Blog: Brave is Beautiful
Somaly Mam was born in a province of Cambodia and sold at a young age into sexual slavery. As a young girl, she was forced to work in a brothel and was subjected to daily beatings, torture, and most reprehensibly, rape. And despite the despicable upbringing that she was forced to live through, Somaly Mam is most importantly a survivor and a hero. Somehow, the young girl managed to escape her imprisonment and began a new life abroad, one that would find her now a grown up woman, a human rights activist, and a mentor and savior to thousands of women and girls alike, helping them to learn their rights and escape their plight.
Thursday night, hundreds of philanthropic and likeminded New Yorkers joined together and the posh and picturesque Hudson Terrace in celebration of Mam’s cause for an event titled “Brave is Beautiful” for a fund and awareness raising event in the fight against sex-trafficking. With celebrity guests, a silent auction, and live music, the evening was set with a goal of raising $20,000 toward the end of the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise.
Watching Somaly Mam work the room was a beautiful sight, weaving in and out of crowd pockets to meet and greet with excited high school students seeking autographs looking up to her stature, schmoozing with models working the event, as well as the celebrity guests in attendance to support Mam’s imperative cause. Model Chrissy Teigen was the first to arrive, looking downright stunning in person, genuinely thrilled to hob nob a bit with Mam, before actress Laura Prepon and a friend would arrive in similar fashion. Once the red carpet portion of the evening concluded, guests were treated to peruse the silent auction and raffle prizes, nosh on some passed around food, and grab a drink from the two hour open bar which was included in the ticket price.
Executive Director of the Foundation Gina Weiss was first up to the stage to thank the arrived guests and continue to push forward the importance of the cause and extol the virtues of Somaly Mam’s work and successes. Up next was the woman herself, who despite not speaking English as a first language, did a magnificent job of rallying the well dressed crowd behind her before introducing the first musical performance by artist Yeanka. The party would last long past the ten o’clock hour with a live auction and multiple musical performances that continued to captivate the pleased audience.
‘Brave is Beautiful’ in retrospect was a complete success, bringing together New Yorkers from walks of high finance, the world of art, and beauty and fashion experts for an evening geared to bring awareness to an increasing international problem. Sex trafficking and slavery continue to be prevalent in third world countries despite our best efforts. But the work of Somaly Mam as a survivor and as a hero is as notable and incredible as any man or woman in modern history. And despite her successes to date, the trailblazer and activist is showing no signs of slowing down as she continues to work and thrive in her native Cambodia.
For more information on the Somaly Mam Foundation, check out somaly.org.
- Jane Van Arsdale