|Thursday night at the New York Public Library on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, there was an Inaugural Gala Dinner for the Cecilia Attias Foundation for Women which was created by Cecilia Attias two years ago. Mrs. Attias up until that time was known as Cecilia Sarkozy, briefly the First Lady of France when her then husband Nicolas Sarkozy was elected President of France.
Her husband today, Richard Attias, is very well known in the corridors of power as the man behind Davos, (or the man who runs Davos, depending on who’s telling you). The new foundation, from what I could gather, will find funding for projects all over the world that promote and support matters of women’s rights.
It was a very impressive dinner. The Stephen Schwarzman building, as it is now known, is one of the great institutional monuments of New York. Cocktails were in the entry hall of the library and then we went down stairs to the Celeste Bartos Forum for dinner. The room was beautifully decorated with vast and shimmery sprays of flowers as centerpieces. The menu had been provided by one of Mme. Attias’ friends and supporters, Daniel Boulud – this is quite the coup for a benefit dinner no matter what the charity. Paul LeClerc, the head of the Library spoke. As did Diana Taylor.
Cecilia, as they all call her, has lived in New York, under the radar mainly, for the past few years. She is one of those women who makes friends with other women, and as a result she has a number of very good women friends in New York. Used thoughtfully, in New York such thing is a network. I could see she has that self-confidence.
I met her for the first time only on Thursday night. She has a quality of determination about her although it’s not hardnosed but almost unassumingly. Like, why not?
I read that she studied piano as a young girl and won first prize in a conservatory contest; that she’d studied law and worked as a parliamentary assistant before she went to work for Elsa Schiaperelli, the French fashion house, as a fitting model. She’s been married three times, has three children; and now she has a new mission.
I’ve been covering the world of philanthropy (which in today’s terms is the real world of society with a capital “S”) throughout the 90s and Aughts now, and it is interesting to watch the process unfold as well as change with the times. Many of these projects (which is how they begin) have flowered and done amazing things for the community and for the world. Evelyn Lauder’s Breast Cancer Research Foundation, for example. Sharyn Mann’s Food Allergy Initiative is another. Princess Yasmin Aga Khan and the Rita Hayworth Alzheimers.