While at the Women in the World conference in NYC last week, it was really easy to become star struck. Even walking through the metal detectors at 8am the day of the conference caused me to shake with star dazzlement… I was about to be in a room with Meryl Streep AND Hillary Clinton. Wow. I felt like a puppy about to be adopted by these powerful, famous, inspiring women… literally panting. After the flood gates were opened to the theater and I rushed to the eighth row, it was all I could do to slow my heart rate. Just as I began acclimating to this heightened altitude of women world leaders, my new friend, Lydia, leaned over and said, “Lily, look behind us.” Amber Tamblyn and America Ferrera. Sitting one. row. away. I could barely contain my excitement, and, unlike the cool New Yorker I hope to be very soon, I ran over immediately to shake their hands. They were kind, polite, and even signed my journal, but this interaction made me start to realize something very important: the community, the work, is more important than the celebrity, and I think Amber and America realized that.
With this instructive (and embarrassing) interaction out of the way, Tina Brown, one of the founders of Women in the World and the editor-in-cheif of Newsweek and The Daily Beast, got up and opened the conference with a call to arms for all people to embrace the sentiments expressed by previous Women in the World speakers, such as Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Leymah Gbowee, who said that women need to “stop being politely angry,” and Madeline Albright who stated that “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” A new phase of inspiration and action had begun.
While dozens of women world leaders took the stage, my mind kept coming back to the issue of celebrity. Most of the women in this huge Lincoln Center theater were not famous by American standards. Those who surrounded me and those on the stage were not women that I would probably stop for an autograph; however, they are the women and girls making an impact. This idea was humbling and made me excited at the potential of every girl in the world.
During a break, I went to wait in the short line to the secret, private bathroom in the huge complex (tipped off by my usher friend, Elizabeth). Diane von Furstenberg came and stood behind me. “Oh no, this bathroom used to be my secret,” she said. “I guess the secret is out,” I calmly responded. Then, I looked over to my left where the NBC nightly news hosts were hanging out, and I saw Kamala Harris (Attorney General to California) walk by. I left my spot in line to speak to this lovely and amazing human being, and by the end of our brief conversation she took my hands and said, “We are all in this together, aren’t we?!” Yes ma’am! I floated back into the line, this time right behind Diane. She entered the bathroom, and before I could blink this older woman charged the door, flung it open, and Diane’s and my mouths became agape… the poor woman thought there was no one in the stall. I am telling you, there is no better way to shed star-struck-syndrome like seeing one of them on the toilet.
“You don’t have to be famous to be interesting, to matter, or to make a difference.”- Smart Girls at the Party