Debra Messing and Faryl Robin Morse

“We all just need to be kind to each other, or else this night is a waste of time,” said shoe designer Faryl Robin Morse during a conversational panel with actor and activist Debra Messing at Wednesday night’s “Women Who Rock” event hosted by WWD’s sister publication Footwear News and Two Ten Footwear Foundation’s Women In the Footwear Industry, or WIFI.

The sold-out event, a first venture for the two organizations, was presented by Keds and Bluescape and featured a frank conversation focusing on all things female between Messing and Morse, as well as a panel discussion moderated by Footwear News executive editor Katie Abel featuring Susanne Botschen, retail executive and cofounder of Mytheresa.com; Chloe Gosselin, founder and creative director of Chloe Gosselin, and Suzanne Rae Pelaez, founder and creative director of Suzanne Rae.

Messing, starring in NBC’s “Will and Grace” reboot, spoke candidly before her panel to WWD about the event and its female empowerment theme.

WWD: How did you get involved with the “Women Who Rock” event?

Debra Messing: My dear friend Faryl Robin. She is all about supporting women, lifting women up, celebrating women, I’m inspired by her on a daily basis. For example, in the factories where they make her shoes a lot of the workers live far away and don’t see their kids so she is having them put in day care, so this way workers can have their kids right there. It’s thinking in that way, about how you can be a business woman, be an entrepreneur and be a family person. That is inspiring.

WWD: Who would you say has been a female mentor to you?

D.M.: I’d say Meryl Streep is a mentor of mine just by watching her actions. I was recently with her at a Time’s Up meeting, and she was there and very invested. She is very committed to making sure the young women in the industry have a level, equitable playing field. She is also very vocal and committed to her charity work.

WWD: You are super active on Twitter, what is it about that platform that you are drawn to?

D.M.: I like to be able to disseminate information that perhaps people don’t know about. Personally, I feel like a perpetual student. So, on Twitter I get a lot of information  about what’s happening in our country, what’s happening in our culture internationally, and when something strikes me as meaningful I share it thinking, “This is interesting to me, perhaps this will be interesting to you.” It makes me feel a little bit less helpless. It’s my way of saying these are things that are important to me and I’m going to vocalize it. I want to be an advocate for the people who are being underrepresented or who are being oppressed by the current administration.

WWD: What would you say to a younger you, any advice?

D.M: Educate yourself, spend some time keying into really discovering what your passion is. Try and close your ears to what people around you expect of you. When you first starting out you hear a lot of opinions. Trust your voice.

WWD: Words to live by?

D.M.: Life is a marathon not a sprint.

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