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NEW YORK — For a night that honored women, the inaugural DVF Awards also praised a few good men.

Diane von Furstenberg, who created the awards and hosted them with Tina Brown, was the first to pay homage to her husband, Barry Diller.

This story first appeared in the March 16, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“I always say to people that we don’t need men,” she said. “The truth is, maybe I say that because I have the best one. I want to thank from the bottom of my heart my husband Barry for his unconditional support.”

The awards, which are supported by The Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, honored four women making a difference in the lives of thousands of other women: Sadiqa Basiri Saleem of the Oruj Learning Center in Afghanistan; Danielle Saint-Lot of Femmes en Democratie in Haiti; Katherine Chon of Polaris Project U.S., and Ingrid Betancourt, the French-Colombian politician held in captivity six-and-a-half years in the Columbian jungle.

Meryl Streep, Christiane Amanpour, Robin Roberts, Charlie Rose, Fran Lebowitz, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Tory Burch, Iman, Anh Duong, Amanda Brooks and Rachel Roy were among those who braved torrential rains Saturday to listen to the women’s inspiring tales about strength and determination, DVF’s own included. Her mother, Lily Halfin, survived the Auschwitz concentration camp. She weighed a mere 49 pounds and was told by her doctors that she wouldn’t be able to conceive. “Nine months later, I was born, so I know about miracles, ” von Furstenberg said. “My life was a miracle, my mother was a miracle. The biggest lesson my mother gave me was that fear was not an option.”

Halfin passed on crucial lessons to her daughter, which guides her to this day: “The courage to fight, the power to survive and the leadership to inspire,” von Furstenberg said.

Streep, who presented Betancourt with her award, gave an impassioned speech, likening the sound of rain drops pounding on the United Nations’ roof to the scores of women who are empowered to inspire change — “like the raindrops that wash the city clean,” she said. “Ladies, let’s cheer for ourselves and get the work done.”

Accepting the award, Betancourt, looking statuesque in an ethnic-print DVF dress, struck a compassionate note, saying she would like to help bring out the good in people, even when their life circumstances could result in the opposite. “I remember the guards in the jungle,” she said. “Those kids didn’t want to be what they were. They wanted to be good, but life didn’t give them the opportunity to be good. I want to use my freedom to help them be what they want to be.”

It wouldn’t be DVF without the sense of a glamorous party. The designer managed to transform a drab U.N. space into a chic lounge replete with banquettes in her signature print. After the awards, Bebel Gilberto took to the stage to perform three of her bossa nova songs. “Did you see what we did to the U.N.?” von Furstenberg asked. “We turned it into a nightclub.”

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