Stars and smiles aligned last night in New York's Financial District for Operation Smile's 30th Anniversary Gala, a glamorous night on the town in support of one of the world's most well-recognized philanthropic organizations. In its three decades of international charity work, Operation Smile has given more than 3.5 million medical evaluations and 200,000 surgeries to children born with facial cleft deformities. Operation Smile's procedures give children the life-saving abilities to eat, speak, socialize, and, importantly, smile! We talked to a few of last night's stars about their work with the charity, and asked them a must-know style question while we were at it, too.
Tell us about why you're here tonight celebrating Operation Smile in its 30th year!
Jay Manuel: I'm actually a Smile Ambassador for Operation Smile. I've always loved the work that they do here. A couple years ago, I auctioned off probably 120 different items from all my red carpet outfits I've worn to the various award shows, and a portion of the proceeds went to Operation Smile. I come from a medical family, and the work that they do is just incredible. Some of these kids are ostracized, but a lot of them can't eat or breathe properly.
Mena Suvari: I feel that everyone can give back in their own way, and I've been honored to do a lot of charity work over the years. I actually went to Africa a few years ago with my brother, and we sat in on a cleft palette surgery for a one-year-old baby. It was an Ethiopian doctor along with a Swedish doctor, who would come for two weeks every year, and they did something like nine surgeries a day. Some of these families would walk for two days to get to this clinic, and then wait to be seen by the doctors. Especially in a lot of these countries, we don't think about that, but it completely changes their opportunities.
Jessica Stam: I love that it's a global charity that supports children. They definitely do great things helping kids get free operations. It's the 30th anniversary this year, and I think if a charity has been able to last this long it means they're a well-oiled machine. It says a lot about them.
Olivia Culpo (Miss Universe): The Miss Universe organization just recently partnered with them for all the great work they do. I'll be traveling to Brazil and I'll actually be able to sit-in on an entire procedure, and then actually take them out afterwards when it's all done.
Nana Meriwether (Miss USA): It really changes the kids' lives; it's something that will no longer define them for the rest of their lives.
What are three wardrobe musts every woman should have in her closet?
JM: One of the things that a lot of women don't mention that can work in spring and even transcend right into fall is having that perfectly-fitted, light grey pinstripe blazer. You can wear it with jeans, just a white shirt, and great heel. It's something you can dress up or go out at night in. If it fits your body regardless of your size, remember that fashion is always about proportions, it can really elongate your body.
MS: I'm obsessed with leather, so you have to have a leather jacket. Then, an amazing black pump — stiletto with a pointed toe, maybe — and a jean jacket.
JS: I think a good white button-down, a nice pair of go-to black jeans that fit really well and always make you feel perfect, and a pair of black pumps.
OC: A standard oversized sweater, because you need to be comfortable.
NM: A nude pump, because you can wear that with anything.
OC: And a staple maxi dress for the summer. You can wear that traveling or if you just don't want to wear something tight — it's beautiful. You look like a Greek goddess even though you're basically wearing a sheet.
NM: And you get off the plane looking like you're ready to go to a party!