denise dubarry

These Women Mean Business

The 2017 Women in Business awards, a Palm Springs Life event, annually honors three of the most dynamic Coachella Valley businesswomen.

Maggie Downs Attractions

denise dubarry
Denise DuBarrry Hay believes women are like diamonds — precious, multifaceted, and formed through extreme pressure.
Denise DuBarry Hay, Keynote Speaker

Actress and entrepreneur Denise DuBarry Hay believes women are like diamonds — precious, multifaceted, and formed through extreme pressure.

“We all have these facets to our lives that make us unique and rare,” she says.

That analogy can apply to the sparkling DuBarry Hay herself, since all her endeavors — from actress to film producer, yogini to business owner — seem to be a cut above the rest.

DuBarry Hay will be the keynote speaker at Palm Springs Life’s fifth annual Women in Business awards luncheon May 19 at The Ritz Carlton. The event celebrates the desert’s best and brightest business leaders. DuBarry Hay says her talk will focus on achieving work–life balance, something she understands as a successful professional and entrepreneur.

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As an actress, Denise DuBarry had a starring role in Black Sheep Squadron, a military drama that aired on TV from 1976 to 1978, along with significant roles in Charlie’s Angels, The Love Boat, and Trapper John, M.D.

When DuBarry and then-husband actor Gary Lockwood created a production company, she attended film school to explore every facet of life behind the camera. The work allowed DuBarry to flex her creative and business muscles simultaneously.

“I had prior experience working with my father, who is a businessman and entrepreneur, so I had firsthand experience with accounting and bookkeeping,” she says. “But making films got both sides of the brain going.”

DuBarry’s career took a new trajectory in the 1980s when she and a friend produced a video called Play the Piano Overnight. To sell the video, another friend suggested DuBarry make “one of those info commercials,” paid programming in a format that was then in its infancy.

The success of the video, including a Billboard Music Award for best music instruction, led DuBarry to form a company with second husband William Hay. Their company, Thane International, markets and distributes through platforms like TV infomercials and a home shopping channel, selling billions of dollars in fitness, housewares, and health and beauty products. DuBarry Hay served as chief creative officer for the company until 2005.


Keynote speaker Denise DuBarry Hay’s entrepåreneurial spirit will set the tone for the event.

At the same time DuBarry Hay was building a global direct-response empire, she was also finding balance through a dedicated yoga practice. She founded Malibu Yoga and, today, owns Bikram Yoga Plus —Coachella Valley.

“I’m just a curious person, so I never want to stop and limit my horizons,” she says.

She continues to produce films, including 2017’s Do It or Die, based on the real-life kidnapping of a valley socialite, which premiered at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and Grow House with Snoop Dogg, which was slated for a spring 2017 release.

“I like making things happen. A lot of people sit back and say, ‘Wouldn’t this be a good idea?’ but very few people execute those ideas,” she says. “Once you’ve had success in certain areas, once you’ve seen things completed, it becomes addictive. You want to keep pushing through and achieving more.”

Ann Mostofi, Honoree

Whenever Ann Mostofi interviews job-seekers for nursing positions, she always asks what brought them to the field. “If they tell me they heard nurses made a good salary or they just stumbled into it, that person is not a nurse. When someone tells me ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I can’t put my finger on it,’ that person is not a nurse,” she says. “Nursing is a rich helping profession, and people are called to it.”

In that way, Mostofi says, her personal story of more than 40 years of health care experience aligns with every other nurse’s origin story.

“Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to help people,” she says. “I’m just one of those people.”

Now in her role as chief nursing officer at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, the 487-bed general acute care hospital founded in 1969 and named for President Dwight Eisenhower, Mostofi has the opportunity to help more people than ever before.

Eisenhower Medical Center’s chief nursing officer, Ann Mostofi, believes that building a great team has to start with great hiring practices.

“The rewarding thing is going home each day knowing that someone needed you,” she says. “And the opportunity to aid people is something that is there every single day.”

Mostofi says her path to the desert is similar to the one most people take: She and her husband were living in Chicago and purchased a home in the desert. One winter, when her husband had a knee replacement and fretted about walking on ice and snow, he decided to stay in the desert for his recovery.

“Then I couldn’t get him back,” she says with a laugh. “My only choice was to come out here and join him.”

Mostofi’s days involve making rounds and spending time with nurses and caregivers in every department. She also boasts about Eisenhower Medical Center’s philosophy of shared decision-making, which means a lot of time is also spent listening to staff representatives from different departments, team building, and answering questions.

“Credibility, communication, and transparency are all very important to me,” she says. “I want everyone to understand what the vision is, and I want them to be able to contribute to that vision.”

Making a team excel starts with good hiring practices.

“That’s where everything begins,” Mostofi says. “Hire for attitude and for the leadership qualities for which you are looking rather than hiring for experience or for a certain skill set. It’s important to look for leaders to complement the leadership already in place.”

As for what helped her become a leader in the field, Mostofi says, “Every successful woman is able to look at someone who gave [her] opportunities and who was there when they failed.”

That person for Mostofi was a nurse named Shirley.

“It’s important to look for leaders to complement the leadership already in place.”Ann Mostofi

“She had confidence in me. She recommended me for positions, she gave me experiences, and she made sure that when I failed, I wasn’t devastated,” Mostofi recalls. “I hope that I can do that for other young women and young men.”

As the leader of an enormous team, she holds her faith in each caregiver like a beacon.

“I believe in people. When they are called upon to give to the organization and to the greater good, they will produce results,” she states very definitely. “And you know what? I have never been disappointed.”

Paula Simonds, Honoree

A wooden sign propped behind the desk of Paula Simonds at Desert Cancer Foundation says, “Work hard. Have fun. Make a difference.”

That could also be the personal mantra of Simonds, who has served as executive director of the foundation since 2014.

“I wouldn’t be in this line of work if it was just a job,” she says. “To me there has to be a greater impact. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to really make a difference, and to hopefully lead others to nonprofit work.”

With a background in English and education, Simonds moved to the desert 21 years ago from her native Modesto. She was the community program director for YMCA of the Desert for several years before the position at Desert Cancer Foundation opened up. It was an immediate fit.

Simonds knows firsthand how cancer makes dramatic ripples through a community. Her own mother is a breast cancer survivor. Her aunt didn’t survive cancer and left four children behind.


Paula Simonds of the Desert Cancer Foundation understands how lives can be altered by cancer.

“So many people have been touched by cancer, and I understand what that’s like,” she says. “Our work here isn’t about offering a handout, but a hand up when people need it most.”

Founded in 1994, Desert Cancer Foundation was created to help Coachella Valley cancer patients who are underinsured, lack insurance, or don’t have the funds to pay for medical care during treatment. The nonprofit makes this happen through scores of volunteers and just four staff members, with Simonds at the helm.

“I have a position and a title, but it’s just about getting the work done,” she says. “I prefer to stay behind the scenes, boots on the ground, getting my hands dirty.”

Her business isn’t one of routine, because every day there’s another event, another new client to help, another opportunity to work with the hospitals to facilitate cancer treatments. (The foundation received negotiated rates at local hospitals and centers, so every dollar donated can be turned into $10 worth of cancer treatment.)

It’s also not a job that can be left at the office.

“You can’t Bubble Wrap your heart. Yes, this is a business, but at the same time we’re dealing with people’s lives,” Simonds says. “There are days I go home and I can’t stop thinking about what happened that day. The trade-off is that I have a job where I can put service above self and make a real impact in the world.”

Simonds shakes her head and blushes when she realizes she’s talking about herself. When she catches herself, she gestures out her office door toward one of her colleagues, who has been answering the perpetually ringing phone.

“I’m honored to receive this recognition, but it’s not about me — any success is because of who I am fortunate to work alongside with and our countless volunteers,” Simonds says. “You can’t go it alone.”

Susan Davis, Honoree

Returning from an experiential art show in Colombia, Susan Davis had just disembarked at Palm Springs International Airport when she stood at the top of the escalator on her way to baggage claim and had a moment.

From that vantage point, she could see the stately mountains, tall palm trees gently swaying in the breeze, and windmills in the distance.

“We could do site-specific art here,” she thought.

In that moment, Desert X was born.


Annenberg editorial director Susan Davis has spent her career disproving the glass ceiling.

Davis fashioned that spark of inspiration into an acclaimed biennial featuring 16 works installed throughout the Coachella Valley. The majority of the art is staged outside, showcasing every facet of the desert — from a bomb shelter by Will Boone located beneath the dusty desert floor to Tavares Strachan’s fractured neon letters that spell “I am” when viewed from above.

“My thought was that a different group of people are going to come here to see the art and see the rest of the valley. Artists coming to the valley are going to see what makes this place special,” Davis says. “And residents like myself are going to fall in love with the valley in a way they haven’t before.”

A Brooklyn native and now the editorial director for The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, Davis has built a career around making the arts accessible to the public.

“I was always struck by the fact that people seemed intimidated by contemporary art galleries,” she says. “Even when I was doing my master’s degree [in art history], I had colleagues who were only interested in the Renaissance and Impressionism. Come to the year 1865, they were done.

“But if you’re living in 2017, you should know what’s going on in 2017.”

Featuring some of the world’s most exciting and innovative contemporary artists, Desert X has surpassed expectations, garnering praise from international and national media and local residents. Davis attributes that to a very specific instinct.

“I’m good at taking the temperature of the public,” she says. “That’s something in my heart and not something I’ve trained for, but it’s a valuable skill.”

“Whatever I’ve accomplished, I’ve accomplished as an entrepreneur where I didn’t have to answer to … some kind of patriarchal system. There isn’t a glass ceiling when you answer to yourself.”Susan Davis

As she looks to the future for Desert X and her own career trajectory, there’s no telling where it might go.

“Whatever I’ve accomplished, I’ve accomplished as an entrepreneur where I didn’t have to answer to a boss or some kind of patriarchal system,” Davis says. “There isn’t a glass ceiling when you answer to yourself.”