The Influential Ladies Alliance
Francesca Lana on the ILA: I’ve always been a passionate advocate not just of women’s rights but of women’s opportunities and that’s what the Influential Ladies Alliance is about – giving women the opportunity to come together to do remarkable things. In my travels around the world, I’m struck time and time again by the beautiful diversity of women and how powerful it is when women collaborate.
At the heart of the ILA is a commitment to weaving a rich tapestry of female experience and talent and tapping the untapped potential that exists in so many women. So often what holds women back from achieving their potential, is a lack of support networks. I’ve always tried try to help other women wherever and however I can – so the ILA’s commitment to building a supportive, strategic sisterhood really excites me.
Anyone who knows me tells me that my biggest gift is communication and bringing people together. The ILA gives me a chance to use my gifts and skills to bring women together, connecting them across interests and fields – arts, sciences, academia, philanthropy and business. One of the many things that I love about ILA is how it brings women together in a spirit of collaboration rather than competition, not just helping build businesses but helping build up the women behind them.
I am blessed to have been nurtured by a network of strong, supportive women in my family and I love that the ILA’s mentoring, educational and social events are places where women feel not just empowered, but enriched as they experience the support of other women. It’s wonderful to see women arrive at the ILA events – whether they are dinners, cocktails or seminars –and within minutes – catch a vision for what the ILA is doing and start to build strong relationships with other women – swapping numbers and building networks. It’s been great to see the ILA vision become a reality at these events, which happen once a month or so and to hear those women who come asking when the next event is.
The ILA team really embodies the ILA’s ethos. I feel very privileged to be part of such a strong team of fantastic women, who are not just great partners in the ILA work, but great friends who support and nurture each other. Even though the team is made up of busy working women, wives and mothers, whenever we’re in the same city, we always find time to get together and plan how we can help other women through the ILA.
Wherever I go, it is my pleasure and privilege to publicize the work of the ILA, I’m a “people person” and the ILA is fundamentally not about projects but about people and about women encouraging other women to be the best they can be – a cause which I wholeheartedly support.
What is the Influential Ladies Alliance?
- We are an alliance of successful & influential women from all over the world
- We are a non-profit membership organisation
- We support charitable causes and foundations
- We support empowerment and encouragement of women
- We are not a religious organisation
- We are not a political organisation
- We build our community based on mutual respect and support
National Memorial Day Parade 2014
25th May 2014 was a special day for me, not only was it my birthday but I enjoyed the privilege of attending a dinner given by the American Veterans’ Centre in honor and advance of the ninth annual National Memorial Day Parade in Washington D.C the next day. Guests included former astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Emmy Award winning TV anchor, Rita Cosby, both great supporters of the American Veterans’ Centre. It was an honour to be there with them and others in high anticipation for the Parade the next day.
It’s fair to say that the Parade itself exceeded all my highest expectations. The day dawned bright and clear and thousands of patriotic Americans lined Constitution Avenue in Washington DC to celebrate the nation’s military heroes from the sons and daughters of the American Revolution right through to recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Parade was a majesty of red white and blue – with every flag and ensigns of different regiments and divisions of glory past flying in the breeze as well as a sea of balloons and Stars and Stripes everywhere.
Veterans units from all fifty states were represented as was the range of U.S. military forces with naval, airborne and ground forces atop the floats. Particularly memorable for me were the US Submarine veterans (Columbus Base) float with a service man accompanying an extraordinary scarlet and black missile and a float featuring a full scale working US military helicopter. It was also extraordinarily moving to see older veterans of the Korean and Vietnam Wars honored on a beautifully elaborate float decorated in the Stars and the Stripes.
Animals were also honored with many servicemen marching with their devoted dogs and bomb sniffers.
There was even a stunning display of mounted cavalry on beautiful Palomino horses, their golden coats glistening in the sunshine.
The atmosphere was incredible with a joyous concelbration of patriotism full of love and respect and honor for our America’s heroes, particularly fallen and wounded.
As the parade proceeded, servicemen and women past and present saluted each other as comrades whilst crowds cheered and applauded the brave men and women passing by. It was fantastic to see so many families there, especially the numbers of children, and to think how a whole new generation were being inspired by the courage of these veterans. The younger generation was also represented by a Boy Scout Troop marching in the Parade to honour veterans, dressed in their distinctive caps and khaki uniform and marching in time with the national flag, they made for a fantastic sight.
A Norman Rockwell sight come alive.
The Parade was not just a feast for the eyes but for the ears, the clamor and warmth of embrace of appreciative crowds was relentless; with stirring military bands bringing their brass and percussion brilliance to the proceedings. Singing God Bless America along with a crowd of thousands as we honored veterans who had been willing to sacrifice everything for their country, was an experience that brought tears to my eyes and one which I will never forget. Just as moving was the minute’s pause at the National Moment of Remembrance as, in unity, we stopped to remember those who have given their lives for their country and the cause of freedom.
Former Miss America, Kirsten Haglund, was Master of Ceremonies and, right from the midst of the parade, she was commentator on the action for tv audiences as well as those thousands present. As Fox lady she be talking us through the amazing stream of floats which included armoured vehicles and f with participants dressed in historical costume – including the especially colourful Colonial Military March in their blue coats, white breeches and black three cornered hats – to remind us of veterans of battles from past centuries. Meanwhile, from the media booth Rita Cosby commentated for the 1.5 million Americans watching the parade on live television as well as the servicemen and women watching live from all over the world on the Pentagon Channel.
The American Veterans’ Centre could not have arranged a more fitting tribute to veterans past and present. I, and countless others, are full of gratitude for those – many of them volunteers and veterans – who poured their time and efforts into putting together such a wonderful day. The AVC’s aim is to serve those who have so bravely served their country by “guarding their legacy [and] honoring their sacrifice” and the Memorial Day Parade did both in remarkable and unforgettable ways. A chance to explore D.C. afterwards with its historic buildings and amazing cultural complex gave me a great love for the city and I am counting the days until 25th May and this year’s Memorial Day Parade.
Francesca Lana’s thoughts on beauty
Looking at an airport news stand recently I (Francesca Lana) found myself feeling unsettled as my eyes glanced over the covers of the fashion and celebrity magazines in front of me. At first I couldn’t work out why – it wasn’t envy – as a woman I’ve always appreciated and celebrated the beauty of other women. It wasn’t disapproval, I grew up reading these magazines and enjoy a fun read as much as the next woman.
It wasn’t aesthetic, the covers were beautiful and beautifully shot. And then finally, as my eyes scanned from cover to cover, I put my finger on why I felt such discomfort – sure, the women were all stunning and all beautifully dressed but, they were also all …eerily similar – the same tiny neat chin, the same tiny retroussé nose, the same tiny body, the same shiny long wavy hair, even the same cheekbones…
Marilyn Monroe | Francesca Lana Online
If this seems exaggerated, do what I did – look at any newsstand and compare the women on the front covers. And then do an Internet search of beauty icons of the past from Audrey Hepburn to Marilyn Monroe to Ava Gardner – all beautiful and all different.
“So what?” you might be asking. Well the emergence of this identikit image of female beauty reflects a troubling trend of our current day epoch which goes much further than celebrity and modeling and affects us all. When there’s only one standard of beauty, it means anyone who doesn’t conform to it feels inadequate and any survey from the last few years will show increasing dissatisfaction from women about their looks. And as that dissatisfaction grows so does the incentive and opportunity for women to do something about it.