“I heard a rumor that Meryl Streep is going to be here! She’s an idol. She is big time,” I Am That Girl founder (and People’s Voice Award recipient) Emily Greener told InStyle moments before the 7th annual DVF Awards kicked off inside New York City’s United Nations Thursday night. “I think I’d say, ‘Thank you for being someone that someone like me could look to and aspire to be like.”
Streep was unfortunately not in attendance, but that didn’t overshadow the motivational energy in the room, where a legion of confident women gathered to honor five accomplished female leaders for their success in fields that span from the arts to politics. For American fashion designer and InStyle contributing editor Diane von Furstenberg, who co-hosted the high-wattage affair with legendary journalist Tina Brown, the evening called for a celebration of women, period. “I like to be a woman because my mother told me that I was lucky to be a woman,” she told us.
In fact, von Furstenberg, who said she felt “humbled” by the accomplishments of the honorees, was so moved by the night, she explained why she feels the need to give back to others on Friday morning at the Women in the World summit in New York. “When I was a little girl, I did not really know what I wanted to do, but I knew the woman I wanted to be. And I became that woman… in my early 20s I felt that connection, that as much confidence as I would get, I would share,” she told guests, adding, “It’s also a privilege to use your voice for people who have no voice or to expose people for the work that they do.”
That’s exactly what Girls star Allison Williams was there to do back on the fourth floor of the U.N. Thursday, where the 27-year-old star took the stage to present Tony Award-winning actress and activist Sarah Jones with the Inspiration Award. Proving to be quite the comedian, the beauty—dressed in a princess-like DVF frock, of course—addressed the star-studded, intimate audience in a British accent, referring to one of Jones’s memorable TED talks. “I’m hearing a lot of whispering in the room. I’m not that British, I’m very, very American, so I’ll stop that now,” she quipped. Jones later took the stage and delivered a hilarious acceptance speech along with several spot-on characterizations of women from across various cultures.
While there was an abundance of glamour to go around—the space was transformed into a ‘70s-style cocktail party, with white leather couches galore, endless glasses of Champagne, beats by DJ Mia Moretti, a performance by Justine Skye, and a coterie of fashion insiders like Liya Kebede and Olivia Palermo (both below) in attendance—it was the words of each award recipient that brought nearly everyone in the room to tears.
For International Award recipient and Wakami co-founder Maria Pacheco, it all goes back to von Furstenberg. “Diane, she has a phrase that says fear is never an option. She’s fearless. She’s brave. She’s courageous,” she told InStyle. “She inspires all of us because of that.”
Below, more touching, unforgettable moments from the 2016 DVF Awards, and the full list of winners.
—With reporting by Jennifer Merritt
1. THE WINNERS AND PRESENTERS
Von Furstenberg and her selected presenters posed on the carpet with the five award recipients in the front row (left to right): Maria Pacheco (International Award), Agnes Igoye (International Award), Dr. Martine Rothblatt (Lifetime Leadership Award), Sarah Jones (Inspiration Award), and Emily Greener (People’s Voice Award).
2. Diane von Furstenberg
The fashion legend didn’t fail to deliver inspiring words, telling InStyle, “What’s the key to being a strong woman? Well, there is no woman who isn’t strong. Sometimes they’re just afraid to show it.”
3. EMILY GREENER
Greener expressed the importance of surrounding yourself with loved ones. “Having people that you can be not strong around and people who remind you how to be strong, and remind you of your own strength, and teach you along the way, and having a community of people who have your back and who are with you through all of it is everything,” she told us.
4. OLIVIA PALERMO
Seated between VIP honorees and next to handsome husband Johannes Huebl, Palermo offered (what else?) an expected dose of fashion and beauty inspiration in a multi-textured, cocktail-appropriate dress with matching black ankle-strap pumps and a wavy ‘do.
5. MARIA PACHECO
“Part of it is believing in yourself but it’s also being able to connect with others and being able to feel others, and then being the best version of yourself,” Pacheo told us of being a fearless woman.
6. LEYA KEBEDE
Kebede was on hand to present Pacheco with the International Award. “Thank you Diane for allowing me to be here and to be emotionally moved and inspired every time in a room like this—all these incredible women always doing incredible things,” she said on stage. “It inspires all of us to keep going and to keep doing what we’re all trying to do.”
7. Dr. Martine Rothblatt
Rothblatt, a longtime advocate of LGBT rights, received the Lifetime Leadership Award. “I’m generally not at a loss for words, but I don’t really know if I can possibly put into words what it feels like for a transgendered woman to be recognized by this room full of extraordinarily accomplished women, as a woman, for being an inspiration and a help to everyone,” she said in her acceptance speech. “By sharing with me today this award… you are going to provide inspiration to people in every part of the world.”
8. SARAH JONES
“The key to being a strong woman is really reflecting back all the strength I see in the women around me,” Jones told InStyle. “Whether it’s my mom or Meryl [Streep] or Diane [von Furstenberg] or any of these other winners. We’re all really doing our best to empower ourselves in a time when that’s not always so easy, so it inspires me.”
9. ALLISON WILLIAMS
Williams truly stunned on stage as she presented Jones with the Inspiration Award. “The DVF Awards honor women who amplify and protect the voices of their sisters all around the globe,” she told guests. “I can think of no worthier recipient of the DVF Inspiration Award than a woman who quite literally gives a voice to others all around the world, no matter what they’re from or what their voices have to say.”
10. JUSTINE SKYE
Skye was excited to spend time with von Furstenberg. “She takes her time to even do such an event like this and honor women who have, who she thinks are amazing and who are leaders and are strong,” she told us. For Skye, who turns to Beyoncé for inspiration (“she’s the epitome of a performer and she’s a hard worker,” she added), there’s no easy way to finding your inner confidence. “Sometimes there are things that are disguised and people think is confidence and it’s actually not,” she said. “So to have genuine confidence, I feel like is what adds a strong element to you.”