Elizabeth Mason’s introduction speech as she awards Maria Bello as the first recipient of The Spirit Award For Style And Substance, at the closing night gala for Downtown Los Angles Fashion Week, October 15th 2009.
“I am sure you are all very familiar with Maria Bello as an actress:
Her acting credits include, “The Cooler” and “A History of Violence”, both for which she received a Golden Globe nomination and won the New York Film Critics Award. Other work includes, “The Mummy 3”, “Coyote Ugly”, “Thank-you for Smoking”, “The Cooler”, “World Trade Center”, and the TV show, “ER”, among others.
Maria is currently filming “Grown-ups”, a comedy with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock and “Company Men” with Ben Affleck. Her film, “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee” is debuting at the Tunis Film Festival.
What you may not know is her long-time purpose in life as an activist, particularly focused on women’s issues. While attending Villanova University she majored in Peace and Justice Studies, and worked at the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia before going to New York City to begin her work as an actress. While in New York, she co-founded the DreamYard Drama Project, an arts and education program for children in Harlem.
She worked with Save The Children for many years, traveling to refugee camps in Kosovo and Bosnia and programs is Nepal, India, Bhutan, and East Africa. She spent many months traveling through Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, the Gambia and Botswana, meeting and interviewing women and children along the way. She came to know the awesome economic and political potential of the continent and began to dedicate her time primarily to African issues.
She began working with SaveDarfur in 2003, using her voice in the media to speak-out about the injustices there. She has lobbied congress for tougher measures to protect the citizens there, especially in regards to sexual violence against women.
In March of this year she helped to put together the first ever-special hearing on rape as a weapon of war and ‘instrument of genocide’, presided over by Senator Barbara Boxer.
Now working with Vital Voices, a program that seeks to empower women leaders from around the world, she is helping to create a Women’s Council, joining women of Washington, with the Women of Hollywood to create change for women everywhere. She is being honored in Variety Magazine’s ‘Most Powerful Women in Hollywood’ issue for her work with women in Darfur.
But to me she is just Maria, a beautiful smiling soul who has bounced through my doors for the last decade. Always with a purpose, a vision and a keen sense of her own personal style. Never questioning, never wavering and never wrong. Not one to drag a long procession of stylists behind her, she has always had her finger on her own pulse and what works organically for her.
Maria Bello has the style and beauty of Grace Kelly, the sense of purpose of Audrey Hepburn and the heart and soul of Mother Teresa.”