Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o beams in to help Dallas luncheon empower women
What: 2021 New Friends New Life Luncheon
Where: Omni Dallas Hotel
The 411: Patrons gathered both in-person and virtually on October 8 for a hybrid benefit for New Friends New Life, whose critical mission is to restore and empower trafficked and sexually exploited teen girls, women, and their children in the community.
After a rousing a capella performance by Kings Return, luncheon co-chairs Jan Osborn and Trina Terrell-Andrews, and NFNL CEO Bianca Davis, welcomed guests and underscored the importance of the organization's goals.
Dr. Monique W. Morris, president and CEO of Grantmakers for Girls of Color, was honored with the first ProtectHER Award for her work on behalf of girls of color impacted by sex trafficking. And Patrick Sanders, director and senior attorney at American Airlines, accepted his company’s ProtectHER Award for its work in the fight against sex trafficking. Honorary co-chairs Tonya and Charlie McKinney recognized a table of survivors who shared their personal stories and successes.
Jessica and Dirk Nowitzki were honored as the recipients of the third ProtectHER Award for the work of their foundation, which focuses on the wellbeing, health, and education of children, and their donations to critical social service agencies during the pandemic.
The retired Mavericks star then shared a personal story of his arrival 20 years ago in Dallas: “Exiting the plane, I was greeted by hundreds of fans with Dirk signs. I thought, they are already embracing me, and they don’t even know me. It was at that moment I knew I was going to do my best to do my part to make this a better community," he said. "It was years later I learned those were all Mavs employees, but the seed was already planted. We started the foundation in 2001, and we have been doing amazing work collaborating with amazing people.”
The highlight of the event was a virtual conversation with Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, conducted by NBC 5’s Laura Harris. In a recorded conversation, Nyong’o shared her story and what empowers and motivates her. She was raised by parents who were involved in the world — her dad, a politician, and her mother, a humanitarian.
“I observed them put people first and sacrifice themselves for a larger idea — those examples affected me, giving me the blueprint of what life is about," the actress said. "You have a life to lead – do what you want to do and what enriches the world you live in. This sense of purpose is in all of us — if you listen close enough.”
She described her Oscar moment (Best Supporting Actress in 2013's 12 Years a Slave), unsure if she heard her name called in her head or out loud, and then worried about falling as she walked up the stairs in 40 meters of fabric. “I was washed with gratitude — a girl from Kenya who had this dream that seemed so unattainable that my mother protected, and my father encouraged, and now it’s come to fruition,” she said.
Finally, she offered that she had been thinking about the gift of curiosity. “When people are oppressed, the first thing taken away from them is freedom to be curious," she said. "I want to impart on people to hold on to your curiosity — it’s what keeps you engaged in life, youthful and growing, and when you let it go, that’s when you start to die. I am grateful for my career which forces me to be curious. When I start a role, I know nothing, and that exercise in being uncomfortable in what you don’t know and seeking to know it, keeps my brain sharp and my heart beating — it keeps me looking forward to a new day.”
While total funds are still being counted, all proceeds will go toward NFNL's efforts to empower and protect local women and children.
Who: Katherine Wynne, Wendy Messmann, Kitty Tillman, Jennifer Norris, Gail Turner, R. Gerald Turner, Jessica Turner-Waugh, Vivien Wong, Arthi Krishnan, Kimberly Clifton, Robbie Hamilton, Angela Cheves, Brad Cheves, Anne Besser, Bursley Hoefer, Kissy Blanchat, Katy Phillips, Stacy Day, Vicki Gillette, Tracy Adair, Stacy Espinoza, McKenzie Brown, Dana Hunter, Erin Antesberger, Jessie Stanton, Kelsey Hills, Riley Clemons, Pat Schenkel, Stephanie Roberts, Maddie Schenkel, and Patrick Means.