At the United Nations in New York Thursday night, famed primatologist Jane Goodall chatted with supermodel Karlie Kloss about the plush, stuffed monkey— “Mr. H”— that she totes around like a mascot.
“That’s so sweet!” Kloss replied, towering above Goodall on the red carpet ahead of the 8th annual DVF Awards, where the odd pairing—two seemingly otherworldly women—were among five award recipients this year.
“She made me kick off my heels when we took a photo together earlier,” Kloss, who wore a custom blue sequin DVF gown and silver Louboutin’s, told reporters.
It was a running joke throughout the night: the 6’2” supermodel and entrepreneur felt small next to the other award recipients that night, like Yoani Sanchez, a journalist whose 14ymedio is the only independent digital news outlet in Cuba, where media is still state-controlled.
“I thought they’d made a mistake,” Kloss said of learning she would receive this year’s Inspiration Award for giving young women and girls the opportunity to learn to code through her Kode With Klossy summer camp.
The DVF Awards honor extraordinary women who “have had the courage to fight, the power to survive, and the leadership to inspire,” as host Diane von Furstenberg put it ahead of the event. Like von Furstenberg, they use their resources and visibility to help other women. Honorees receive $50,000 through the Diller-von-Furstenberg Family Foundation to support their activist organizations. (Full disclosure: von Furstenberg’s husband, Barry Diller, owns IAC, the Daily Beast’s parent company.)
“My job as a designer was to give women confidence with my dresses,” von Furstenberg continued on the red carpet, wearing a silver and sequin variation on her signature wrap dress. “For my third act in life, my mission is to use my voice to elevate other women’s voices, so that we can weave our voices together in a fabric of compassion.”
Later, while presenting Goodall with this year’s Lifetime Achievement award, von Furstenberg described the 83-year-old doyenne of primatology as her “fantasy woman: adventurous, educated, compassionate…she travels the world sharing a message of hope. Through her work with animals, she teaches us that every small thing we do has an impact.”
During her lengthy acceptance speech, the soft-spoken Goodall talked about how she wouldn’t have pursued her dreams of being a primatologist were it not for her mother. “Everyone else told me, ‘Jane, dream about something you can achieve!’ But not my mother.”
Goodall explained how her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees in Africa awakened her to the poverty of people living around the chimpanzee habitat—and ultimately inspired her to establish Roots & Shoots, a global community action program that teaches young people the importance of environmental conservation.
She touched on climate change (“it’s not a Chinese hoax; it’s real”) and how teaching young generations to treat the planet better than generations before them is “my greatest reason for hope in a world that often only feels depressing.”
This year’s People’s Choice award went to the executive director of iCivics, a civic education program founded by Sandra Day O’Connor.
At a time when young voters are especially disillusioned with the political process and civic education curriculums aren’t sufficiently engaging young students, iCivics uses educational video games to teach students how government works.
“Kids who play iCivics get to pretend to be president of the United States, and they come to us and say, ‘Being president is hard!’ Maybe some people are figuring that out now,” said Louise Dubé, in a thinly veiled jibe at our current POTUS. “Our goal is to make every single person in America an active member of democracy.”