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Visionary Women Book Launch: Celebrating Sisterhood

October 6th will go down as one of the most memorable days of my life.  My dearest friend, Lili Bosse had warned me ahead of time, “You better be prepared.  It will be a big celebration. Mark my words.”   She was obviously imaging the day in her mind’s eye as she was the one who was hosting the book launch.

I am no newcomer to book launches, after all “Visionary Women” was my third book, and I have gone to support numerous other book parties.  But somehow, when Lili and I were planning this event, we wanted it not only to be a book launch but a celebration of sisterhood, of women coming to support other women, and most importantly, a celebration of women’s voices.

It seemed as if all who joined us that day had instinctively understood the purpose of the event and the reasoning behind writing the book. I was quite taken when guests started arriving half an hour earlier than expected and shortly thereafter a long line of cars started forming.   Lili and I had invited our friends from our elementary school years, and high school years. We had friends from work and the nonprofits that we are involved in.  We also had invited some new friends and family members.  An hour into the event, close to 500 enthusiastic friends were mingling in the garden, listening to an all-women band, and taking up the festive atmosphere.

But it wasn’t the sheer number of people that made an impression on me. Quite frankly I was so moved by the show of love and support by all those who were there. Friends and family gave me warm embraces and congratulated me and so many people bought multiple copies of the book to gift to their nieces, friends, and sister. I was truly touched.

When the two years that I was engrossed in learning, researching, and writing about the lives of 20 trailblazing women in the world, I felt as if I had formed my own interior world of fearless tribe of women.  That day at the book launch, I looked around myself and saw that so many of them were in reality gathered there in the garden.

I hope we always find ourselves in tribes of women who are generous in spirit and encourage others to greater heights.

A Wonderful Time with the Women of YPO Quebec

It must have been a few month back when I was in the midst of writing one of my chapters for my upcoming book that I answered the phone. A woman by the name of Marie-Christine had contacted me from Quebec, inviting me to their YPO Chapter there for a talk. We finally decided that I would coordinate my trip around my upcoming visit to New York so my travel time won’t be as long.

Well, I never thought about weather conditions or storms when I booked the speaking engagement, but the week before my scheduled arrival, Quebec had a big storm. Just days before leaving I had checked the weather there and I surprised to see that it was 5 degrees Fahrenheit!

The last time I was in that kind of weather was when I was stuck on a ski lift at age 21!

I will have to say that my flight to Montreal was easy and uneventful. From up above the snow covered landscape was so beautiful that it reminded me of an abstract painting. Marie-Christine was awaiting my arrival at the airport and on our way to the airport we got a chance to talk. I say this with great sincerity, but one of the nicest experiences on all my work travels has been meeting interesting people and learning about their lives and what they do. Quebec did not disappoint. Marie-Christine, Nathalie, Ruby, along with the 60 other YPO spouses who had come for my talk were warm and welcoming. My talk about leadership took an hour but we spent the next three hours chatting, laughing and sharing our experiences. I learned about the great work of so many of these women and how each was striving to do something that was reflective of their character, talents, and interests.

You know you love what you do when you can’t keep track of time. What was supposed to be a two hour event became four hours— the evening ended with laughter and many hugs and embraces. Somehow I hope to revisit Quebec. Who knows maybe for launch of my third book!

The Amazing Massiliano Giono and the 55th Annual Venice Art Biennale

I just got back from the 55th Annual Venice Art Biennale and I have to say that Massiliano Giono, 38 and the youngest curator in the history of the biennale, did such a thoughtful job of linking some of the most fascinating artworks in the central pavilion.

Carl Jung’s “Red Book”

Given that I am a disciple of Carl Jung, I can’t tell you how powerful it was to see his drawing on display in the center pavilion, and his much-coveted Red Book that has not been out of the vaults for decades was on display. Legend has it that when Jung was suffering from a extreme neurosis, he would withdraw to his tower in his estate and spend hours drawing symbols and images that bubbled up to his consciousness.  The work was both beautiful and cathartic.  A gallerist had asked if he wanted to ever sell his works, but he refused, saying that the intent for his art was healing and not commercial.  The stunning works were al in the infamous red, leather-bound book and it serves as some of the most archetypical pictures on the collective human psyche.  The book has been locked in the family vaults for decades, rarely to be seen by anyone.  Here were Carl Jung’s art on full display and the glorious book in a temperature controlled glass case for all to view.

Carl Jung’s “Red Book”

To me the whole question of what is art, who is considered an artist was the most thought provoking. There was a miner who claimed that a voice told him one day to make art. He headed that voice and spent hours making intricate designs that were simply breathtaking. He would often sit 20 hours at a time and claimed that his work was effortless since the hand of God was working through him.  He also never sold those sublime colorful grids but wanted to be “in communion with the vibrations of his color.

Miner’s Art

Other examples of lay people who have taken art seriously was on display:  a social worker who dealt with the restrictions of education and the prison system, blind people, who did not have a sense of space and proportion, a dental hygienist and a woman who through meditation created what looks like the typical drawings of the cosmos and chakras when she was not truly aware of such notions.  How wonderful and liberating it was to celebrate art for arts sake and to celebrate ordinary people who also turned out exquisite pieces of work!

The Russian and British Pavilion in particular were also great. And Ai Weiwei’s installation in the French Pavilion was another showstopper.

Artwork installation by Ai Wei Wei

Of course, Mr. Arnault had the good sense and taste of wrapping the entirety of his Pallazo Grassi, wall to wall, floor to ceiling with Persian tribal carpeting courtesy of Rudolph Stingel.  But really, after going through the 20th room in the palazzo you got tired of the same thing.

Pallazo Grassi carpeting by Rudolph Stingel

The most surreal was Prada Foundation’s exhibition of “When Ideas become Form”—a rather menacing “muahahaha” voice blared throughout the palazzo and then there was this hysterical cry of a baby. (Maybe babies cannot be called hysterical because they have a right to cry)

That is the funny thing about exhibitions; you never know what is real and what is not! Obviously I knew that the Prada-clan doormen would never let in a certified lunatic so the real question was if there was a real baby in the exhibition? That was a recording too.

But joking aside, I came to understand that the seminal 1969 show that re-created tried to show that process of art was as important as the product itself—or perhaps no product at all. A revolutionary thing at the time that filled in the gap between what we are conditioned to appreciate and what the essence and possibilities of art could be

The only funny thing is that just as I left the Palazzo door, there was a screaming baby in the arms of a helpless dad as well.  At that very threshold was the display of life imitating art!


The Power of One Person

It is one thing to research and study the life of a person you admire and quite another when you get to see them face-to face and collaborate.  I had first met Somaly Mam, CNN Hero—and one of Timemagazine’s ‘Top 100 of the Most Influential Women in the World’, six years ago. She took the stage at the Governor’s Conference and had her speech had all 9,0000 women in the convention center simply rapped.

Today, Somaly Mam is a shining example of love, resilience and courage. She has transformed her painful history as a child who was sold into sexual slavery and who eventually broke herself free to rescue others. She and others fromThe Somaly Mam Foundation risk their lives continually to go into the dark hidden places where young girls are locked up, help them escape and provide a safe haven for them to rehabilitate. For me, these are true heroes.

One of my favorite speaking topics is about the power of one person. One person, or small group of likeminded individuals, can accomplish anything. Likely, they have more power than mega-organizations. And Somaly Mam is one of those people who, single-handedly, has brought sex trafficking to a global platform.

When she came to Los Angeles for work in early November, I invited her to a small afternoon tea with a few of my close friends. What touched me the most from our time together was the deep level of joy and love she radiated. All the guests that afternoon walked away feeling uplifted and utterly moved by the gracious presence of this woman.

I tend to believe that one of the most powerful ways to unleash the potential a group of people is to hold salons and conferences, where ideas, issues, and experiences can be discussed in a meaningful way.

A quote by Margaret Mead comes to mind:

“Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world.”

Invigorated by this simple truth, I along with my partner Beth Friedman, decided to organize a formal salon as a platform for Somaly Mam to share her story with a broader audience. The response was overwhelming. Press came, donations were given, and even one woman I heard contacted Somaly’s organization to replicate their operations in another country. Truly the power of one life, of one story, Somaly’s, yours and mine, has the ability to impact the world!

Continuing on this theme, Beth Friedman and I have co-founded Women Aspire. Respond. Engage. (Women A.R.E.) and we will be hosting our inaugural day-long conference on November 7th at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles.

Below is a sample of the discussion at our first Women A.R.E. Salon.

Angella Nazarian & CNN Hero Somaly Mam

Women’s Legacy as Leaders

I hate to be late at events—and I become mortified to think I might be even 5 minutes late to an event where I am one of the keynote speakers. While I was braving the 10 East traffic this Thursday at 7:30 in the morning, I kept worrying if I would make it to the Pasadena Convention Center on time. Never mind that my navigation system was malfunctioning and I was trying to figure out where I need to go on my iPhone while listening to Oprah’s satellite radio program of “who is an energy sucker in your life.” Quite honestly, the question is not “who” but “what”. Traffic nowadays is the biggest drain of my energy.

But, once I parked my car and ran into the ballroom of the convention center and checked in for “Women’s Legacy Leadership Conference,” I felt a rush of positive energy go through me.

Once guided though the large doors of the banquet hall, it was clear that this was going to be a wonderful event. The room was full of beautiful round tables laid with promotional materials including, a packet and little pink rubber hard-hats symbolizing hardworking women. Before the event I was told there would be about 600 women at the event, and once I walked, it was clear that they had all arrived. There was a large stage at the front flanked by two digital movie screens with the event branding perfectly in place.

Phyllis Currie and Gail Farber are two super star women serving the county of Los Angeles in high leadership roles. They started off the day sharing their impressions on their personal journeys. Shortly after I arrived, it was my turn to present – and I focused on some of the key leadership lessons learned from the women featured in Pioneers of the Possible. It is an uncanny feeling when you feel so connected to hundreds of women in the room. Under the dimmed lights, the atmosphere felt intimate and I felt my message about the book resonated with them.

Usually when I make my way back to my seat, I check in with my assistant, who joins me at these events, to see if I did all right.  You see, I don’t think this question comes from a place of insecurity. Truthfully, it comes from a place of utter curiosity, because when I am at the podium, I feel like I am in a cocoon with the audience. I have no sense of time or much else. All I try to do is speak with passion about the subjects that I am passionate about.

Well, nothing could have prepared me for the wonderful and heartfelt response I got at the intermission. Once I got to the book-signing table, I noticed a line forming that went down the hall. If I may say so, I was so pleased that my books sold out in a matter of 20 minutes! But, the highlight was chatting with these amazing women who shared their experiences with me. One told me about her upcoming promotion, another about her 3 beautiful daughters that she has raised on her own, and yet another one told me about how arranged a stand-in to save her friend’s home during foreclosure. Now how could I have met any of these women if I hadn’t participated in this conference?

Of course, I got a chance to meet up with an old friend, best-selling author Hope Adelman, and had the opportunity to hear Christine Schwab speak for the first time.

Both are remarkable women who are passionate about seeing women succeed.

The message for the whole day for me was that our journey has much meaning. I always tell the audience that we all have a story. We define our story as much our story defines us. In order to reach higher and assume a leadership position in our own lives, we need to be committed to a path of growth. I felt privileged to have heard the many touching stories of resilience, success, hope, and courage at this conference.  If these are traits that we as women can harness, then we too can be pioneers in our own lives!

An Artful Week

Last week started by my trekking to Sacramento for a two day meditation and writing retreat. Being in the quiet of the nature, and having time off from my hectic day to day schedule was a real gift. I managed to write a chapter for my upcoming book.

I came home refreshed and ready to embrace my activity filled weekend back in LA. Thursday night MOCA hosted a panel of distinguished guests and collectors that talked about the increasing popularity of Iranian Contemporary Art. The auditorium was packed with over three-hundred guests who sat on stairways and stood in the halls to listen to these panelists.

David and I were fortunate enough to host an afternoon tea on Saturday for Jeffrey Deitch, the new director of MOCA, and the panelists on Thursday night. Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller, whose gallery in New York has achieved a worldwide reputation for showcasing the best of Middle Eastern Art. Shirely Elghanian, founder of Magic of Persia had come from London to join us as well. Her non-profit helps emerging Iranian artists find their way to the international marketplace. Our honored guests also included Dina Nasser-Khadivi, an advisor and specialist in Iranian Contemporary Art, and consultant to Christie’s Auctioning House, and Mohammed Afkami, a key collector and supporter of Iranian Contemporary Art.

On Saturday the city was a buzz with news of the upcoming LACMA Renzo Piano designed Reznick Pavillion opening. The theme of the evening was a masked ball. Cars lined up for blocks at the start of the evening, and the star studded event was an overwhelming success. Tom Hanks, Bob Eiger, David Geffen, Ariana Huffington, Baldessari were among the guests who dined under the Italianesque tent. Christina Aguilera topped off the evening with an incredible performance.

Elie Wiesel, the Queen and I — a surreal night

A friend told me over lunch yesterday, “You should just write a book about all that is happening at the book signing!” Her comment is quite on target….I have had the most wonderful and surreal experiences at my book events.

Just this week my book tour took me to New York, where good friends Nazee and Joe Moinian hosted a fabulous and elegant cocktail party at the Plaza Hotel. One Hundred and fifty friends, family, and colleagues came to the signing, which was a huge success.

There were two people whom I have always admired, attended and supported the event.

Her Majesty, Queen Farah Pahlavi and her daughter-in-law, Yasmine attended this event.  Her Majesty had the kindest words to say about the book and the role of Iranian artists in the Persian culture, especially in the diaspora.   This event was surely not about politics, as my book is not about politics either. Her Majesty’s presence had the added significance since as a child I have always regarded her as a symbol of a modern Iranian woman—one who is intelligent, articulate, and concerned for the larger community.  I also know of her great passion for art, which inspires me to this day.  As she put it in her eloquent way, “People who show the good face of Iranians, who elevate us, are the jewel of the country”. I was touched and humbled that she included me in that group.

Elie Wiesel, the Noble Laureate and Holocaust survivor has always been a hero to me. His life and his message surpass the limits of race or religion.  He speaks out against violence, repression, and racism all over the world and always stresses the dangers of society’s indifference in relation to such matters.  How amazed I was to have him  attend the NY book signing. Again, another “pinch-me” kind of moments where I felt so truly lucky to talk to him finally.

…..And the list of my many wonderful experiences continues.

My book signing at the Beverly Hills Public Library

The next two weeks will be action packed for me.  It starts with my book launch on October 4th and keeps going, with it culminating with my reading and book signing at the Beverly Hills Public Library on October 18th at 3:00pm.  It is a surreal experience because when I was in middle school and high school, I spent so much of my time at the public library in Beverly Hills. Here I am 25 years later talking about my experiences growing up in the city.  It is also an incredibly exciting time for me since I get to share the stage with one of my childhood idles, Mr. Sidney Poitier.  Please take the time to look through the following publications that list in greater detail, the program for that day.  The Los Angeles Times Calendar, Metromix Los Angelels, LA weekly, Iranian Information & Connection Center, Kodoom, and The Jewish Journal have all have my event posted in their calendars.  Hope to see you at one of my events.