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Inspiration was the word of the night Wednesday at Cipriani Wall Street, where Apex for Youth was holding their 26th anniversary Inspiration Awards Gala, recognizing Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, Jhené Aiko and John C Jay of Fast Retailing.

The organization, which serves Asian and immigrant young people throughout New York City by “recruiting volunteers to be positive role models for them,” drew a crowd of Dao-Yi Chow, Phillip Lim, Maxwell Osborne, Prabal Gurung, Tao Okamoto, the Shibutani siblings and more for the dinner.

“It’s a huge honor to be recognized by an organization that supports Asian American youth and creates mentoring opportunities,” Lim said during the cocktail hour, just after prom-posing at the step and repeat with Eva Chen and Phillip Lim.

“[Our] biggest inspirations are our moms – and her mom is a big inspiration for me, and I’m sure visa versa,” Leon added. “And there are so many people in our industry that have mentored us, and we wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for them.”

Upstairs past the cocktail reception was Aiko, tucked away in Cipriani’s hidden library room.

“This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this, so I’m a little nervous. I’ve never had to do an acceptance speech or anything so I’m like ‘ahh,’” she said, having had a few moments to collect herself.

And nerves be damned, she was planning to wing her acceptance speech.

“I’m just going to say how I feel; I don’t like to over-prepare myself. A lot of times it just makes me nervous and gives me anxiety,” she said. “Even with interviews, when they’re like, ‘do you want us to send the questions beforehand?’ I’m like, ‘no, I want it to be natural and be in the moment and feel it out.’ [The award] makes me want to keep at it and just really I feel like I’ve found my purpose and my lane in life…being recognized for something like this keeps me motivated and inspired to just continue in the work that I’m doing.”

Aiko, who cited her mother, sisters and grandmother as inspirational figures, had just two weekends before been at Coachella to attend the Neon Carnival event and see Eminem perform.

“Eminem is one of my favorite rappers of all time – he’s really one of the people who inspired me to really care about my words when I’m writing,” she said. “When I was younger, me and my brother shared a love for Eminem, just reading his lyrics. He would put them in a pamphlet and they read almost like inappropriate Dr. Seuss poems. Watching him perform was an unreal feeling, because my brother passed away in 2012, I never got to see him perform with Eminem. So everytime I see Eminem, it reminds me of him.”

Phillip Lim, Eva Chen, Carol Lim, Humberto Leon

Phillip Lim, Eva Chen, Carol Lim, Humberto Leon  Lexie Moreland/WWD

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