Meet our Co-Founder.
- Leigh Blake
Since the age of 15, Leigh Blake has been an advocate, creator and tireless believer of art’s ability to create change in the world. Having worked in book publishing, as a make-up artist, as an artist’s agent, a journalist, and a publicist – all before the age of 24 – Blake befriended the band Talking Heads on their first tour of the UK. A fan and friend, Blake helped market the band in England. The punk movement was in its heyday, and through Talking Heads Leigh was introduced to a scene that included Patti Smith, The Ramones, Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat, and Debbie Harry, to name just a few. She became smitten and has since spent most of her adult life in New York, visiting her native Britain often for inspiration.
Leigh’s film career started in earnest in 1986, as Producer of a short film on the legendary highway Route 66, directed by famed cinematographer Ed Lachman and made for the PBS series “Imagining America.” The film was very well reviewed and Leigh returned to England flush with the experience to head up the music video division at the legendary Palace Pictures. Many years later, and back in America, Leigh would go on to associate produce Larry Clark’s controversial first feature, “Kids” with Gus van Sant and Harvey Weinstein’s company Excalibur, set up especially to market the film because it was that outrageous. This will be a theme through Leigh’s work: controversy and truth.
While her creative career was thriving, AIDS was starting to gravely affect Leigh’s peers in the arts. Leigh turned her creative prowess to making a difference and co-founded the Red Hot Organization with John Carlin, a seminal music industry initiative that raised funds for HIV/AIDS research and education by bringing top artists – such as David Byrne, Madonna, Annie Lennox, U2, George Michael, k.d.lang, Jim Jarmusch, Wim Wenders, Jonathan Demme, Jenny Holzer, and Barbara Kruger – to collaborate on music and television productions. “Red Hot + Blue” was a triumph – the first AIDS benefit produced by the music industry. It was seen in more than 60 countries, raised millions, aired on ABC as the first AIDS benefit on American television, and was nominated for an Emmy. Red Hot + Dance was also very successful and included the legendary supermodel collaboration “Too Funky” by George Michael.
Through marriage Leigh became more involved in Africa. Her experience with the Red Hot Organization, and her travels in Africa, led Leigh to create and executive produce a campaign with her dear friend Bono that featured a star-studded remake of Marvin Gaye’s classic song “What’s Going On” as its cornerstone. More than 40 artists, including Destiny’s Child, Fred Durst, Alicia Keys, Ja Rule, Jennifer Lopez, Nelly, Nelly Furtado, Nas, Diddy, ?uestlove, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Wyclef Jean, Eve, Lil Kim and Christina Aguilera signed on for the remake of the song, as well as participating in a “making of” documentary made in conjunction with Executive Producers Gary Goetzman and Tom Hanks, and their company, Playtone.
With money raised from Red Hot + Blue, Leigh got to work building a clinic in Kenya, in partnership with New York University Medical Centre and Dr Shaffiq Essajee, which has become a model for many other clinics Leigh would go on to build or support all over Africa. The pediatric patients at this clinic inspired Leigh to make access to AIDS treatment her priority. In 2003 Leigh officially founded Keep a Child Alive (KCA), to provide vitally needed antiretroviral medicine to children and families with AIDS in the impoverished world. She engaged the amazing Alicia Keys to the organization, who has worked side-by-side Leigh for many years on this issue.
Under Leigh’s leadership, Keep a Child Alive held a record for firsts. KCA was the first NGO to ask the public for donations to specifically fund AIDS treatment for kids, and created the beautiful documentary “Alicia in Africa: Journey to the Motherland”, which became the first film of its kind to be made available on the Internet for free. KCA pioneered and implemented the first charitable text-message campaign in the United States, which featured on American Idol. Leigh also created the organization’s annual fundraiser, The Black Ball, which has raised millions since it debuted in 2004. She was also Executive Producer of “Keep a Child Alive with Alicia Keys”, which aired on Showtime on Dec 1st 2011, and was Co-Executive Producer of “Blood Brother”, which won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize and the U.S. Documentary Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in January, 2013.
Other organizations founded by Leigh include Arms Around the Child, an organization dedicated to supporting the many forgotten children and AIDS orphans she met on her journeys across Africa and India. And in 2014, alongside Alicia Keys and Erika Santoro, Leigh co-founded the We Are Here Movement, created to engage millennials with critical issues that impact our world, to deliver justice and equality for all.
Leigh, along with her Red Hot Organization partner John Carlin, is now running Fame Currency, an agency that advises artists, corporations and charities on how to engage in 21st Century philanthropy and activism. Fame Currency’s clients include Ford Motor Fund Foundation, UN Women, Alicia Keys, Usher, and The Mother Company.
Leigh Blake now resides in Brooklyn with her 17 year old son, India Blue Sebastian, and two rescue dogs, Stephen Biko and Jackson Pollock.
She is back consulting to Keep a Child Alive, which makes her feel at home and happy with the baby she birthed 13 years ago.