Misty Copeland, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and More Come Together for the DVF Awards
If you went looking for a group of passionate changemakers on Friday night, they were probably at the United Nations. Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg turned the fourth floor of the U.N. into a powerfully casual celebration for the 9th annual DVF Awards, complete with small chocolate dessert towers and white lounge couches in lieu of traditional seats.
The room was packed with extraordinary women—from Parkland shooting survivor Delaney Tarr, who stood in the back before Diane beckoned her forward for a shout out, to Gloria Steinem, who sat on a white couch in a bedazzled jewel jacket, listening intently to each speech—and everyone was there to honor five specific women:
Ariela Suster, founder of SEQUENCE; Jaha Dukureh, CEO and founder of Safe Hands for Girls; Luma Mufleh, CEO and founder of Fugees Family Inc.; Misty Copeland, the first black principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre; and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who took home the Lifetime Leadership Award.
Each honoree received $50,000 to support the organization of their choice. This event came at a good time—sandwiched within an unprecedented political climate and the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp—and the emotional speeches reflected this period. Even so, there was plenty of behind-the-scenes action that turned the ocassion from a simple event to a moment.
VIDEO: Diane von Furstenberg: "Being Older Is an Achievement"
Scroll below for the red carpet and some of the standout points of the evening.
When Misty Copeland walked on stage to accept the Inspiration DVF Award for breaking barriers and mentoring in the ballet world, she had to pause for a minute to collect her emotions, while audience claps and cheers offered support.
"I can’t even read my speech; I just have to say that I'm so inspired by all of your stories and what you're doing for us," she told the other nominees, also thanking Diane and Storm Reid, who introduced her to the stage.
"It's been a very interesting path for me, because as a black woman entering into to the classical ballet world, which is very elite and very white, it is, and I came from an underprivileged community in southern California and I found ballet at my local Boys and Girls club. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for that organization, and it's one of the organizations I'm giving the grant money to."
Lewis opened the evening with a rendition of her hit "Bleeding Love," but it was her song "Thunder"—which she wrote when she needed to find strength during a "difficult" period in her life—that really swept the audience away. Before her performance, though, she spoke to InStyle about what it meant to her to be able to share her music with a room of such influential and passionate women.
"I'm so honored to be here. The honorees are incredible, so inspirational, and are really just adding to a more compassionate world and a more loving world," she said. "It's just inspiring for me to hear their stories, like 'ok, I need to step up my game.' No, it's amazing, just great that I can share my music at an event like this and be a part of it in some way."
The night was about celebrating strong women, and Lewis has not been a stranger to doing so.
"My grandmother, she came over to the U.K. from South America, Diana, and she started with nothing and she built herself up and supported her family, was a hard worker," she told InStyle. "So she really really inspires me. She had no one when she got to the U.K. and now she's got a family of like hundreds, so she's a big inspiration to me."
A Wrinkle in Time actress Storm Reid looked positively thrilled to be at the DVF Awards, taking silly photos and boomerangs alongside Diane von Furstenberg on the red carpet. Her focus of the night, though, was honoring Misty Copeland, whom she affectionately called "Miss Misty Copeland."
"I feel like [Copeland] is an inspiration and to be able to inspire people at a time like this is very important, so I'm glad that she's my inspiration, and I get to inspire young people as well," she told InStyle before presenting. "I just want [young girls] to know that they can do anything, and nothing's impossible. They can go to the moon if they want to, and they shouldn't let anyone tell them any different."
Much to the surprise and delight of the room, Gloria Steinem attended the DVF Awards to witness the evening, despite not being a presenter or honoree. She is no stranger to the DVF Awards, though—in 2014, she was presented with the Lifetime Leadership Award, which is the same honor given to Sonia Sotomayor this year.
"These awards make visible what is either invisible or not visible enough, and once we see that, we know that we can do it too," Steinem told InStyle ahead of the ceremony. "If you can't see it, you can't be it. And these awards that Diane has done globally are really very important, both for the support and the financial support and the intention and also for spreading the examples of women who are doing extraordinary things."
Diane von Furstenberg and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
A highlight of the night was naturally the presence of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who took home the Lifetime Achievement Award. While absent from the press room entirely, she sat right alongside Luma Mufleh, CEO and founder of Fugees Family Inc., on a couch in the front row for the duration of the evening. When it was her turn at the mic, she was met with a roaring applause, as she told stories of formative and powerful women in her life, including her mother.
"My mother ... faced true hardship growing up in poverty in Puerto Rico, which gave her a resilience and a determination to improve the lives of those around her. She was raised by her older sister ... another amazing strong woman, and mommy worked hard to help the family," she said. "The one place she could escape from the hardships of her life was in the library, where she read everything she could. Mommy found solace in books and stories, which was a love she actively passed on to my brother and me. And now you know why I’m a nerd.”
Diane von Furstenberg
Before the show kicked off, the designer spoke to InStyle about women in her life who have empowered her to empower others.
"My mother, my mother most of all. My mother was a survivor. She was a prisoner in a concentration camp, so she's a true survivor," she said. "When she came out, she weighed 49 pounds, but yet, when she had to fill out a questionnaire with her name and her last name and this, and it said 'state of health,' she wrote 'excellent health.' So she was an incredible mentor to me, and she taught me that fear is not an option."
Jaha Dukureh, CEO and founder of Safe Hands for Girls, was presented with the International DVF Award for her work helping African women and girls who are survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriages. Dukureh herself is a survivor of FGM and child marriage, and, in 2018, she was appointed a Regional Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women.
Instead of sticking to a prepared speech, Dukureh went on her own, giving one of the most emotional moments of the evening, as she discussed the importance of "someone like her" being a UN Ambassador instead of a Clooney or an Angelina Jolie. Before taking the stage, she spoke to InStyle about what she wants people to understand most about her work.
"I hope that young girls understand that first, circumstances shouldn't define who they become in life, and they should always believe in themselves and know that their voice matters. They should always try to use that voice to make a difference in this world," she told InStyle.
"I'm very very honored and humbled to be receiving this award. It gets to open our work to more people who wouldn't have otherwise known our work. ... What I hope people take away is that women who have experienced practices like FGM like child marriage are not necessarily victims that people should feel sorry for, but they are powerful women who are making a difference in their communities."
Diane von Furstenberg and Luma Mufleh
Luma Mufleh is the CEO and founding director of Fugees Family, Inc, and she received the People's Voice Award for the organization's work of using soccer to help refugees integrate into the United States.
"I think what they take away, I know people look at the refugee crisis and they're so overwhelmed. Like, 'there's nothing we can do, it's hopeless'. For us, every little step you take is a step toward helping someone else and empowering someone else," she told InStyle. "So I think what you should take is that refugees are resilient and strong and incredible and we need to support them in any way we can."
Diane von Furstenberg and Ariela Suster
Ariela Suster received the International DVF Award for her work with the fashion and accessories brand she founded, SEQUENCE. SEQUENCE helps young men in El Salvador who are at risk of joining gangs, and its mission is close to Suster's heart.
Her brother Andres, who was kidnapped from their home in El Salvador for an entire year when he was a teenager, presented her with the award. "One of the things that I hope people take away is that I'm proof that you can use fashion as a vehicle to address an issue that is affecting our world today," she said.
Russell appeared on stage to present an award to Jaha Dukureh, chief executive officer and founder of Safe Hands for Girls.