Zoe Saldana Headlines Lotusland Avant Garden Gala Sponsored by Valentino

Courtesy of Stefanie Keenan
Zoe Saldana at the Avant Garden Gala

"I have been hoarse this entire year," Saldana joked as she struggled to speak at the event. "I have three kids and I am in two sci-fi movies!"

Lotusland, the garden-filled Montecito estate that belonged to the eccentric, six-time-married opera singer Madame Ganna Walska, has held fascination with the fashion crowd for years, serving as a backdrop for a Tory Burch ad campaign, inspiring Bottega Veneta designer Tomas Maier and more.

And on Saturday, the estate played host to a fashionable crowd including Zoe Saldana, Camille Belle, Aimee Song and Chriselle Lim, Nacho and Delfina Figueras for the annual "Lotusland Celebrates" Avant Garden gala fundraiser sponsored by fashion house Valentino.

Valentino designer Pierpaolo Piccioli wasn't able to make the trek to Santa Barbara for the event, but he was there in spirit, with gorgeous gowns from his Fall 2017 collection set amid gardens full of cacti, lemon trees, lily pads and more.

Saldana was invited by the event's honorary co-chair, Jennifer Smith Hale, C magazine founder and editorial director, who featured the actress on the cover of her summer issue. "We had such a beautiful day here, I brought the kids," said the Guardians of the Galaxy star of roaming the grounds during the shoot.

Saldana appreciates Lotusland, in part because she doesn't have much of a green thumb herself, at least she hasn't recently. "When I lived in the Dominican Republic, I lived next door to an amazing gardener; I was 12 and she was probably 58, she was kind of like my best friend for a year when my mom was living in New York, trying to work and make money," she said. "During that year, she helped me grow a rose bush for my mom so she would have one when she returned."

Saldana was in the news last week when she announced the launch of a new online start-up BeSe to create programming targeting millennial and Gen Z audiences, focused on empowering Latinos. The goal is "to encourage media to evolve the way the U.S. population has evolved," she said, noting that "the Latino population is the fastest-growing population."

Wearing a cheerful, multicolor embroidered Fall 2017 Valentino gown, Saldana took time out to praise her stylist, Petra Flannery, who was close at hand at the event, sitting near the star at dinner under the stars.

"She knows how to push her clients to try different things but to never lose your voice in the outfit you’re wearing," she said, even as she struggled a bit to get the words out. "I have been hoarse this entire year. I have three kids and I am in two Sci-fi movies!"

For her part, Hale brought on Valentino as the event's first fashion sponsor. "I have been coming to her since I was a kid and it’s so magical … I brought the opportunity to Valentino because I thought their amazing clothes would look so gorgeous in these gardens."

The annual event drew 500 guests and was organized by the Lotusland Celebrates Committee, which supports the garden's operations all year long.


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