The Fifteen Percent Pledge Gala Debuts In L.A.

First Lady Jill Biden joined Aurora James and Emma Grede at the economic justice nonprofit’s third annual benefit

Photography courtesy of BFA/Marc Patrick, Jojo Korsh, Linnea Stephan, Virisa Yong


Emma Grede, Aurora James.


Aurora James and Emma Grede tapped Robin Thede to host The Fifteen Percent Pledge’s third annual gala, staged in Los Angeles for the first time at Paramount Studios on Saturday, February 3. “We’re so thrilled to bring the gala to L.A. this year to engage more people with our mission to close the racial wealth gap,” said James. The equity advocacy organization she founded to foreground the percentage of shelf space retailers devote to Black-owned brands welcomed First Lady Jill Biden, who took the stage to deliver opening remarks. “We’re all here because we know the threads of social justice are interwoven with economic justice,” Biden said.

Later in the evening, Tracee Ellis Ross received the organization’s Trailblazer Award for her empowering work as an actress and for shepherding her California-based line of textured hair products, Pattern Beauty, from concept to bestseller. “Tracee is a force,” said James. “She’s always been intentional about bringing other people of color along with her. Tracee is a prime example of an entrepreneur advocating for Black-owned brands but also for the fact that these businesses serve more than only Black customers.” By the end of the evening, $350,000 in awards and grants from Shop by Google and Sephora went to other entrepreneurial ventures, including Abena Boamah’s Hanahana Beauty, Chris Echevarria’s Blackstock and Weber, Danielle Martin’s Soap Distillery, and Malaika Jones’ Brown Girl Jane fragrance line.

Actress Erika Alexander was on hand, as were Kelly Rowland, Queen Latifah, Nicole Ari Parker, Laura Harrier, Ashley Graham, Boris Kodjoe, Jordyn Woods, Cookie Johnson, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, Dree Hemingway, and Oakland retailer Sherri McMullen. Also seated at the dinner tables — topped with arrangements dreamed up by Maurice Harris of Echo Park’s Bloom & Plume and an elevated take on chicken and waffles created by Ghetto Gastro — were June Ambrose, Brigette Romanek, Eva Chen, Peter Dundas, Jason Rembert, Salem Mitchell, Sabrina Elba, Kelly Sawyer Patricof, Derek Blasberg, TyLynn Nguyen, Marianna Hewitt, Reign Judge, Hilary Rhoda, Sophia Bush, Nancy Twine, Pia Baroncini, DeAndre Hopkins, Zuri Marley, Chriselle Lim, Sophia Roe, Karen Blanchard, Jenee Naylor, Nasteha and Nuni Yusuf, Kia Davidson, Zerina Akers, Charles Porch, Shiona Turini, Tarana Burke, Angela Rye, Geffri Maya, and Ebony Riley. Throughout the evening, timed to coincide with the launch of Black History Month, guests gathered at Fifteen Shop presented by Citi, a group of pop-ups on the backlot’s city street set where dozens of Black-owned brands — including James’ Brother Vellies, Sami Miro denim, and Brandon Blackwood leather goods — were on offer.


Robin Thede.


Melissa Butler, Monique Rodriguez, Cookie Johnson, Eula Smith, Christiane Pendarvis, Tai Beauchamp, Malaika Jones, Simone I. Smith, Kendra Bracken-Ferguson.


Tracee Ellis Ross.


Erika Alexander, Queen Latifah, Tracee Ellis Ross.


Kelly Rowland, Sabrina Elba, Aurora James, Emma Grede, Ashley Graham, Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert.


LEFT: Sophia Bush, Megalyn Echikunwoke. RIGHT: Chriselle Lim.


Kelly Sawyer Patricof, Yashua Simmons, Giveon.


LEFT: Abena Boamah with her mother. RIGHT: Dree Hemingway.


Afrofuturist jazz group Sun Ra Arkestra.


Jordyn Woods.



February 8, 2024

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