Mom and me at my wedding, May 2014

My mother, Sonjia Brandon, came to this country as an immigrant from Northern Ireland, made her way to Hollywood, and became one of the first female commercial talent agents in the industry. She was a trailblazer, a pioneer, and a force in a traditionally male dominated business.

She was a working single mother, and I was a latchkey child. I watched in awe her work ethic, discipline, and dedication; I had a front seat to her networking and deal-making; and I saw first-hand what it took to build a business from nothing, and grow it into something life-changing. From a tiny two-room office with a couple of clients in the early 70s, she created Commercials Unlimited, an agency representing hundreds of actors, and employing dozens of agents. She started careers, got people jobs, booked thousands of commercials, and made people lots of money. And she worked her ass off to do it, many times at the expense of spending time with me.

Even as a small child, I understood she had a higher calling. She thrived at business. Her devotion to her career gave her purpose and pride. My respect for her started at an early age, and I gave her wide berth to realize her dreams and accomplish her goals.

But many days she was too consumed with the office, and many nights she came home too late or too tired to help me with homework. But even if traditional motherhood wasn’t her strong suit, she did her best to satisfy both her business and maternal roles. She wasn’t your typical mom–she didn’t bake or go to PTA meetings–but she did teach me valuable lessons that a stay-at-home mom could never do. I learned what a woman is capable of in a man’s world. I learned there are no boundaries for females. I learned that women can compete as equals. I learned the importance of self-sufficiency. Although typically not considered “feminine qualities” in her generation, she proved that independence and strength are assets (and highly attractive!).

I’m pretty sure the lessons sunk in. I waited till I was 51 to get married partly because I was so independent and self-sufficient!

On International Women’s Day, I celebrate Sonjia Brandon, and inspiration to all women, to all daughters, and to anyone who dares to dream big and work hard.