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David and Deborah Alessi discuss their
August 28-September 3, 2014 · Page 9
0av|d aod 0eborah A|ess| d|sc0ss the|r orgao|zat|oo's
0pcom|og Veoet|ao Nasg0erade
By Nancy Yeang
Beverly Hills residents David and Deborah
Alessi are the founders of Face Forward.
Purchase tickets at http://faceforward.tick-
etleap.com for the Venetian Masquerade
on September 13. It will be located at the
Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown
Los Angeles and start at 6:30 p.m.
Tell us about Face Forward.
Deborah: Face Forward rebuilds the
faces for mostly women and children who
have been victims of domestic violence.
We’re open to men too but we’ve never
actually had a male patient. Our patients
are local and worldwide.
David: Not only do we rebuild their
faces but we also rebuild their lives too.
One of the reasons why Face Forward
was started was because I was doing some
reconstructive work for some patients
at Cedars [Sinai Hospital] and they
would just go out back into society. They
wouldn’t really be cured or have their
emotional scars healed. Face Forward is
not only a tool to rebuilt their faces, but
also to get them involved with vocational
rehab and psychological rehab and so
these patients can move forward and heal.
What`s wonderful about Face Forward
is that instead of just rebuilding their faces
and giving them a [helping] hand up, all
these women we’ve worked with so far
have gone to do something great with their
lives. They are spokespeople for domestic
violence, they have their own company, or
have gone back to school.
Deborah: I think a lot of people don’t
understand the need for what we do.
Nobody wants to talk about [domestic vio-
lence]. When you`re in a room in Beverly
Hills, one in four woman [in that room]
have been affected by domestic violence.
It may not be as severe as the cases we
deal with. We’ve dealt with women who
have been set on fire or are acid victims.
I was at the gym [on Tuesday] and I
could tell there was a woman [who`s] eye
socket was punched in. She was very frail
and very timid and I said to my trainer,
'Her boyfriend did that to her.¨ I tried to
start a conversation with her and I could
tell that she was uncomfortable. I knew it
was domestic violence.
It’s so common. It happens with celeb-
rities who probably don’t want to talk
about it, and it makes it harder for us [to
talk about it]. Everything is hidden. These
women, they may not be disfigured, but
they could be living in Beverly Hills or
Santa Monica and living behind a closed
door. The person you love and have chil-
dren with tells you every day that you’re
worthless, and he beats you if you don’t
do something that he thinks you should be
doing. The next level is what happens to
How do you go forward in life? If you
have a bad hair day and your makeup
doesn’t feel right, then you don’t feel
good. How do these
women go forward
every single day and
become achievers in
life when their faces
are disfigured or
they have one eye?
It’s very severe.
The more we talk
about it, the more
women will come
forward and ask for
help. That`s actually
what the message is,
and that’s why it’s
important to have
because when they
speak people listen.
What were your
reasons for starting
Deborah: My first
boyfriend was abu-
sive when I was 17 in Scotland. I feel like
I was very lucky to get out of a bad situ-
ation. I never really talked much about it
because I felt ashamed and I think a lot of
women feel that way. I always wondered
why I put myself in that situation and I
blamed myself like most of the women do.
When I met my husband, [David,] we both
had a feeling to make a difference and
it came together. We decided we should
You mentioned you help patients
locally and worldwide. How do you
reach out to these patients and find
Deborah: Individuals who are involved
in the community, such as workers in
domestic violence shelters or spokeswom-
en for domestic violence, connect with us.
We have a woman coming in October
from Africa and she found us. I don’t
know how she found us, but she found us.
David: Most women who are victims
of domestic violence are survivors of it.
Their abusers will do anything they can to
get back at them so they want to hit them
as much as possible. But through public
relations, people will hear about it.
There was one time we had a brief
interview on Entertainment Tonight for
one minute. We were talking about the
Chris Brown and Rihanna beating and the
domestic violence related to that. Probably
within an hour, we had 100 phone calls
and e-mails from around the country from
women hiding in these little dark corners
who are trying to get help. People will
hear about it and press is one of the ways
we do that.
You mentioned that reconstructive
surgery as well as psychological and
emotional recovery is part of the
program as well. How do you provide
these services to the individuals who
reach out to you?
Deborah: David provides all the sur-
gery pro bono and
we raise the money.
Each patient cost
between $5,000 to
$12,000 per visit
because we raise
the money for after
care, the anesthesi-
ologist, airfare, and
we try to take care
of them full time
while they’re here.
They don`t come
with their families
so they’re on their
We’ll provide the
therapy. We have a
few different part-
ners we work with
and it depends on
each case. Some
are local, some
can Skype with the
patients. The woman
who is coming from
Africa will be in
therapy during the time she is here and in
between her treatment.
Tell us about your careers.
Deborah: I’m from Scotland. I went to
Glasgow University. After that I traveled
the world to the Middle East and I worked
with the royal family [of Bahrain] and
managed their fleet of aircraft and then
from that I did a similar job here in the
United States and then I met my husband.
David: I`m from Washington D.C. I
went to medical school and did my resi-
dency at UCLA and I trained in both
head and neck surgery as well as facial
reconstructive surgery. I have practiced in
Beverly Hills since 1989.
How did you find yourselves in
Deborah: I like warm weather.
David: It`s so funny. Here you have a
girl from Scotland and if she’s around any
kind of cold weather she’s so unhappy
with it and I have no idea how she even
grew up in Scotland.
Deborah: It does not appeal to me any-
David: When I was a resident in medical
school I was figuring out what I wanted
to do. I went to medial school in Detroit,
and I was accepted into the University of
Virginia’s neurosurgery program and at
the same time I got accepted into UCLA`s
head and neck and facial reconstruction
program. I thought to myself I like both of
them quite a bit but I think I’d like to see
palm trees instead of insidious trees, and so
that’s what brought me out here.
What are other events that Face
Forward puts on throughout the year?
Deborah: We usually do local events,
but the big event once a year is our annual
gala coming up on September 13, which
takes six months to put together.
Tell us more about the gala.
Deborah: The theme of the evening is,
'Venetian Masquerade.¨ We have many,
many surprises from the moment you
arrive to the moment you leave. During
the whole event you’ll feel like you’re in
Venice. The most exciting part of the eve-
ning is that Estelle is performing and I`m
super excited to see her myself.
We will have an amazing live auction.
We have over $250,000 in auction items
donated that myself and other board mem-
bers have brought in. We’ve found local
sponsors and we have alcohol. We’re
trying to have as much as we can donated
so that all the money we raise go towards
We have a fundraising goal of $500,000.
Last year we were able to raise $300,000,
and every year we’ve gone up. I’d like to
aim high and achieve high, so I’ll set my
goals high for this year. If there’s anyone
who would like to buy a ticket for a table
let me know.
David: Being run by a Scot, this is the
most fun party you`ll ever go to. Last year
our main performer was Macy Gray and
we had to hire a second band because
people were drinking and dancing until
two in the morning. It’s just the most fun
gala you can ever go to.
Deborah: Every year I don`t want the
topic to be dark at the gala. I want to
celebrate life, and that’s why we have the
theme, 'Venetian Masquerade.¨ You`re
hiding behind a mask and you come out
because we want to celebrate life after
“These women, they may
not be disfigured, but
they could be living in
Beverly Hills or Santa
Monica and living
behind a closed door.
The person you love
and have children with
tells you every day that
you’re worthless, and he
beats you if you don’t do
something that he thinks
you should be doing”
--Face Forward founder