I was honored to be invited to CD Peacocks’ Hearts on Fire Women Appreciation Dinner about a week ago by my loving and supportive friend, Ami Patel who works in social media and marketing for the company.

She also invited our mutual friend Jessica George, who is the founder of The Apareció Foundation, a registered, non-profit, 501(c)(3) charity and every dollar donated goes toward our mission to fund mentoring, academic assistance, and scholarship programs for high-potential, low-income women in public high schools. Jessica also runs Hasana boutique and Felix Magazine – we have been friends for years and her support of young women and brilliant ideas never cease to amaze me.

It was a lovely dinner at Mastro’s…I felt very special the moment I walked in. In fact, being the social media maven that she is, Ami texted me a picture of my name placement before I arrived. She greeted me with her warm smile and we both laughed when we realized we wore exactly the same dress color – royal blue “I swear we didn’t plan this,” we laughed as I met all her wonderful coworkers.

Ami immediately led me the Hearts on Fire collection being featured by famous designer Ilaria Lanzoni who also was in attendance. The first piece Ami showed me was a star ring – full of sparkles – oh how she spoke to my soul. I got a little lost in the beauty of it for a moment in a trance – then Ami showed me the rest of the pieces – all so extraordinary and special.

The moment I met the designer Ilaria I realized why she was a part of the collection and why our souls had crossed paths this very night. I immediately sensed her heart was in the right place – she certainly had a lot of original sparkle and wanted women to feel beautiful. I could tell she really was spreading the same message I strive to – it empower women with self-love and a way to celebrate their uniqueness.

From the Hearts on Fire site about her collection – “The inspiration for the Illa Collection dates back to Hearts On Fire designer Ilaria’s childhood in northern Italy and her love for the nighttime sky. Characterized by spectacular stars and constellation themed pieces, the Illa Collection is comprised of stunning, unique jewelry that is sure to turn heads. This whimsical collection is for anyone who has ever looked up and wished to capture a piece of the star sprinkled night sky for themselves. Each and every piece of the Illa Collection is guaranteed to leave you starry-eyed.”

Over dinner Jessica and I reminisced about how we threw a charity fashion show fundraiser back in 2010 that featured many wonderful Chicago women, including our late dear soul sister Jessica Marie Hehn who recently passed away from cancer. The fashion show was called “Diamonds in the Rough” and it was to support the young women who truly are diamonds in the rough, who have faced many challenges and obstacles but still shine in their very special way.

I observed Ami’s warm smile again and sweet eyes and then enjoyed the humor and infectious laugh from her coworker Autumn who was sitting to my right. I noticed Jessica light up as she talked about all her current initiative and future goals for her mission to keep empowering young women.  I looked at Ilaria at the other table, humbly glowing as other women engaged with her about her work, delighted the reality her attention to detail in many ways was touching so many. It was no coincidence that we were all there tonight together. Right at that moment, I glanced up that the Hearts on Fire Sign displayed with the brand tagline “The World’s Most Perfectly Cut Diamond.”

“Ladies”, I said while theatrically pronouncing my words to Jessica and Ami with gusto. ”YOU are the world’s most perfectly cut diamond.”

My friends laughed and rejoiced with delight, their eyes shined brighter, like chandelier lanterns from the soul. I sensed our friend Jessica Marie with us and remembered her working the runway with such confidence and grace back in the day. She always gave me the boost I needed to remind me of my shine. “Diamonds in the Rough” was one of my first fashion shows as a model I am positive Jessica Marie’s kind words to me when we were getting our hair and makeup done helped me sparkle that runway with sass. A montage of memories flashed through my head – I remember laughing with her over wine, a bit of silliness and a lot of soul like we were in that moment.

“The soul is placed in the body like a rough diamond, and must be polished, or the luster of it will never appear” – Daniel Defoe

I am certain we all walked away from that dinner shining a little brighter.


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