“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