Kindness – an interview featuring Leslie Noel, Founding Artistic Director, The Peter Pan Foundation

Leslie Noel is the Founding Artistic Director of the Peter Pan Foundation. She has 20+ years of experience in teaching, directing, performing, playwriting, songwriting, philanthropy and the performing arts. An award-winning leader, Noel started the Peter Pan Foundation in January of 2007. Her passion for helping others and her nurturing, fun-loving, energetic-yet-calming personality have helped to take the Peter Pan Foundation from just a handful of participants to thousands. A two-time Tony award nominee for education, Noel has also received such honors as the Jefferson Award for Public Service, Diablo Magazine’s Threads Of Hope Award, the Comcast Bay Area News Group Hometown Hero Award, and the AT&T Community Spotlight Award. Noel is responsible for the overall leadership and direction of the Peter Pan Foundation.


Along with running The Peter Pan Foundation, Leslie is also an active singing teacher, performer, and playwright in the Bay Area. She has run her private vocal studio, LeslieNoel Studios, for 19 years. Under her guidance, students learn how to sing and perform onstage, but also how to build the kind of confidence offstage that will allow them to better understand themselves and how they can positively impact the world around them.

Onstage, Leslie is best known for ‘She’ in her original musical production of “My Own Fairytale” which made its workshop debut performances in Berkeley at The Marsh and Freight & Salvage and

Emma in Jekyll and Hyde (this production won the East Bay Critic’s Award). Her professional singing career began in Italy, where she studied under Lorenzo Malfatti and Franc D’Ambrosio.

On a personal note, after undergoing a severe, near-death illness at age 17, and losing a dear friend and student to a car crash in the summer of 2006, Noel turned down an offer to pursue Broadway, and chose to pursue her true passion of philanthropy. Noel started the Peter Pan Foundation to combine her love for all people and the performing arts, with her desire to help those with life-limiting illnesses and disabilities. Noel quickly found that her ability to inspire others is truly a gift, and has spent the last 20 years inspiring others to use their talents and energy to make positive changes in the world, also helping them to fight negativity, depression, substance abuse, suicide, and just ‘bad days’. This passion has caused the Peter Pan Foundation to grow into an organization-and lifestyle, dedicated to helping others.

Q. What does kindness mean to you?

A. Kindness means everything. 

Q. How are you sharing 21 days of kindness? 

A. My nonprofit foundation, The Peter Pan Foundation, has pledged to join our partner, Born This Way Foundation, in spreading kindness for the month of September-and beyond! Kindness is a HUGE part of the PPF. We strive to inspire everyone to be kind to themselves and to everyone around them. Our mission is to spread love and light to others; through music, theatre, kindness, laughter… really through any and all mediums. We are grateful for any opportunity to spread our love and light on an even larger scale! We will be participating in the #BeKind21 September calendar-with our very own specially designed list. Our list was created by our teen council, the Bay Area Magic Makers (BAMM Squad), which consists of teens and youth who are constantly striving to fill our community-and world-with kindness! We will also be hosting a Kindness event at our PPF home on Thursday, September 19th. At our event, we will be giving attendees the opportunity to participate in activities based on the four pillars which hold up the Born This Way Foundation; KINDNESS (we will be making video testimonies of kindness), LOVE (everyone will have the chance to write love letters-to themselves, friends, strangers….), BRAVERY (this will involve a trust fall with others), and ACCEPTANCE (where you will have a conversation with a stranger, learn your differences, and then have the chance to learn to accept them!)… We are truly beyond excited for this month of Kindness, and are grateful to have EVERY month be a month filled with kindness, love, and light.

 Q. What will you do to share kindness today?  

A. I love to share kindness every day!! I make it a habit to find the good in people always-and to share it with them. This started in my early twenties… I couldn’t tell you exactly what day it was-or even which year, but I’ll never forget the moment or this story:

I was walking along the street, and up ahead I spotted another woman. I couldn’t stop staring at her. She was noticeably larger in size, but that wasn’t why I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. It was her eyes. They were striking with her sweater; really quite stunning. We both continued walking towards each other, and when we finally met face-to-face on the sidewalk, she said something quite abrupt to me: “Well… aren’t you going to tell me to move my fat a$$ out of the way so you can walk by?! Isn’t that why you’ve been staring at me??” I was very much taken aback by her aggressiveness, so I told her the truth: “No”, I said, smiling, “Actually, I couldn’t help but notice how incredible your eyes look with that sweater you’re wearing… that should definitely go on the ‘date night’ side of your closet.” I smiled and went to pass her, but she wouldn’t let me. Instead, she burst into happy tears and grabbed me, enveloping me in a warm and grateful hug. Then she went on to tearfully say: “Two days ago, I lost my entire family. My parents, my sister, her husband, and their kids… all gone. They were traveling on a family vacation and I didn’t want to go because everyone says awful things to me when I travel, because of my size. But now they’re all gone. Without me. And I’m here alone. And what you just said to me… well, it’s the first time I’ve smiled since I lost them. I was going to jump, friend.” Those words struck me right in the heart… I WAS going to jump… I squeezed her back with all of the love in my heart, pulled away, and asked “and now?…” “And now I’m going to add more periwinkle to my closet.” It was a simple, sweet answer that translated to, “I’m going to live.” That conversation changed my life. It reminded me of the incredible power of our words… not just our harsh or negative words of judgement that we’re taught not to say… but of the KIND words we often think but are often too shy to share. We fear that speaking up and saying kind words will be taken the wrong way, or embarrassing, or we just don’t think to say them. What I learned is the power of what can happen when we DO. We can change lives-we can say them. We can fill the world with positivity and light. So I share kindness every day. I call periwinkle “the color of kindness” now. Because that woman needed a little kindness-because we all need a lot more “periwinkle”.

Q. Favorite example(s) of how others can share kindness: 

A. Again, kind words are the most important to share… words that are true and positive and help create connection. Kind actions, too, are beautiful and meaningful. It can be as simple as leaving a positive post-it note on a car, and as powerful as listening to a friend who needed it more than you may ever know! 

Q. Today I celebrated…  

A. Health. Today I felt strong physically, which tends to partner with my mental strength. 

Q. I am grateful for…  

A. My life. Every day. I have almost lost my life many times in my life, when my physical health has challenged me. And I am very grateful for every moment I spend on our planet, and every moment I can continue to be myself, and to define what that means to me and to the world around me.

Q. Someone I would like to recognize for showing me kindness. 

A. My mom. Mahhhy. For always. I cannot think of an unkind word, action, or moment towards me from her beautiful soul. She is the most kind human I know, and I am in constant awe of her generous spirit.

Q. What I do to appreciate myself  

A. I stand up for myself. I don’t let others define me. And I don’t let others control me. I give myself the gift of the freedom to be myself, unapologetically, every single day.

Q. I am so glad that I get to…  

A. Spend my life helping others, and inspiring our youth to help make the world a better place. I get to spread love and light every single day.

Q. What do you do when your day doesn’t go as planned?  

A. I take a deep breath, I turn on Celtic music, I meditate, and I try to ground myself in remembering the joy of being alive-even on a bad day.

Q. I am inspired by… 

A. The idea that we CAN-and WILL-actually make the world better. There are opportunities every single day to help, inspire, change, grow, cherish, and better the world… To know that all have a chance to be part of that-that is truly inspiring.

Q. A dream I am currently focused on fulfilling is… 

A. My personal dream coming true-in November-is that I’m getting married! <3

My constant dream is for absolutely everyone to realize the beauty and importance of their own presence on the planet. Each of us was given the chance at life; the chance to take our own personal us-shaped space in the universe and make something incredible out of everything that we are and everything that we have. We can use our talents and skills and passions and hearts to better ourselves-to better it all. Every day, I am working towards this dream. And every time I see it come true for someone-every time I witness someone realizing their own importance, it is beyond beautiful and inspiring.

Have you signed onto the Channel Kindness Challenge? Check out how the Born This Way Foundation is leading #BeKind21 and enter to win tickets to a Lady Gaga Show.

Find out more about Leslie Noel and her work. 


The Peter Pan Foundation

Leslie Noel @myphotographicmemories


The Peter Pan Foundation @PPF

Leslie Noel Studios