Michaela Ivri Mendelsohn is a transgender activist, public speaker, and businesswoman with over forty years of entrepreneurial leadership experience. She is currently the CEO of Pollo West Corp, one of the largest franchisees for El Pollo Loco restaurant in the Western Region of the United States. She founded the California Transgender Workplace Program to promote trans-friendly job conditions and passionately advocates for transwomen in the workplace through her work with the California Restaurant Association. Her personal mission is to help transwomen find employment, social acceptance and encourage them on the path to raise families of their own.
She was recently the first transgender contestant in the Ms. Senior California Pageant and worked with Jenji Kohan as a consultant on Orange is the New Black in the development of Laverne Cox’s character.
As a writer and public speaker, Michaela speaks all over the state on LGBT issues ranging from bullying to homophobia and transphobia. She was the Keynote Speaker at the Transgender Employment Empowerment Conference. She has spoken to over one hundred groups including Museum of Tolerance, UCLA, Keck USC Medical Center, Pepperdine University, and Santa Monica College.
Her autobiographical play Making Michaela was produced by the Celebration Theater as a staged reading and will be developed into a full production in early 2016.
Michaela was born in New York City, and moved to Southern California as a child, where she has lived since. She was married for over thirty years and is the proud parent of three, grown children. In 2008, she legally changed her name to Michaela Irvi Mendelsohn and her gender to female. She now lives with her partner, Carmel and their two-year old son, Isadore.
She is honored and proud to be the first transwoman on the board of The Trevor Project and looks forward to contributing in every way she can, supporting the LGBT community in California and around the country.