At the DVF Awards: Hillary Clinton on Why Women Need to Lead

April 24, 2015 | Yahoo Beauty

The biggest star in New York last night wasn’t a supermodel or an award-winning actress or one of the most powerful fashion designers in the world—it was presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton. At the DVF Awards at the United Nations Headquarters Thursday night, hosted by Diane von Furstenberg and Tina Brown, even the most jaded socialite was snapping sneaky Instagram shots of the Democratic candidate. Clinton presented the Lifetime Leadership Award to her friend and colleague, Ambassador Melanne Verveer, who dedicated her life to foreign policy issues and activities relating to the political, economic, and social advancement of women. Dakota Fanning, Naomi Campbell, and Maggie Gyllenhaal also presented in their finest attire (all DVF, of course), but the evening’s biggest round of applause were directed at the former Secretary of State.

Clinton elaborated on the importance of women taking the leadership roles in fighting for women’s rights. “There was concern—even anguish, maybe—that the First Lady of our country would go to China, which it was thought could implicitly condone a very dismal human rights record, and in particular the treatment of woman,” she said. “There are those who I put into the roll-your-eyes category, particularly of the other gender, who just did not see the point of sending me—or really anyone—to Beijing or another conference on women. I’ve gotten very used to that look, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s so important that you persevere in the face of it, whether it’s personal to you or general about the role of rights of woman.”

Like all sisterhoods, big and small, the night consisted of a few lighthearted laughs, too. ”I’m just going to kick off my shoes since this is a women’s event; I’m sure no one will judge me,” said actress Maggie Gyllenhaal before presenting the two International Awards. The crowd chuckled in shared understand—such was the ironic double standard of wearing heels at a feminist event. “I’m very committed to diversity, and the DVF Awards are a celebration of women around the world,” von Furstenberg told Yahoo Beauty. She later elaborated in her opening speech: “I hate to tell you, but the situation for women in the world is not good, and we are regressing.” She gave the example of human trafficking. “Women are seen as free and replenishable. This is how they see us.” 

The two International Awards winners, Adimaimalaga Tafuna’i of Women in Business, which works to build sustainable economic opportunities for Samoan women and families, and Samar Minallah Kham, whose non-governmental media initiative Ethnomedia advances the position of women in Pakistan, demonstrated the ability—and need—of women to effect positive change in their communities. Becky Straw and Jody Landers of The Adventure Project, which creates jobs in developing countries, won the People’s Voice Award. “We were just a Midwestern stay-at-home mom and an AIDS social worker,“ said Straw. "We never thought we’d have a fashion mogul supporting us.” Von Furstenberg, who once told The Wall Street Journal that “all women are the same, really: they are strong, but they are afraid of their own strength,” gave Straw a big hug in the middle of the room. The DVF Awards, founded in 2010, gives honorees $50,000 in support of the organization with which they are affiliated from The Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation to further their work.

“Fight, fight, fight, fight, fight!” chanted Inspiration Award winner and former Arizona Congressman Gabby Giffords, who was critically wounded in the head at an assassination attempt in 2011. Her organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, encourages elected officials to stand up for both the 2nd amendment and safer communities. The audience—from Clinton to Campbell—stood up and roared with applause. Here, in a pink-lit room in Manhattan overlooking the East River, was a sisterhood ready to be reckoned with in the years to come.