Society / Featured Parties

Powerhouse Women, Dirk and Jessica Nowitzki, and Dallas’ Best Dressed Give This $1.5 Million Night Plenty of Star Power

A Look Inside a Glittering UNICEF Gala

BY // 02.14.20
photography Rick Kern/Getty Images for UNICEF USA

I‘ve been bored beyond tears with the fashion that’s been trotted out on the red carpets in LaLa Land.  Finding some interesting outfits even at the Oscars seemed near impossible (save for Janelle Monáe, Billy Porter, Cynthia Erivo, Timothée Chalamet, Caitriona Balfe — I’d like to thank each of you personally for cathing my eye). As with the current entertainment awards season, it’s been a few months of non-stop parties in Dallas.

Who knew that 2020 would start out with such a bang. Given the lackadaisical looks found on the Hollywood set, this year’s UNICEF Gala at the Ritz-Carlton Dallas was such a breath of fresh air. Honestly, I can generally rely on the arty-type events (wink wink TWO x TWO) to deliver with avant-garde or at least sparkly ensembles, so it was wonderful to see another charity get Dallas’ best to show up looking red carpet ready.

This was the third annual UNICEF Gala put on by the North Texas and Central Region Office of the organization that works to save and improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children. The event honored longtime supporters and UNICEF Germany Ambassador Dirk Nowitzki and his beautiful wife, Jessica, with the Spirit of Compassion Award. The award was given by their longtime friend,  Mayor of Dallas Mike Rawlings.

In response to Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation partnered with UNICEF to help create and fund a new mental health training module to better evaluate and treat children in trauma cases, as well as created a monthly mentorship program for families affected by the hurricane.

Moll Anderson, Jan Miller Rich, Nancy Rogers (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for UNICEF USA)
Co-hosts for the evening, Moll Anderson, Jan Miller Rich, and Nancy Rogers (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for UNICEF USA)

The evening was put on by a powerhouse of women, co-chairs Moll Anderson and Jan Miller Rich, and honorary chair Nancy C. Rogers. Given the Rolodexes of these passionate individuals and their commitment to the children of the world the gala raised a record-breaking $1.5 million. A moment that helped reach this staggering sum was the frenzied bidding that took place around the package for the Dirk Nowitzki Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic. It was an all-access pass to one of the premier sporting events in Dallas and who doesn’t want the opportunity to say they got to hit some balls around with the former Dallas Mavericks legend?

Caryl M. Stern, gave an emotional reflection on her 13 years as UNICEF USA CEO and President. It was so moving when she shared the story from her first trip to the field, where she a mother who had walked four hours in 106-degree heat to give birth in a clinic attended to only by a man with a 6th-grade education. She did, however, say that she had joyous memories as well and had the audience laughing as she told of trying to teach a group of kids how to play duck-duck-goose without the benefit of speaking a common language.

“It was easy enough to act out a duck and get them to grasp that word but being totally stuck then on how to differentiate a goose – forcing us to play duck, duck, cow.”

UNICEF Ambassador Dirk Nowitzki (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for UNICEF USA)
UNICEF Ambassador Dirk Nowitzki (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for UNICEF USA)

Metallic was the theme (the last time I attended this glittering event was in 2018 and the theme was red) and the ensembles delivered golds, silvers, platinums and some neon sequined frocks. My award for best dressed was a tie for the evening between Georgina Hartland and Diamond Mahone. Hartland was in a blush pink Mary Katrantzou gown that she had custom made by the designer. She shared with me that she recently saw Katrantzou at the dramatic fashion show that the designer put on amongst the ruined columns of the Greek Temple of Poseidon. Hartland, who has seen her fair share of runway presentations, said this was truly like nothing she had ever witnessed before. Katrantzou designed Hartland’s dress with the inspiration from a set of custom made jewelry, in a similar shade of pink to the gown, that had been created by Dallas’ very own Queen of Diamonds, Sue Gragg.

Diamond Mahone, who had her fiancée John Bailey on her arm, never disappoints. When Mahone RSVP’s she’s attending an event — she delivers fashion for days. The stylist always knows how to mix high and low, vintage and new when crafting a look. For UNICEF, she had on various vintage pieces with a bold Dries Van Noten coat.

Kimberly Chandler (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for UNICEF USA)
Kimberly Chandler (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for UNICEF USA)

Other style stars spotted at the Ritz included stunning Jennifer Karol in a high-wattage Alex Perry sequined gown and thigh-high boots. She shared that she plans on repurposing the dress by turning it into a mini. Karol was hitting all of the en vogue talking points — sustainable fashion and shopping one’s very own closet. Jonika Nix, my dining companion at Nancy Rogers’ fun table, was in a sultry Saint Laurent black sequined blouse with spaghetti straps that she paired with a demure tulle skirt she had custom made. I love a girl in evening separates, something more socials should consider if they are having to change their pumpkin to a horse-drawn carriage multiple times a month to attend various events.

I can’t forget to mention Capera Ryan in Sally Lapointe and Valentino, Sterling McDavid in one of her own creations from Burnett New York, and Nini Nguyen slaying it in black — long sleeves with long skirty and peek-a-boo moments of skin reveals which were somehow not at all racy, but definitely alluring.

Others spotted providing a standing ovation to the honorees included Zoe BonnetteChristen and Derek Wilson, Rajan Patel, Brian Bolke and Faisal Halum, Stacie McDavid, Shelle and Michael Sills, Sabrina and Field Harrison, Suzanne and David Droese, Missy and Tim Peck, Lindsay Billingsley, Lisa Cooley, Catie Enrico, Joyce Goss, Tiffany Cuban, Selwyn Rayzor, and Gowri Sharma.

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