made her raise her standards because her dad was going to come regardless, and she realized the sacrifices he made to show up to each and every event. Above all, she wanted to make her father proud.

“Despite working three jobs, my dad came to every event and was present for every award I ever received. I don’t care where it was. If I got an honorable mention, I’d look out into the audience and he’d be sitting there. For all of my violin and piano recitals, my dad never missed one of them.””

As she has ascended through the ranks to one of the very highest positions in corporate America, Brewer has thought a lot about her father and the lessons he taught her. She feels that her dad would be absolutely beside himself to see the level of success she has achieved. Her position as the president and CEO of Sam’s Club she believes would have far exceeded her father’s expectations. “In actuality, the day I left for Spelman to start my first year of college did it for my dad. A college education was his wildest dream for all of his kids. “The level of success I have achieved as an executive,” Rosalind beams, “I think would be breathtaking for my father, and I try each and every day to honor his legacy and make him proud.”