Two women smile for the camera outside. There is a large pot of flowers behind them.

Janora McDuffie-Ryan ’99 (on left) with mentee Tyla Gomez ’20.

Janora McDuffie-Ryan ’99 is the co-owner of Cashmere and Gold Entertainment in Long Beach, California, as well as the podcast host for The Urban Come Up.

I was thrilled to be asked to mentor this past year because that meant there was a current scholar who had off-the-beaten-path dreams to be an actor, just as I did. I not only thought of it as an opportunity to give the advice I wish someone had given to me as a college student, but also to reconnect with the University and give back to the Morehead-Cain Program. What the mentoring experience turned out to be, however, was so much more.

Over the course of the academic year, I grew and evolved just as much as my mentee, Tyla Gomez ’20. I realized that, in fact, “giving advice” was the least important part of the relationship. I learned instead how to be a better listener and how to ask better questions. The experience taught me how to find compassion instead of judgment and how to leave my ego at the door and trust the process.

Tyla graduated during the coronavirus pandemic and has since moved to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career. Even if it was only an ounce of our mentorship year together that gave her the courage to take that leap, I am humbled and honored to have been a part of it.

Rising juniors and seniors are eligible to participate in the Morehead-Cain Mentoring Program. For more information, contact Emily Olson, the alumni engagement manager for the Foundation, at