ON A MISSION: Natalia Vodianova is taking her Love Ball — and with it her brand of fairy dust — to Doha, Qatar.
The model and philanthropist will host her popular fundraising event in Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art on March 29 and will bring a host of fashion personalities to the Gulf State to help support her cause of raising awareness and funds for people with mental disabilities.
Some of the personalities joining Vodianova include Iman, Jourdan Dunn, Alessandra Ambrosio, Diane von Furstenberg and Carine Roitfeld. There will also be a fashion show by Russian designer Ulyana Sergeenko, Vodianova’s “go-to” designer and a longtime supporter of her charity, Naked Heart Foundation.
The show will feature Sergeenko’s spring 2019 collection, as well as a series of new pieces inspired by Qatar, while the charity auction will offer “money-can’t-buy-experiences,” such as afternoon tea with Valentino Garavani at his Château de Wideville or a lunch with Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen.
This is the first time the charity hosts a gala in the Middle East. Previous Love Balls have taken place in Monte Carlo, Paris, London and Moscow. It will be held with Qatar’s Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani as part of the Qatar-Russia cultural exchange, an initiative inaugurated last year by the ambassador of Qatar to Russia.
“Love Ball has always been a global event with no fixed abode — a citizen of the world if you like,” said Vodianova, adding that a crucial element of the event’s roving nature is ensuring that some of the funds raised are shared with local charities.
This year, Naked Heart will share funds from the Love Ball with the Al Shafallah center, which supports people with special needs. “I’m thrilled that the impact of Love Ball will be felt locally even years after the event. Al Shafallah will also become the first Middle Eastern hub for our new parent training program, which has been initiated by Naked Heart experts to improve their children’s futures and support the mental health of the whole family,” added the model.
Vodianova has also tapped Iman to present the evening’s performances, which will include actors with special needs performing on stage.
“This is not just a fundraiser. Love Ball Arabia itself will play a crucial part in advocacy, with the evening’s performance connecting two worlds: that of people with mental disabilities and the other of the typically developed,” she added. “Changing attitudes towards people with mental, physical and sensory disabilities is at the heart of everything we do, because until we erase all stigma surrounding special needs and make people with autism, cerebral palsy or any other condition feel welcome and supported, we will not be able to live in an inclusive society.”
Drawing from her own experiences — her sister has cerebral palsy and autism and did not have access to professional services when she was younger — Vodianova said that she is staying focused at making Naked Heart’s services more accessible to families and NGOs in Russia and beyond.