Voted "One of the Most Significant Women in Entertainment" alongside Halle Berry and Oprah Winfrey, Dirrty Records Founder/CEO Lunden De'Leon embodies the ultimate rags to riches dream. The 31-year-old actress, model and businesswoman was recently hailed by Entrepreneur Magazine as "One of America's Youngest Self-Made Millionaires," as well as featured in Forbes, Business Week, Black Enterprise, Marie Claire and Women's Wall Street.
Former Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn proclaimed February 7 "Lunden De'Leon Day," honoring this inspiring female entrepreneur for her contributions to her adopted city. Lunden has also been inducted into the Caribbean Hall of Fame alongside such legends as Bob Marley and Sidney Poitier. Lunden was gracious enough to take the time to answer some of Della Donna Editor April Boland's questions.
AB: You are a successful actress, model and record label CEO. What was your main career goal originally, and how did you come to have so many diverse opportunities?
LD: My dad was the lead singer in a gospel band. The first time I saw him onstage I knew I wanted to be a part of the music industry. While in college, I modeled for a number of magazines, which eventually led to various movie roles. After college, I met some great local bands who didn't have a record deal so I decided to write up a business plan and find investors, which is how I started Dirrty Records.
AB: Tell us about your background.
LD: I was born in Barbados and grew up in Marion, South Carolina. Growing up was tough. I didn't live in the projects, but I did live right across the street from them. During the summer, I worked in the tobacco field to bring in extra money. One summer I found a job at Burger King, saved $200, and when the time was right, I jumped the Greyhound bus to Los Angeles. It was hard leaving my family but I knew I had to get away from my hometown. I used every stumbling block as a stepping stone.
AB: What do you consider your crowning achievement?
LD: I recently started the Lunden De'Leon Foundation, which is an organization that supports various children's charities. Being able to give back to my community is my crowning achievement.
AB: You are a role model for countless young women. If you could give them one piece of advice, what would it be?
LD: Well, I have two: Take advantage of yourself before letting others take advantage of you. Also, surround yourself with people who support you and believe in your dream.
AB: Who were/are your role models? Who/what inspires you?
LD: My dad was way before his time and played by his own rules. His strength and determination inspired me to say goodbye to fear and own my success.
AB: What are you currently working on?
LD: I recently built a recording studio down in South Carolina as well as a hip-hop division of the label called Dirrty Records South. The first artist on Dirrty Records South is a 19-year old singer named Willie D. I want to give kids down there an opportunity, as well as a chance to be heard.
AB: What plans do you have for the future/upcoming projects?
LD: To continue my charitable work.