Today we have a post from Stephanie Florence, 40:20 Vision’s contributing / Millennial editor, reflecting on her evening with a notable “girl” in New York City.
I had a “pinch me” night Monday as the talent escort for the one and only Lena Dunham. Lena was recognized by the Point Foundation for her support of the LGBTQ community. I have become such a fan of her writing and how she truly speaks her mind, regardless of who is listening.
Since moving to New York I’ve joked that my life is sometimes like a Girls episode. I’ll watch Sex and the City to see a New York fantasy land, but Girls to get a more accurate depiction of this crazy adventure I’ve found myself in. Heck, I was in the running to live out the real-life version of Girls on MTV. (However, I will say when we headed out to Bushwick for the first time, I was sincerely disappointed when the party we walked into was not in a warehouse.) On a more serious note, Lena highlighted in her speech how she’s trying to do more than simply create a story for viewers to watch:
“Our goal on Girls is to show you non-stereotypical examples of the range of people who inhabit this amazing city, and we are learning more about what that means every day.”
When I found out I would be greeting Lena and ensuring her evening ran smoothly, my first thought was “think of your talking points!” (in true PR girl fashion). She has been all over the media for Girls, her opinions and let’s be honest, often her lack of clothing on set. As a person who quickly climbed to the top of the Hollywood charts, I recognized she may not be as wonderful in person as I hoped.
Turns out, she’s better.
When I approached her car with an umbrella upon her arrival at the event, she rolled down the window asking: “Are you here for me?” like she questioned even having a greeter – in the pouring rain no less. On our walk up the New York Public Library steps she asked about my connection to the organization and stopped before entering to sign autographs and take photos with fans. In roughly two minutes, I learned some important things about Lena. She is truly invested in the causes she believes and in the people who believe in her.
Lena didn’t arrive with a huge entourage and the person she was most concerned about upon arrival was not herself, it was making sure her sister Grace got in okay. Seeing their bond made me wish my sister were there. I even called my sister immediately from the cab post-event because I was so excited from my event and missing her. We agreed she would be my date the next time I participated in a similar event. Grace was a huge part of Lena’s speech where she explained:
“I have always felt a strong and emotional connection to members of the LGBTQ community. It was actually a huge disappointment for me, when I came of age and realized that I was sexually attracted to men. So when my sister came out, I thought, ‘Thank God, someone in this family can truly represent my passions and beliefs.’
My sister Grace coming out as a gay woman at age 17 was a huge turning point for me in my understanding of the issues facing LGBTQ people. We were raised in an environment—the art world of downtown Manhattan—where no one hid their sexual orientation, and a common question from four-year-old me was ‘Mom, are those ladies gay together?’ I was always very jealous of any child who had two dads. And because of our parents’ deeply held commitment to acceptance and equality, my sister’s process of coming to terms with her sexuality was as angst-free as anything involving sex can really be. She was assured by the adults in her life that she was not only accepted, but adored for who she is. I am so happy that this is the way she was able to enter the world as a woman and an LGBTQ person.”
During the live auction, there was a call put out to see if anyone would be willing to support an entire year of education ($25,000) for one of the Point Scholars and immediately one lone hand went up – Lena’s. She took time to speak with every scholar that approached her and you could tell she was genuinely interested in their stories.
The real insight I took from Lena had nothing to do with her celebrity lifestyle or the upcoming plot line of girls. Instead, it was observing how Lena lives out the Maya Angelou quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
I watched how eagerly people approached Lena for photos or to simply say hello and she greeted each of them with the same warm response taking time for everyone she could. I know I felt that same friendly interaction when we parted ways at the end of the night with a hug and Lena saying it was a pleasure.
The pleasure was all mine, Lena – you are truly a class act.
Point Foundation empowers promising LGBTQ students to achieve their full academic and leadership potential – despite the obstacles often put before them – to make a significant impact on society. Since 2001, Point has invested more than $15 million in the education and support of Point Scholars. The Foundation promotes change through scholarship funding, mentorship, leadership development and community service training.
Stephanie Florence is a 20-something who can talk to a brick wall and dance to a kazoo. She contributes to the 40:20 Vision as the Millennial editor and on every day that ends in “y” you can find Stephanie meeting people, telling exceedingly long stories and taking the approach of a student…always. Find her dancing around New York City in her personalized Chuck Taylors, complete with her Twitter handle: @StephanieFlo.