Indirectly or directly, Diane von Fursteberg has probably mentored thousands of women over the years.
Before being honored with the Master Mentor award at Monday night’s iMentor Champions dinner, she said, “I hope so. It’s not for me to say…It’s a wonderful thing when you have a voice to use your voice. But everyone takes something different. I know that when I read things about women I get inspired.”
The designer’s mentor was her mother, who survived slave labor in Auschwitz and whose story was later shared with dinner guests. Seth Meyers hosted the event at the Ziegfield Ballroom, and actress Allison Williams presented the Master Mentor award to von Furstenberg. Actor Ed Norton also made the rounds with his film producer wife Shauna Robertson “Ed is not just a hot movie star. He’s a good guy,” von Furstenberg said. “And he married…”
“He married well,” Norton interjected, referring to his producer wife Shauna Robertson. Ali Kay, who has a five-year-old son with von Furstenberg’s son Alex, was also on hand, having introduced the designer to iMentor.
In the aftermath of Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein and Amazon Studios’ Roy Price scandals, “People need mentors more than ever. People need to find their strength within themselves,” von Furstenberg said. “It’s crazy. I remembered things that I had buried in my mind. Didn’t you? It’s very interesting because it’s getting the conversation going. Mentoring is paying attention to others sharing your experiences and frustrations. If you are successful, tell kids around you that the reason you’re successful is because you felt like a loser growing up and things like that.”
For the next phase of her life, von Fustenberg said all she cares about is using her voice to empower women to use their voice and their strength. “I’ve done that all my life. It’s a wonderful way to age, to stay relevant and to feel that you matter,” she added. “Every person you help helps others.”
Despite giving a lot of talks to a lot of women, von Furstenberg said a TED talk in Venice Beach last summer “for some reason intimidated me because they were all young, cool Millennials. And it was huge success but because I speak honestly.”
Greeting Williams, formerly of “Girls,” the designer said: “Allison is my wokest friend.”
“You’re my most inspirational friend by far,” Williams added. “I’ve known her since I was 22, I’ve spent a lot of time around her and she is so full of any kind of advice for any situation. It’s totally without judgment. It’s what a life lived totally honestly and with such integrity can buy you. There is no topic that is off the table or will make her bristle.”
Despite still feeling like a work in progress, Williams said she has been mentoring a few students from her alma mater Yale University. As for the words she lives by, Williams credited her mother, who often says and gave her a bracelet in middle school engraved with the phrase, “To Thine Own Self Be True.”