For our 7th annual Winter Party, IVY is giving back and focusing on social impact. We are thrilled to host the Silver & Gold Winter Gala in partnership with Roots & Wings, a charity that fights poverty and seeks to empower its families.

In New York City, we are proud to introduce our celebrity host for the Winter Gala, fashion icon and social entrepreneur Simonetta Lein. A champion of social impact, Lein is the founder of The Wishwall, a nonprofit that fights severe poverty and oppression in the world with a mission to “pay it forward.” In this exclusive IVY Magazine interview, we spoke with The Celebrity Wishmaker to learn more about her background, her passions, and what drives her to serve those in need and make wishes come true.

Tell us about yourself. Where are you originally from? Did your background have any influence on your chosen career path or current inspirations?

I am originally from Italy. I saw so much beauty all over in my youth. I was raised near Venice, and I have lived in Bologna, Rome, and Milan. I also have relatives in Naples and have been to Sicily. Beauty and class is just a normal concept to me. Please visit Italy if you haven’t done it yet.

What do you love most about fashion? How did you get involved?

I started as a super young model at 16. My grandmother was an excellent tailor, and I still can see her studying the old Marie Claire and creating the latest trends at that time. She was a very classy lady, inside and out; she taught me that how you get dressed introduces your soul, your way of being. I became devoted to fashion as a way to empower and inspire women to be the girl bosses they deserve to be.

When and how did you become passionate about social impact?

My parents were always great teachers in this aspect. My grandmother was this way, and my great grandfather was the mayor of his little city. I have a history of family caring to try to make this world a better place. When I moved to the States, the sense of community I found here pushed me to get even more involved.

Tell us about The Wishwall. How did the idea originally start, and how has it evolved?

It all started from a blog where I decided to give voice to the voiceless. It has evolved into a 501(c)(3), a foundation that helped many meaningful impactful wishes come true.

What is the most exciting campaign you have worked on with The Wishwall? On which causes do you feel The Wishwall has made the greatest impact?

I recently got passionate about a campaign we have created in collaboration with iMaxAlarm, an alarm company that creates devices specifically designed to protect women and children from street harassment. I think we made big impact on the issue of hit and run accidents, to women empowerment, to street harassment and to homelessness.

You have a tremendous following on social media. How did you grow your website and social media to where it is now, and why do you think your message captivates and resonates with people?

I was always very professional about it. I work many hours a day and I give back a lot, always giving sincere love to my tribe. I created friends on social media; just as in real life, you need friends who have your back. It takes time and dedication. I also always used good professionals, social media and mainstream PR so that my message could spread as much as possible.

As an entrepreneur, I know the importance of investing in myself. I think I have consistently high quality, informative and impactful work, and my followers look up to me, eager to see what I will do next. It is a great responsibility, but it gives me so much motivation. I want to thank them all.

The mission of The Wishwall is to “Give a Voice to Those Who Do Not Have One.” Given how much injustice and oppression there is in the world, how do you determine where to focus your time, energy and resources?

Rather than focusing on a single person’s wish, we focus our efforts on granting wishes that impact a multitude of people; we tend to look at those stories that can really leave a mark.

I am very passionate about women, and I just donated blankets and towels to an entire women’s shelter. I want these women to be empowered by us so that they might feel that there is so much more out there.

How has The Wishwall evolved you as a person?

Reading every day about real issues has made me so much more grounded. It keeps me motivated, as I feel I have a real connection with so many issues out there. In the beginning, it made me very sad, but then I turned that sadness into such a strength and desire to fight as much as I can — to change things, one wish at a time.

In your opinion, what defines success?

Consistency. To have a moment of success can happen, but to keep it for an entire life defines the warrior you are. Success means that, no matter what, you never allow yourself to be defeated. It is an exterior consequence of a huge interior change towards becoming the best ever you.

What is something most people don’t know about you that you think would be empowering for others to hear?

I am a regular person! I am married and I have a dog. I cut the grass, I clean my house, I walk my dog. I am very sensitive and I always try my very best. When I moved from Italy to the U.S., I left everything to start a new life. I cried a lot. And yet, I was determined that I would make my dreams come true. What I have accomplished in two years astonishes me a lot. I would have never ever done it without my husband and my family. Cherish your real YOU, your family, your abilities, your strengths and your weaknesses.

Who is a person in your life that has greatly impacted you during your time working on The Wishwall?

Anna Pozzi, mother of Theresa Pizzi, killed on a hit and run accident. The help I gave her and her family — and the love that she gave me back — is always in my thoughts and prayers.

Tell us why you are excited to partner with IVY and be the Celebrity Host of the Silver & Gold Winter Gala this year.  

I am a social entrepreneur, and I believe in educating the next generation and showing them that together, we can accomplish so many more powerful things. IVY inspires a community of leaders, and I believe in the same message. I want to inspire girls and women to become leaders and to surpass me. I want to cheer for their successes. I am so excited to stand for such a community and I hope I can bring my best into it. I am honored to be the celebrity host at the Winter Gala. I would say: onward to more!

To join us at the IVY Winter Gala in New York City, please RSVP here.

To learn more, attend live events, and become part of the IVY community, please visit IVY.com.