Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Words of wisdom from Maya Angelou

I was feeling pretty sassy for 10:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning as I walked uptown to the Westin for the annual Maya Angelou Women Who Lead luncheon, a fundraiser for the UNCF. I had on a new dress I love and I was wearing my favorite hat, a chic little brown chapeau with a brown silk ribbon that I bought on a trip to Italy.

There was a lot of activity uptown and I was beaming as I walked down the street. After the first block, I began to realize I stuck out in the super casually dressed crowd. By the time I reached the Westin, I came to the conclusion that no matter what your age or gender, somehow the universal dress code has become a pair of wrinkled khaki shorts with a wrinkled crew neck T-shirt with something printed on the front.

I love the Westin - it's so modern, beautiful and peaceful - so I decided to stroll through the lobby. I was upset to see that the crumpled khaki shorts people had taken over there as well. They were lounging around the lobby and while some where checking out, cabs were pulling up with new arrivals in their crumpled un-glory. Come on, people. If you're staying at the Westin, you can be more creative than that.

It was a completely different world upstairs in the ballroom where the luncheon was being held. The women in attendance where dressed in pretty outfits topped with breathtaking hats.

I love my little hat, but ever since the Royal Wedding I've been wanting to buy a special fascinator to wear to some of the events I attend that require a hat. I headed straight to Barbara Howie's booth. She's famous for the hats she sells out of her Charlotte home. I knew she would help me find the perfect topper. She suggested several and they were nice, but when she put a fascinator on my head that was the color of wheat with a plume of feathers sticking out of the side, I knew it was the one. She boxed it up for me to take home and I cannot wait to wear it. (I love it so much, I wore it for several hours around the house when I got home. I'm thinking of wearing it to the grocery store, and maybe to work one day.) Here's a photo:

Here's a video of guests shopping for hats. Barbara Howie is in the center with a small white feather fascinator in her hair:

Here's video of guests entering the luncheon:

Before the luncheon, I and other members of the media met for a brief interview with Maya Angelou in a private room. At 85, she looks every inch the elegant and accomplished lady she is. She is truly one of the wisest people I've ever met. And she's fun. She had her glass of wine set out in front of her as she shared her words of wisdom through her thought provoking, and often hilarious, observations.

Here's video of Maya talking about the importance of hats:

At the end, as we each approached her chair for a chance to have our photo made with her, she gently chided me and the other reporters who bent down toward her. "Don't bow to anyone but God," she told us. As I stood next to her, she told me to push back the brim of my hat and to stand erect. I've never enjoyed being bossed around so much.

She told us all to not put our arms around people we don't know and try to act like we're friends in photos. Even though I found that to be a raw but true statement, I felt sad for a moment because I somehow I did feel like she was my friend and I wanted to touch her. She's a kind person, so instinctively she did grab my hand, and the hands of other reporters, in a firm grip.

Wise. Kind. Elegant. Intelligent. Fun. Beautifully dressed. Wow, what a lady. Crumpled khaki shorts people, take note.

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