The fourth annual Diane von Furstenberg Awards celebrated outstanding women for their leadership, strength and courage in their fields
By Helaina Hovitz
Despite an injured host’s broken arm—a casualty of skiing in Aspen—the fourth annual Diane von Furstenberg Awards went ahead last Friday, honoring women who have demonstrated leadership, strength, and courage in their respective fields, helping to advance the lives of less fortunate young women and children. The event was held in the United Nations, in a sweepingly large room bathed in pink and purple lights. Of course, von Furstenberg’s arm sling featured a pattern of her own design.
Draping herself across a white leather couch and leaning back on her arm, Diane von Furstenberg took the hand of each reporter and leaned in close with a warmth indicative of lifelong friendship.
“When you start to hear the women speak tonight, you will understand what tonight is about: a chain of love,” she said. “I’m using what little success I have to give (the award recipients) exposure.”
Somebody’s being modest.
Though she didn’t select the winners of the Awards herself—there are committees and the public votes for that—she did have to make a tough choice that day.
“I was supposed to have surgery tomorrow morning at 8 a.m., but I canceled it,” she said. “It was the best decision I ever made. I’m going to drive to the country tomorrow instead of the hospital.”
The event was the perfect end to Newsweek & The Daily Beast’s Women in the World Summit, co-hosted by DVF and Newsweek/Daily Beast editor Tina Brown, whose most recent, headline-making female empowerment effort was introducing her housekeeper to Oprah.
Among the evening’s five award winners was She’s the First founder Tammy Tibbetts, Andeisha Farid, founder of the non-profit Afghan Child Education and Care Organization, Sunitha Krishnan, co-founder of Prajwala, an organization that fights sex trafficking in India, supermodel philanthropist Natalia Vodianova, and Robin Roberts, receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Farid spent her childhood living in refugee camps outside of Afghanistan, Krishnan was gang raped by eight men at the age of fifteen and went on to found Prajwala, an institution that assists trafficked women and girls in finding shelter and helps educate of thousands of children with HIV/AIDS, and Tibbets quit her job after a trip to Liberia inspired her to dedicate her life to educating young women in developing countries through cupcake bake sales.
Brown announced in her speech that when she texted von Furstenberg to find out if she would still make it to the awards despite her injury, Diane texted back “I will match the bravery of the women we’re honoring.’”
One of the brightest lights in the room was supermodel philanthropist Natalia Vodianova, whose father abandoned her mother when she was a toddler. She was nine years old when she started selling fruit on streets of Russia to support her family and endured abuse by her mother’s boyfriends.
“By 15, of course, she had also enrolled in modeling agencies and became one of the super top models,” said von Furstenberg.
Vodianova’s Naked Heart Foundation has built over 100 playgrounds in Russia.
“She plans to build 500 more,” DVF went on, introducing her as, “my friend, my pseudo daughter, my prodigy.”
“I am going to be very uninspiring, and I have to read, because if I speak from the heart, we’ll be here for two hours,” Vodianova said.
Robin Roberts, who returned to Good Morning America after a five month leave of absence to receive a bone marrow transplant, announced that she had just finished a week of routine maintenance tests, and her doctor said she’s doing great.
“I’m feeling aiiight!” a chipper Roberts exclaimed.
Glowing, dancing, and beaming even when the cameras were off, Roberts was in fine form as she accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Gayle King, who informed the audience about their monthly “Robin Roberts lunches.”
“We talk about the usual, who’s boinking who, what we’re going to do about Afghanistan,” said King. “And at the end, we’d be like, ‘Oh, how are you, Robin?’”
Also among the presenters was Gabrielle Douglas, U.S. Women’s Gymnast and gold medal winner. When asked if she’d done any mentoring or volunteer/charity work, she answered. “I’m still looking into that.”
“But I’m up for it. I love who I am today, helping girls believe in themselves,” she added.
Paloma Faith, whose new album dropped several months ago, performed at the ceremony. Afterward, when asked what makes a woman successful, she answered, “A woman without a boyfriend, which is me right now,” eyes wide, making a shocked face at herself and laughing uproariously.
In terms of her own charity work, the singer said that while she hasn’t done any volunteering or mentoring herself yet, she does lots of charity work by performing at benefits, and is always “mentoring Americans.”
Gloria Steinem, who has recently been criticizing City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s delay of the sick-day vote, recently told the Times that “Making life fairer for all women seems more important than breaking a barrier for one woman.”
“Why is this an important award? Because it comes with money,” Steinem said on Friday. “Not a lot of awards do. And the most important thing about giving money is not to do it up high and pretend you know.”
Created in 2010 by the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation to support women working to transform the lives of other women, five $50,000 grants are given in support of the organization with which they are affiliated.
“Is Diane listening in her efforts to help women?” Steinem was asked.
“I hope so,” she answered, adding that she didn’t like the idea of mentors.
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