The organizers of the March of Dimes Beauty Ball reached into their fund-raising playbook and came up with a radically new format for the event, which was held Wednesday at Cipriani 42 Street in New York. The traditional honoree lineup was scrapped in an effort to focus more on the charity.

This story first appeared in the March 14, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“We’re taking the charity to a new level by embracing the concept and making everyone understand what the purpose is, and fund-raising for the March of Dimes is what it’s all about,” said Bernd Beetz, Coty Inc.’s chief executive officer and Beauty Ball co-chairman together with designer Vera Wang.

According to Beetz, he made the change because he wanted the beauty industry to focus more on “the empathy and human side of it.”

“With honorees, it’s always important to have the right one, but we decided to try this format, and it worked since it gives more space for March of Dimes,” he added.

Over the last 32 years, the Beauty Ball has raised more than $24 million to benefit the March of Dimes New York Division, supporting the Prematurity Awareness Campaign. From this year’s event alone, $1.2 million was raised. That compares favorably with last year’s $1.05 million.

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Wang, an experienced veteran of the beauty business with a licensing partnership with Coty Inc., was on hand presenting for the second time.

“There’s a connection and dichotomy there between babies and beauty,” said Wang, who added that her fragrance business has been doing very well. “We’ve been very lucky and have plans to launch two new fragrances — a new brand and another flanker for Princess.”

Actress and “Ugly Betty” star Vanessa Williams was also on hand to host the event. Williams has been involved with the organization and done hospital visits to preemie wards.

“I’ve been so lucky to think about my experience the four times I’ve given birth as a mother, and all my children have been healthy,” said Williams. “To see a child less than a pound, but knowing they have a shot is amazing. It’s great to feel blessed and be able to give back.”

As a big fan of the designer, Williams was excited to participate with Wang.

“She’s done our show and we loved having her on set,” said Williams. “I’ve worn Vera to my wedding, on the show when she did my wedding gown, and on the red carpet.”

Williams is gearing up to start filming again on “Ugly Betty” next week. She is also in the studio working on her next album, which is about “strong women,” scheduled to be released in the fall. Down the road, Williams wouldn’t mind inking a beauty deal.

“I did something with L’Oréal for a couple of years introducing a skin cream, and I have another partnership with Proactiv, but I wouldn’t mind doing something else in the future as long as I could manage it and it was organic to who I am,” Williams added.