It turns out the third time was the charm for my long-delayed lunch with Woman’s Day EIC Susan Spencer. Having been kept away from Michael’s first by the onset of the polar vortex and then, a few weeks later, by the snowstorm of the week, we finally managed to meet at 55th and Fifth today. Perfect timing, after all, because Susan was still buzzing about The 11th Annual Woman’s Day Red Dress Awards held last night at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall. The sold-out event, benefiting the American Heart Association, boasted a glittering gallery of A-list stars, including actress and singer Rita Wilson who acted as host; her Oscar-winning husband Tom Hanks (who, we’re told, was happy to relinquish the spotlight to his wife); actress Jennie Garth, who received the Campbell Soup Company’s Healthy Heart Award; and the Today show’s Hoda Kotb, who introduced singer Sara Bareilles and The Voice winner Judith Hill. None other than President Bill Clinton was on hand to accept an award on behalf of The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation for its work towards improving heart health by fighting childhood obesity. “I guess people hadn’t read their programs,” Susan told me, “But when I was introducing him and said, ‘Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States,’ there was an audible gasp in the room. Something happened when he appeared on stage. He really drew people in and set the tone for a truly memorable evening.”
Susan told me that Clinton made some “very personal” and “humble” remarks about his own experience as an overweight youngster. “Don’t clap!” he told the crowd, who was clearly charmed by his story. “This is a serious issue.” So serious, in fact, that virtually every star who attended the awards has a personal connection to the disease. Rita Wilson’s father suffered from heart disease and Jennie Garth discovered she had a leaky heart value when she was just 30 years old. The disease, which is the number one killer of women, also hits very close to home for many Woman’s Day readers. So much so, that last June Susan and her team launched the magazine’s Live Longer & Stronger Challenge, for which they selected six women from around the country who had or were at risk of heart disease and designed a nutritional and lifestyle program for them with nutrition columnist Joy Bauer. The group stayed connected to the magazine and Bauer through a private Facebook page, texts and emails. “We want to raise awareness that this doesn’t just happen to women in their 50s; it can happen in your 20s and 30s,” she said.
This year, in an effort to drive that point home during the awards, Susan decided to include the women in the presentation by introducing them to the crowd and celebrating their success. (Their stories are featured in the February issue.) The big reveal, where they all met each other for the first time, took place on Tuesday on Today. “When you pick people for these types of programs, you let them loose, hope it works out well and cross your fingers.” The results, said Susan, were nothing short of astonishing. At press time, the group had lost an astonishing total of 277 pounds in six months (one woman lost 122 pounds of that total herself as of yesterday) and seen marked improvements in their cholesterol and blood pressure. “We wanted to show that it’s about a lot more than the number on the scale. These women told us that the program was a transformative, life-changing experience.” The group, explained Susan, really reflect the “hard working, middle-class women that are our real readers.”
When I told Susan it was an inspired idea to add some “real women” who reflected the true spirit of the awards to what ended up being a star-studded event, she told me that by the end of the evening the group was feeling right at home on the red carpet. “One man wanted to get their autographs for his wife. It was great to see them being recognized for accomplishing something so important — taking charge of your health and making changes to improve and prolong your life.” Susan told me plans are in the works to bring another group on board later this spring for this year’s challenge, but it will likely involve a smaller number of women. “We’re looking at how we can make it even better and have the greatest effect on our readers’ lives,” she said.
And Susan told me there are other big doings afoot at Woman’s Day. It was recently announced that lifestyle guru Clinton Kelly of The Chew has signed on to be a contributing editor and is writing a monthly column (“He’s a really good writer!” said Susan) that will tackle readers’ most pressing problems in their homes. In May, Woman’s Day will publish their second issue of Woman’s Day for Latinas — in English — aimed at Latina readers in their 40s and 50s. “We found a niche that no one women’s service book was addressing,” Susan told me. Why in English? “Our research showed that this woman mainly consumes media in English but wants to keep close to the culture that’s very important to her.” The magazine will be poly-bagged with the May issue of Woman’s Day and feature a “prominent Latina woman” on its cover. Jennifer Lopez perhaps? “We usually don’t do celebrities,” said Susan. “But, hey, you never know.”
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. The Paley Center’s Pat Mitchell, presiding over a lunch for Colombian philanthropist Catalina Escobar, a “reproductive activist” who has been working for the past 13 years to reduce the infant mortality and teen pregnancy rate in the poorest parts of Colombia. Pat told me that after Catalina, who has been honored as one of CNN’s “Heroes,” lost her 16-month-old son in an accident many years ago, the former banker channeled her grief to help other mothers and girls “disrupt the cycle of poverty” in her home country. The group here today, which included Al Jazeera America president, Kate O’Brien, is looking to find ways to help Catalina “replicate the program” in other impoverished areas around the world. Impressive.
2. Uber agent Wayne Kabak
3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong and David Zinczenko. A little birdie told me that David and his team at Galvanized Brands have settled in nicely at their swanky new offices at 2 Park Avenue and are excited about their new Zinc Inc authors — my former Greenwich neighbor former NFL star Terry Crews of the Fox comedy Brooklyn 99 (and the star of that adorable Toyota commercial with the Muppets that premiered during the Super Bowl) and Maria Menounos — both with books coming out in the spring.
4. Donny Deutsch and Piers Morgan Live’s executive producer Jonathan Wald
5. Producer Michael Mailer with the New York Post‘s Richard Johnson and another gent we didn’t recognize
6. Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Michael Kramer
8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia and Nina Griscom
9. Glamour‘s star publisher Connie Anne Phillips
11. Marketing man and political commentator Robert Zimmerman and Lynn Sherr
12. Fox News’ Jamie Colby and a table full of blonde power gals
14. Discovery Communication’s CEO David Zaslav in his usual power lunch uniform of shirt sleeves and sleeveless vest and John Sykes
15. PR guru Steve Soloman (long time no see!) and a young fellow we didn’t get the chance to meet
16. Susan Spencer, Mimi Crume Sterling and yours truly
17. Tech guru Shelly Palmer with a very chatty bespectacled fellow
18. Ambassador Carl Spielvogel, enjoying a martini while waiting for his companion to arrive. Cheers!
20. Sharon Bush (mother of Lauren Bush Lauren, in case you didn’t know)
21. Producer Steven Haft
22. Jamie McGuire
23. Keith Meister
24. Todd Joyce
25. Tom Goodman and Melanie Seymour Holland looking tres chic in all in navy
26. PR princess Lynn Tesoro
27. TV Guide‘s CEO Jack Kliger
28. Actress Leesa Rowland
29. The Wall Street Journal’s Anthony Cenname
Diane Clehane is a contributor to FishbowlNY. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Please send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.