Ruth Bader Ginsburg Honored by Hillary Clinton at DVF Awards

Diane von Furstenberg Hosts 2020 DVF Awards - Getty - H 2020
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

For the first time, the 11th annual event took place at the Library of Congress in Washington.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg proved once again Wednesday night that not only can she make history, she can also move mountains. The 11th annual DVF Awards, normally held in New York City, were moved to Washington in order to ensure that the evening’s recipient of the Lifetime Leadership Award, Ginsburg, could be present to accept.

“I was so excited to give the lifetime award to Justice Ginsburg that I thought we should make the effort and we should go do it in D.C.,” Diane von Furstenberg told The Hollywood Reporter. As for how she arrived at the decision to honor Justice Ginsburg, the designer told THR, “How can you not choose her? It’s like choosing God. I’ve always respected her and admired her and loved her, and we all pray for her to live a really long time.”

The intimate event was held at the Library of Congress and was attended by such D.C. notables as New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, CBS’ Norah O’Donnell, CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, Clinton confidante Huma Abedin and philanthropist and tech pioneer Jean Case. As for the move to Washington at a time when the political atmosphere can be toxic, von Furstenberg remarked that she found the venue “very moving. You feel very protected when you’re surrounded by books.”

The evening's other award recipients included Somali-American supermodel (and longtime DVF pal) Iman, who was presented with the Inspiration Award. The 65-year-old philanthropist and entrepreneur was recognized for her humanitarian work with organizations such as CARE, a global organization that focuses on empowering women and lifting the burden of poverty. In reference to her efforts in helping to redefine beauty standards and advocating for equal pay for black models, Iman told THR, “Photography is very powerful. The omission of certain types of images actually has a psychic effect on young girls. If they don’t see themselves portrayed, they can feel like they themselves are not beautiful.” She continued: “When I started [modeling], they were paying less for black models than for Caucasian models for the same services. It is a business, and if I’m doing the same job, I have to be compensated at the same rate.”

Vietnamese American actress Lana Condor (Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before franchise) and 2017 DVF honoree Karlie Kloss presented International Awards to Priti Patkar and Saskia Nino de Rivera for their efforts in India and Mexico, respectively, which aim to change the cultures of oppression in those countries by addressing the roots of criminal behavior and offering girls and women a way out of danger. 

But the evening’s first standing ovation came when Hillary Clinton took the stage to present the event’s capstone award to Ginsburg. Clinton said she both admired and empathized with the challenges Justice Ginsburg faced during a time in history when women weren’t welcome in spaces where men felt challenged by their presence.

Clinton shared that in 1969, when she was invited to a Harvard cocktail party to help her decide whether she should attend Harvard Law School or "its nearest competitor,” she was told by a professor that “Harvard doesn’t have a nearest competitor, and we don’t need any more women.” As a testament to the uphill battle women have been fighting in this lifetime, Clinton joked, “I couldn’t get a credit card in my name, even though I made more money than my husband — a common experience throughout our marriage!”

Ginsburg, who wore lace gloves and patent heels for the occasion, sat for a conversation onstage with Ria Tabacco Mar, director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. “In my long life, I have seen great changes,” she said. “And that’s what makes me an optimist for the future.” The biggest obstacle in gender equality, Ginsburg observed, has been the gender bias that persists in everything from the arts to the boardroom to the political landscape. “I don’t know how many times I’ve been to a meeting where I’ve said something that I think is quite right and no one says anything. Then 15 minutes later, a man says the same thing and the room says, 'oh, good idea,'” the justice added. “Change comes from a groundswell of ordinary people … like-minded people who join together to get things done. And men have to be part of the effort.”