Comedian and actor Celeste Barber, actor and advocate Chloé Hayden, fashion designer Camilla Franks, lawyer, advocate and YES campaigner Professor Megan Davis and founder of Vida Glow Anna Lahey all took the stage alongside marie claire Australia’s new editor Georgie Abay, sharing their truths with an enraptured crowd.
The sold-out event, which was proudly presented by Pandora, with Kérastase, Vida Glow, Frankie4 Footwear and Stella Insurance as additional sponsors, was a hot ticket, attended by a remarkable group of Australian women, all there to celebrate the joy of womanhood and the power we hold to achieve great things.
The night opened with a word from Georgie Abay, who referenced how much women have achieved this year – the Matildas, Taylor Swift, the Barbie movie and more – and what power means to her.
“marie claire is a brand that empowers women. We believe in the power of storytelling to drive change and spark collective action,” she said. “Nothing makes me feel more empowered than being in a room filled with incredible women. There’s so much we can all learn from women’s resilience, strength and determination.”
We got to hear from Celeste Barber, who critiqued why so many people call her ‘brave’ for being herself on social media.
“I didn’t always have a world famous, hilarious Instagram account,” she joked. “I think people think what I do is brave because I’m holding my own. I do it my way…and that is empowering to me and that’s gotten me to where I am.”
She also spoke about the other labels she’s been called over the years: loud, brave and difficult.
“They’re just labels. You would never hear a man described as ‘brave’ or difficult.”
She touched on backlash she received after raising more than $50 million for the NSW Rural Fire Service during the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires, which Australian courts decided could not be shared amongst other states or affected groups.
“You can raise $51 million for the worst natural disaster this country has ever seen, and people will pick holes in it,” she said with passion. “You can stand in front of parliament fighting for that money to be used in the way it was intended. You can fight the High Court of this country and beg them to consider people and the situation they are in, and it still won’t be enough.”
And finally, she took the opportunity to support the Voice to Parliament ahead of the referendum. “On October 14, we vote YES… there is no other way, and we all have to remember that there is so much power in privilege. We vote YES,” she ended her speech.
It was a matter that activist and human rights lawyer Professor Megan Davis also touched on.
“A YES vote in the referendum [on 14 October] means we wake up to a better, fairer, a more equal, more inclusive and more expansive idea of what our country can be,” she said.
“The change will be empowering for our community both in terms of the acceptance and love that we feel for all Australians. It will also start to empower us to allow women’s voices to flourish, and it will allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander human voices to flourish.”
We also heard from Chloé Hayden, Heartbreak High actor and advocate, who offered up a poignant and personal story, beseeching the community for improvement in disability rights.
“My powerlessness was shoved into my face each and every day at school by my teachers, by my peers, by society, by the belief that my difference made me less. It was forced into me. The reality is, I am powerful – not in spite of my difference, but because of it,” she said.
“If you are a human being, you hold power. You and your power can change the world…It is vital that you choose the part you are going to play, that you make sure other fairytales continue to be written,” she added.
We were engrossed in the talks as Vida Glow founder Anna Lahey encouraged the businesswomen in the room to reach for their goals, in spite of the fear of failure, while fashion designer Camilla Franks, shared her raw experience of the journey to success, and how she realised that the key to it is simply leaning into who you are, not running from it.
“I felt I had a lot to gain by being authentic than I had to lose…Everyone sitting in the audience right now, if you’re a little bit off, a little bit unique, a little bit ADHD – lean into it,” she said.
Of course, alongside these heart-warming speeches we infused a little fun, with guests enjoying a sip of Vida Glow collagen, trying their hand at the Kérastase 360 Camera and Pandora lucky dip, or even admiring the Frankie4 Footwear stairway to heaven.
If there was one nugget of advice that made us laugh the hardest, it would probably be this gem, from Celeste.
“I get asked a lot what my advice is for young girls, and I always say to them ‘Don’t peak in high school, just get through it’. The people who peak in high school end up on The Bachelor, or worse, Married At First Sight. It’s not what I want for these young queens.”
The words of an icon.