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(L-R) Karlie Kloss, Diane von Furstenberg and Kate Bosworth at the 2017 DVF Awards at United Nations Headquarters on April 6, 2017 in New York City. (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

Style and substance

Diane von Furstenberg honors ‘women who have the courage to fight’

April 7, 2017

At the United Nations in New York on Thursday night, Diane von Furstenberg transformed a corner of the compound into a swanky lounge—white sofas, pink peonies, champagne and mini cheeseburgers on silver platters—for her annual DVF Awards, with honors going to five women including Jane Goodall and Karlie Kloss.

Amid a sea of women in vibrant DVF designs, von Furstenberg greeted the crowd, drawing laughs with an apology and a joke about how everyone had to wait outside the compound before the event to go through security. “Everyone felt like an immigrant tonight,” she said. “This is the U.N.”

She created the annual event to honor “a family of women who have had the courage to fight,” she said, and described her own mother’s fight to survive the Nazi death camps. She has said her mother weighed just 59 pounds when she left the camps and was not expected to live. Yet she gave birth to her daughter soon after, which von Furstenberg has called a miracle.

Goodall, who received the Lifetime Leadership Award, talked about her mother as well, saying she was instrumental in encouraging her groundbreaking research on chimpanzees. Her mom encouraged her scientific curiosity in many ways, she said, starting with when she was 18 months old and began bringing earthworms to her bed. Instead of getting upset, her mother gently helped her relocate the worms to the garden.

(Top row) Sarah Jones, Tracee Ellis Ross, Diane von Furstenberg, Cynthia Erivo and Laura Brown, (Bottom row) Baljeet Sandhu, Karlie Kloss, Jane Goodall, Yoani Sanchez and Allison Williams attend the 2017 DVF Awards at United Nations Headquarters on April 6, 2017 in New York City. (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

A few years later, Goodall said, she was curious about how an egg came out of a hen, and she spent four hours hiding in a hen house one night to figure it out. No one could find her, causing alarm. But when she resurfaced, her mother wasn’t mad. Instead, she sat and patiently listened as her daughter described the magic of how a hen lays an egg.

Goodall talked about threats to the environment, but said she feels hope in the “resilience of nature,” and the “amazing people doing incredible projects” to safeguard it. Today she travels some 300 days a year, speaking about chimpanzees and the environment. She’s the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, a group that advances her vision and work, and Roots & Shoots, a group she formed with Tanzanian students to connect young people around the globe, encouraging them to make the world a better place.

Cuban journalist Yoani Sánchez received an International Award for her fight for freedom of speech in Cuba. She has been reporting on life in the communist country for more than a decade, launching a blog called Generation Y in 2007 that reached readers around the globe. In 2008, TIME named her one of the world’s 100 most influential people. Then she scored an interview with President Obama. Sánchez, who has been kidnapped, beaten and arrested for her work, has said the global recognition makes it more difficult for Cuban officials to silence her.

She told the crowd that global headlines have left the impression in recent years that Cuba has changed its oppressive ways. “The reality is much different,” she said. “As journalists, we are committed to telling the other side of the story. Every society needs a strong and independent press. Cuba will change.” She now runs Cuba’s first independent digital news outlet, 14ymedio.

Supermodel Karlie Kloss received an Inspiration Award for launching the group Kode With Klossy, which helps girls and women learn to code. She has also partnered with Momofuku Milk Bar on a vegan and gluten-free cookie line, Klossies, with sales providing more than a million meals to people in need. She called von Furstenberg a mentor, recalling when she first met her backstage at a runway show: “She said this mantra that I say to myself every day: ‘Be the woman you want to be.’”

Baljeet Sandhu received an International Award for protecting the rights of children displaced by war, violence, and human trafficking. As the founding director of the Migrant & Refugee Children’s Legal Unit, she helps children who have suffered unthinkable abuse get access to legal services and social justice. She said a “culture of disbelief” surrounds trafficked children, and she is fighting to change it.

Louise Dubé received a People’s Voice Award for engaging and educating young people in America on government and democracy. She’s the executive director of iCivics, founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. This school year, more than 5 million students in all 50 states used iCivics games and digital lessons to learn about government.

Andra Day sang at the event, and playwright and performer Sarah Jones got the audience laughing with comic impressions of women, including a grandmother trying to be politically correct but failing. In introducing her, Tina Brown said, “You never know which Sarah Jones you’re going to meet!”


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