Each year, the CFDA Awards brings out some mega celebs, traditionally of the one-name variety: Beyonce! Rihanna! Gaga! This year, that star-power came not by way of a pop queen, but rather, one from the political sphere: Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, clad in a custom Gabriela Hearst dress. It was the first CFDA Awards for the Texas-native, who, along with Janelle Monae and Gloria Steinem received the Board of Directors Tribute Award, but she fit right in with the fashion set. Following her big win, Richards spoke with W about her first CFDA Awards experience, the women who inspire her, and what everyone can do everyday to support Planned Parenthood.
How was your first CFDA Awards?
Oh, fantastic. What an incredible night. To see that much talent in one room was extraordinary. And also I think it was clear, just the love and support for women and women’s empowerment was profound.
Were you able to walk to your seat without people stopping you every two feet?
Well, the great thing is that there is a feeling now that people need to not only support Planned Parenthood, but they just have to support women and women doing things. I think Janelle said it so well tonight, and that was the feeling I get everywhere I go; people just trying to figure out what else more they can do. Tonight was a super-charger boost of that.
Did any encounters in particular stand out?
I just met a million people that I’ve never met before, and people in the fashion industry who I’ve never known but are passionate. Many of them are young women who have been fighting for their own careers, their own rights, and it feels so propelling that they want to give back… And really, like what Janelle and Gloria said, it’s not just about women’s rights. We can’t leave anyone behind.
You were a dynamic trio to close the ceremony. When did you first meet both of them?
I’ve met Gloria many times. The first time I didn’t actually meet her, but I went to hear her speak when I was a young person in Texas, and I was just blown away. I’d heard about her, but I’ll never forget what she said. She said, “More and more are going grocery shopping now for their families and that is the good news, but the bad news is the women are still making the grocery lists.” I was like, “This is my life.” She tells it like it is, but in a way that is just so completely engaging. She inspires generations of women. And I actually met Janelle this morning, but I had been such a fan and admirer of her, not only as a musician but as an actress. It was a real honor to be here with her.
You are inspiring to so many women. Who inspires you?
My mother did, so I always have to give credit to her, because she just fearless. Or, she wasn’t fearless, but she put her fear aside and just knew she had to do more. Today, one group that really inspires me are the clinicians and the doctors that worked at Planned Parenthood. Tomorrow morning, they will get up across this country and open doors to women in every single state, and that takes enormous courage and commitment. So I guess if there is one group that inspires me to get up every morning, it’s them and the fact that they are taking care of literally millions of patients every single year despite whatever political environment they are dealing with. That’s courage.
What is a typical day like for you in 2017?
I spend a lot of time on the road. There are more than 600 clinics around the country, so I go and visit our health centers, and help support fundraising for the healthcare that they are delivering. I spend a lot of time in Washington, D.C. I’ll be spending a couple of days down there with congress because, unfortunately, even though we are the experts in reproductive healthcare and there are millions of folks depending on us, we now have to spend so much time just keeping our doors open because of the assaults by Congress. And then I just help spreading the good word of Planned Parenthood because, honestly, this is an organization that has done so much good for so many people, and it does every single day. Every day that our doors are open, approximately 8,118 people get healthcare and many of them wouldn’t get it if we weren’t there.
What is an actionable thing that anyone can do right now to help the cause?
One thing you can do is to text “Defend" to 22422 to become a defender of Planned Parenthood, and we can tell you, depending on where you live, what you can do and what is the action there that you need to do. And the most important thing that folks can do besides that is call their member of congress and say you support women’s health, you support access to Planned Parenhood. People wonder if their call matters and I can say, right now, it is the thing that matters the most
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