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Step Up Women's Network Awards inspire

June 13, 2011 | 11:23 am

StepcollageThe Step Up Women's Network, a nonprofit devoted to connecting and advancing women and girls, held its annual Inspiration Awards on Friday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

And as L.A. designer Trina Turk said, they were nothing short of inspiring.

More than 700 women gathered for the luncheon, first for cocktails held in the event's "style lounges" featuring stylish displays from sponsors Turk, skin care brand Dermalogica and online shopping site Gilt City. Despite the June gloom, or maybe because of it, the room was filled with colorful patterned dresses and skirts, many of them from Turk's past collections.

When lunch was served, Step Up founder Kaye Popofsky Kramer spoke to the crowd. "Being a mentor is a privilege and a responsibility," she said, explaining how Step Up's after-school programs in Los Angeles help girls discover a future beyond gangs, drugs and violence, by connecting them with female mentors who help with confidence-building, internships and even college tours. (This year's Step Up class has a 100% high school graduation rate, and all of the girls are heading to college.)

Some of the Step Up teens performed an impressive spoken word piece titled "I See Myself in You," about what the program meant to them, and others read essays about their experiences. One woman, a first-generation immigrant, talked about how Step Up helped her go from "closed-minded chola to open-minded college student," being elected valedictorian of her high school class, and then earning a full college scholarship.  

Actress Christina Hendricks, the event's main honoree, was a last-minute no show. (She was in New York practicing for a performance at Sunday's Tony Awards). But corporate honoree Jane Wurwand, founder of Dermalogica, was there. Introduced by Busy Phillips, Wurwand spoke about her company's new FITE microfinance initiative for female entrepreneurs.

Nikki Reed introduced the event's third honoree, director Catherine Hardwicke ("Twilight"), who shared a juicy tidbit about actors Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart's real first kiss. Apparently, it was on Hardwicke's bed, where they auditioned.

Needless to say, the Step Up teens were thrilled.

--Booth Moore


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Photos top to bottom: Actors NIkki Reed; Sarah Jane Morris, left, and Busy Phillips, right; and director Catherine Hardwicke at the Step Up Women's Network's 8th Annual Inspiration Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Friday in Beverly Hills. Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.