Meeting Arianna Huffington by Denice Duff

28 Jan 2015 3:35 PM | Anonymous

The night before Arianna Huffington was to speak at an Alliance for Women in Media event at CBS to promote her new book Thrive, I was forwarded the email from, of all people, my husband.  I was not a member and had never attended their events before. But as a woman photographer and director, I felt I might as well rearrange my schedule to join and attend. You see, to be perfectly honest, I never wanted to join a “woman’s club.” As a woman in my 40’s, I had stuck in my head that these types of groups were still of the “we don’t need men” 1970’s women’s libbers type mentality.  And yet something about this flyer, inviting me to become a member and have a chance to possibly meet Arianna Huffington and tell her about this amazing experience that happened to me during my 25th wedding anniversary in Sicily, prompted me to click “Join Now.”

I arrived at CBS and found a seat in the front row (yep, I’m one of those people). I struck up a conversation with the women to my left: one a magazine editor for a major publication and the other a writer in advertising. In 10 minutes I felt like we were old high school friends at our reunion!

Arianna arrived and spoke. What can I say? She was divine.  I believe the first thing out of her mouth was “Yes, the accent is real.” and fourth thing was “Washington [DC] needs a nap.” Her anecdotes resonated so deeply and emotionally with the audience of women of all ages. She talked about how she handles all the email she gets everyday, she talked candidly about organizing her time and how important it is that we take advice in daily life from the flight attendants when they say “Put your own oxygen mask on first, then help those around you.”

I loved glancing back at all the smiling and laughing faces who were not only feeling a little closer to this female icon that stood before us but also feeling inspired, understood, validated, motivated, and hopeful!

Then the magic moment I was hoping for: getting to meet Arianna and briefly mentioning a few key words for her to remember my story. I stood in line holding my book next to a girl who asked if I would take a picture of her with Arianna using my camera and that she would do the same for me. I agreed but hesitantly because I was more focused on making a meaningful impression than an instagrammable selfie. When my turn arrived I walked up to the table, reached out my book for her to personalize and sign, and told her “My name is Denice.” Then I realized I only had a nano second to compose what my “meaningful impression” statement would be. Would it be “Look for my email about my Sicilian family” or “Remember me. I’m the woman who just celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary with a story to tell.”? And then the unthinkable happened… she spoke first! She said with her elegant accent and radiant smile of sisterhood “My, you are so nice and tall!” Wait…what?! I wasn’t prepared for this. I knew I had time for only one reply back and I couldn’t think of how to logically reply to her AND make my “meaningful impression.” So I just gave an honest and completely boring answer “Oh, thank you. My dad’s side of the family is German…and, uh… he’s 6 ft 4.” She politely smiled and handed me my signed book. I walked away. That was it. I failed.

And then I heard my name being yelled. It was the girl in line who was now crouched down next to Arianna, smiling and poised for her picture I promised to take. I snapped it. It was lovely. It was everything you’d want out of attending a celebrity event: a flattering photo of you with the star! That girl was very happy and I was glad to have given her that. I left with no photos of Arianna, and no meaningful dialogue with her.

But I had her book and I began reading it that very night. A quote in her book gave me the courage to email her. So four days later I composed a succinct email with the subject Re: The Tall Girl from CBS. I woke up the next morning and screamed as I opened my email. She not only wanted me to post my story on the Huff Post but I was welcomed as an independent blogger!

To date I have submitted four blogs and they have posted all four.  It has been tremendously rewarding to have the prestige of the Huff Post’s audience but I think one of the best gifts I have received from this experience is that I have an entirely new view and respect for the power of connecting with like-minded people and more specifically – women.  In Arianna’s book Thrive she says “Research has shown that our willingness to let ourselves experience the wonder of coincidence really does say something about us” and not only was my Sicilian story that brought me to Arianna one of complete coincidence, but so was the overall uniting concept of women and the magical similarities that we have between us.  I found that the “wonder of coincidence” pervaded through that room because we all were women and although vastly unique in our artistic endeavors, we all shared the understanding of the demands put on the multi-tasking woman. There was a very definite bond; it was palpable, like a security blanket we all quietly shared… okay, maybe not so quietly. And may I add, we were one good-looking bunch of women!

I cannot thank the Alliance for Women in Media enough for holding this well organized and productive event and, fortunately, I will never be the same because of it….

Denice Duff

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