Just hours after landing into New York and returning from a slew of memorable Paris Fashion Week runway shows, Gigi, Bella, and Anwar Hadid glamorously arrived with their mother, Yolanda Foster, and her husband, David Foster, on the red carpet inside New York’s midtown Cipriano restaurant for the Global Lyme Alliance’s inaugural gala.
“This is the first time we’ve all seen each other,” Gigi told InStyle. “My little brother, Anwar, got ready with me today in my apartment, but I just flew in from Paris so I haven’t seen my mom yet.”
Dressed in a stunning white Tommy Hilfiger strapless gown with a seemingly comfortable pair of tope flats, the 20-year-old megawatt model was on hand with her indisputably handsome beau, Joe Jonas, and her equally gorgeous younger sister, Bella, who sported a black, long-sleeve collared dress that she pulled from Foster’s very own closet. “I thought it would be perfect for tonight,” Bella—who celebrates her 19th birthday today—told InStyle. “When I was younger, she was like, ‘Yeah, borrow my clothes,’ and now that I’m older she’s like, ‘You’re making your own money, go buy yourself something, get out of my closet!’”
The always camera-ready family may jokingly argue over designer dresses, but Foster’s four-year-long battle with Lyme disease has truly secured their close, loving relationship. Inside of the venue, where celebrities like Ally Hilfiger and Latin pop star Thalia both expressed their moving illness-related stories, guests sipped wine and prepared to bid on one-of-a-kind auction items to benefit sufferers of Lyme disease. The gilded, star-studded event encouraged hope among all the guests, and the Hadid-Foster family truly stole the show.
To present her mother with the Power of One award, Gigi took the stage and made a speech that nearly brought every guest to tears. “Before someone I loved was affected with something that drastically and negatively changed her quality of life, I didn't really understand the meaning of the word hope,” she said. “Treatment after treatment, all I wanted was to know how to be her hope. That was the hardest part for me. I’m a perfectionist and I don’t like anything that I can’t fix.”
While sharing her deeply personal words with the room, Gigi broke down into tears, but still managed to explain how her mom’s resilience is bar none, and why she’s so proud of her unwavering spirit. And after thanking Gigi for her introduction and a surprise, jazzy performance of one of her and David’s favorite songs, Foster quickly divulged the difficult battles she faced with the hard-to-pinpoint disease.
“Eleven counties, five states, 104 doctors later, I still wonder sometimes if I will ever be able to live a normal life again," she told the crowd. "I honestly don’t have the proper words in my vocabulary to describe to you the darkness, the pain, and the unknown hell I’ve lived these past four years.”
So what has gotten her through the struggle? “Many nights I wished to die and I would pray that I would just wash away into heaven, where there would be no pain. But God has different plans for me,” she said, as tears streamed down her face. “He changed my destiny when my two youngest children, Bella and Anwar, were diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease in early 2012. Watching my babies struggle in silence in order to support me in my journey struck the deepest cord of hopelessness inside of me and it’s because of them that I’m now able to stand here in front of you today.”
The room praised Foster’s candid tale, but the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star was elegantly humble. “I used to be a pretty cool, smart, multitasking, kick-ass mom, but all three of my children really got short changed with the dumb blonde in the white robe who mostly lives her life in bed,” she said as her speech came to a close. “Getting chronic Lyme disease was probably the fastest way to figure out what and who is real in your life. So thank you to my little village that is right here with me tonight for doing what is right and teaching me the meaning of true friends and family.”