Women

04.06.13

A Stirring Conclusion to Women in the World

At the annual DVF Awards at the United Nations, the annual Women in the World conference came to a rapturous close.

At an intimate party Friday night at the United Nations, fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg hosted her namesake DVF Awards, celebrating women who inspire other women. The guest list included feminist Gloria Steinem, actress Olivia Wilde, Oscar-nominee Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), and Vogue creative director Grace Coddington, who chatted with a swarm of fans. The event concluded the fourth annual Women in the World Summit, co-hosted by Newsweek/Daily Beast editor Tina Brown and von Furstenberg.

Brown remarked that von Furstenberg, who wore a cast, had recently broken her arm in three different places from a skiing accident. Brown said: “When I expressed concern … she immediately texted me back, ‘I will match the bravery of the women we’re honoring.’”

English singer Paloma Faith played a round of songs from her album Fall to Grace. “I’m a strong, avid feminist and I know the fear in people’s eyes when you say it,” Faith said between songs. “But I’m proud to say it.”

As she performed her set, von Furstenberg stood a few feet away with her iPhone, taking a series of snapshots with her one good hand.

“I have never met a woman who is not strong,” von Furstenberg later said in her opening remarks, alluding to her own mother, Lily, a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camps during World War II. “Sometimes they are not allowed to show their strength by a father, by a brother, by a religion, or sometimes they don’t even know they are strong. But then tragedy happens and miraculously the strength always comes out of a woman.”

Robin Roberts, anchor at Good Morning America, received the DVF Lifetime Achievement Award after her public battle last year with Myelodysplastic Syndrome. Gayle King, host of CBS This Morning, offered a warm introduction.

Despite their competing time slots, the two are close friends. “Everybody always talks to me about how strong Robin Roberts is, how courageous she is and how nice she is,” King said. “But this time, I think Robin Roberts has become a force for unity. People all across the country, including me, put on our Robin bracelets. People would stop me in the airports—‘How is Robin?’”

“I’m a strong, avid feminist and I know the fear in people’s eyes when you say it. But I’m proud to say it.”

When Roberts accepted her award, she quipped: “I know what you’re thinking. I’m much too young to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. Actually, when you have a bone marrow transplant, you have a rebirth. Technically, I’m seven months old.”

Roberts said that her mother once gave her advice to “make your mess your message.” She explained: “Everybody in this room has faced a challenge. We all got something. Why not find the meaning, the purpose? That is something that I have always tried to do.”

The evening’s other awards winners were Tammy Tibbetts, the founder of She’s the First, a non-profit organization for girls' education in developing nations; 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; and supermodel Natalia Vodianova, who through her Naked Heart Foundation has helped build 90 playgrounds in Russia.

“This award is just not for me,” Farid said in her acceptance speech. “It’s for the 600 beautiful Afghan boys and girls in my orphanage. Sometimes I feel very lonely. My work is very difficult.” Krishnan called her award “a reminder of the millions of women and children being sold every day. Millions of bodies being traded to satisfy the lust of millions of men, men who are all around us … yet there is silence.”