Society / Profiles

Outspoken Dallas Philanthropist Lael Brodsky Shares the Causes Closest to Her Heart

And Takes Us Back to the '80s in All Her Shoulder-Padded Glory

BY // 02.03.21

The hands-down best party I’ve ever attended took place in June 2018. Themed “The Prom I Wish I Had,” it celebrated the birthdays of a few ’80s obsessed souls formed by that era. Today’s PaperCity Bomb girl Lael Brodsky numbered among those six — along with Brian Bolke, Gonzalo Bueno, Suzanne Droese, Piper Wyatt, and Lucy Wrubel. I dubbed them the Style Council — wink-wink to another ’80s new wave band.

Held at the Dallas Country Club, every detail was perfect, from the Drakkar Noir cologne and Binaca spray in the bathrooms to a shout-out video to attendees via video from the one-and-only Billy Idol.

Lael is one of those women who might appear easy to read and to know. After all, she’s politically active, community minded, and outspoken on a variety of causes she passionately supports. You may have read a feature about her and her entrepreneur husband, Peter Brodsky, who has worked tirelessly on the revitalization of the Red Bird Mall development in South Dallas. Maybe you’ve seen her picture at numerous fundraisers.

But when I ask her if there’s a commonly held misconception about her, she says that people assume she’s the life of the party — but she’s actually quite shy and reserved. Like many who are called upon to represent charities, she rises to the occasion and will take her time at the podium. But left to her own devices, she would rather be at home with a good book or a glass of wine with her husband.

She and Peter also have a full brood that is slowly leaving the nest. The oldest, Jacob, serves in the U.S. army; middle girl Katie just started her freshman year at Syracuse; and their youngest, Luke, is a sophomore at Greenhill.

Another little-known fact is that Lael went back to school and received her MS in neuroscience. When I found out, it felt like a bit of a curveball. After all, one of her last working positions was in the designer section of Neiman Marcus. Why, I ask, did she decide to scale that academic mountain.

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“As a mom,” she says, “I found that each stage my kids were in, each obstacle they faced, was always so tied up in a complex web of hormones, brain development and emotions. I was so interested in what was going on inside their heads — and all people’s heads — that I decided to go back to school to study it. That, and I am just a big old nerd.”

When asked which charities are nearest to her heart these days, Lael says she’s been working with organizations focused on inequality, including Innocence Project Texas and Aunt Bette’s Food Pantry.

“It’s so unfair,” she says. “There’s so much inequality — racial, economic. . . Some days it rolls off my back, and sometimes I have to take to my bed.”

She is so interested in learning more that as we get up from our latest coffee catch-up, she tells me that the following week, she’s heading to Selma, Alabama, with some girlfriends (her liberal posse) to visit the Old Depot Museum.

Lael Brodsky and Kyle Rovinsky, 1985

Approximate date of this photo.
September 1985.

The occasion.
The Sweet Sixteen party for a Greenhill classmate. I was in my element and dancing with abandon.

What you were wearing.
Pretty sure the jacket was my mom’s that she bought at Lou Lattimore. I loved it so much because — shoulder pads!

What price fashion.
My first job out of college was in advertising, and I spent every penny I had on a camel DKNY suit (with shoulder pads!). I I wore it until it was threadbare and the shoulder pads had no more height. Otherwise, I’d still be wearing it today.

Why this is a Bomb.com picture.
I still think of myself as exactly the same girl that I was in this picture. Everyone should stay smiling, dancing, and dressed all in white like a New Wave Suffragette.

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