November 11, 2009
By Sheryl Blasnik

Carnegie Hall in NYC was jam packed with an A-List of star power. I had the honor and privilege to witness this night of glamour, inspiration and most of all hope.  It was a night to speak to the next generation of girls who filled the balconies about breaking through the glass ceiling. Cindy Leive, Editor-In-Chief of Glamour Magazine, spoke of courage, of humanity and of bravery as she launched the first video tribute of the evening directed by Kerry Washington.

Matt Lauer was first to present the Visionary award to Marissa Mayer, vice president at Google.  She has helped make the company the world’s number-one search engine, with revenues of nearly $22 billion last year. “I’ve always liked simplicity,” says Mayer, 34.  If you are skeptical of this just “google” her.

The next award went to the winner of 11 Grand Slam titles and two Olympic gold medals, tennis champion Serena Williams.  Dressed in a long red gown she spoke of her comeback capturing the title at Wimbledon after a six year struggle to climb her way back to the top.  Tyra Banks who presented the award said she was relieved she never had to be at the receiving end of Serena’s 129 mph tennis serve.

Then out walked the BEATLES trifecta.  Yoko Ono, widow of Beatle John Lennon, Barbara Bach, wife of drummer Ringo Starr, and Olivia Harrison, widow of Beatle George Harrison, who introduced designer Stella McCartney. She held her purple skirt tight as she ascended the stairs and told the Girl Scouts in the upper tiers to “never wear such a short skirt”.

Katie Couric who attended with her daughter waiting backstage then praised Dr. Jane Aronson, a pediatrician and the founder of Worldwide Orphans Foundation.  But wait, Ms. Couric had yet another honor and surprise to bestow.  A group of foreign born young orphans placed in american homes gathered on the stage with bright flowers and bright smiles to thank Dr. Aronson for being their Guardian Angel and providing them with loving families.  This moment was met with a standing ovation and raw emotion. The same sentiment echoed through Carnegie Hall as CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour told the story of The Activists: The women of Iran’s One Million Signatures Campaign.

Perhaps the most touching moment of the night came when former president Bill Clinton helped to “put a rainbow in the clouds” as he spoke of poet Maya Angelou.  Frail and emotional Angelou said  “I must have done something great in another life”  as she was awarded The Lifetime Achievement Award.

The mood quickly turned to laughs and smiles as actress Amy Poehler asked everyone to rejoice in the ten year old version of themselves.  Her words of wisdom to the teens in the audience:  “If boys say something that is not funny you do not have to laugh.”  Everyone laughed.

Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, was called The Peacemaker by Michael Douglas as he spoke of her toughness and brilliance. Catherine Zeta-Jones, looking stunning in a royal blue sequined gown with large hoop diamond earrings, then had the privilege of honoring American Journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling.  Thanks to former President Clinton and Al Gore they were freed from a North Korean prison and returned to american soil after 140 long days in captivity.

Dressed in a feathered frock by Jason Wu supermodel Iman spoke of the different face of pop sensation Rihanna that we saw in her interview with Diane Sawyer.  This 21 year old singing sensation and style icon from Barbados has lent her voice to the issue of domestic violence and has launched the Believe Foundation which provides medical supplies and education to needy children.  Rihanna, wearing a pleated creme gown by Stéphane Rolland, is back on top and better than ever.

The evening closed with 54 year old First Lady of California, Maria Shriver, being lauded by CFDA President and fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg. This mother of 4 has called attention to Alzheimer’s Disease which afflicts her father by producing a documentary. She shared that “to serve another person is your greatest power.”

12 strong independent women….  Who would you nominate in 2010?  Comment back…

To view all the fashion of the evening or to learn more about these extraordinary women click here.

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  1. Patricia Zapata on November 11, 2009 at 9:16 PM

    Wonderfully written and exciting to read! -PZ

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