Claudia Cividino and Alison Lee

Claudia Cividino hadn’t ever gone public with her disease, but she’s changing that now. Bally’s chief executive officer of the Americas was honored by the Lupus Research Alliance on Tuesday, and gave a speech in which she opened up about having lupus for the first time.

“I had never publicly spoken about my disease,” Cividino said while accepting the 2017 Fashion Industry Women of Achievement award. “Standing up here today would mean that for the first time in my life, I’d be speaking on the fact that I’ve managed this disease for more than 20 years.”

She added that her choice to keep the disease private was related to her denial of it. “I have recollections of sitting in [my doctor’s] office and saying, ‘What do you mean I have to go to the hospital? I’ve gotta get back to the office. I have meetings,'” she said. “[Lupus] has showed me its full measure of power.”

Among the 300 men and women at the Lupus Handbag Luncheon were copresident and ceo of Lupus Research Alliance Peggy Dowd, Matilda Raffa Cuomo, Andrea Abrams and Karen Mitre. The event kicked off with a silent online auction of designer handbags, including offerings from Mitre, Emilio Pucci, Michael Kors, Christian Louboutin, Coach and Bally. The luncheon also honored Alison Lee with the 2017 Woman of Achievement award.

“[Lupus] has taught me a lot about gentleness — being gentle with myself, loving myself in spite of the fact that I have this, loving this disease in spite of the fact I hate it,” Cividino continued. “Our suffering makes us richer. That’s the gift we have to give to this world. If I can benefit anyone through sharing my story, today I make a commitment that I will share my story.”

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