Michelle Kydd Lee is the Chief Innovation Officer for Creative Artists Agency (CAA), the world’s leading entertainment and sports agency, with offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, Nashville, and Beijing. In this role, she provides strategic leadership that builds upon the agency’s renowned culture of collaboration, excellence, and client service, and crafts state-of-the-art approaches to empower, develop, and inspire employees across the company. This includes creating growth opportunities for CAA’s people and culture, inside and outside the agency.
P: What is one piece of advice that you still try to incorporate into your daily life, either at home or at work?
M: Don’t let a crisis go to waste. Make the most of the current circumstance. The biggest lesson, which is never more obvious than now, is having health means EVERYTHING. Lastly, be a good friend and good neighbor. How we connect at the time of distance is key.
P: With so many worthwhile causes to choose from, how does someone who has never been involved in philanthropy get started in giving back?
M: I always ask people to think about the thing that makes them lose sleep at night. That is a great motivator. For some that is climate change, for others it is our homeless crisis, for others the impact of the pandemic on children. Whatever moves you the most is the thing to invest you time, talent or treasure.
P: What woman in entertainment and/or philanthropy inspires you and why?
M: MacKenzie Scott is showing the world what it means to share boldly and trust that the experts doing the work in the field should be given the resources to do great work to help others. 6 Billion in one year. No strings attached. And she is just getting started!
P: What are some local Los Angeles-based causes that are important to you?
M: Those serving our most vulnerable with the greatest hope – our children. Supporting our public school students, and their teachers as they navigate this incredibly challenging time is an investment worth making. Communities in Schools – supports case workers embedded in school sites, Donors Choose supports teachers in classrooms, Share our Strength – ensures that students don’t go hungry – just to name a few.
P: What celebrity has had the most lasting impression on you and why?
M: I have several, but to name a few…
Kirk and Anne Douglas were active philanthropists and activists with a spirit that was timeless. The joy they brought to the playgrounds that they personally funded and attended the ribbon cutting ceremonies to give kids safe places to play has never left me.
Jane Fonda is a warrior queen! She is a hero for our planet and people. She has a bravery that I am in awe of and I am deeply moved by her.
Oprah Winfrey’s generosity is as big as the sky. She gives in so many ways. I am always taken by her genuine curiosity about others and she is the best listener I have ever met.
P: What gives you hope with the next generation(s)?
M: Our young people are focused and empowered. They are demanding systems change. They know that there aren’t any quick fixes to the challenges that face them and they are determined. I dig that about them.
P: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in the earlier years of your career?
M: The CAA Foundation was the first of its kind in our business. So the challenge was being new and people didn’t understand what we were doing. There was a fair amount of explaining why this was important for business. It seems almost quaint now because most businesses have corporate social responsibility built into their business plans, but back in 1995 it was a rarity. We are thrilled that others joined in the work.
P: Did you ever have moments early in your career or when starting at CAA when people didn’t take you seriously because you did not come from a traditional “agency” background or because you’re a woman?
M: I was young and full of optimism. I used all those as advantages. Still do………
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