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Innovator Awards 2018: A Roomful of Legends


Film Innovator Jonah Hill and presenter Channing Tatum
Matteo Prandoni/BFA.com

Some personal news travels fast, especially when delivered to a crowd of luminaries by Chrissy Teigen. “Is that wrong, that I announced that?” Teigen coyly said as she presented David Chang with the Food Innovator award Wednesday night.

“Thank you Chrissy Teigen and thank you Grace,” Chang said when he took the stage, nodding at his wife. “Yes, we are expecting our first child.”

The speeches at WSJ.’s annual Innovator Awards paid tribute to friends, collaborators and idols. Apart from Teigen, award presenter Channing Tatum recounted how Film Innovator Jonah Hill had talked him into appearing in “21 Jump Street” (“I have this terrible idea for a movie.”) Cara Delevingne gave Television Innovator Phoebe Waller-Bridge a warm—and charmingly unfiltered—introduction. Lena Herzog presented the Technology Innovator award to Nonny de la Peña, Dasha Zhukova praised architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron for achieving a balance between the world of real estate developers and museum curators. And Lupita Nyong’o, presenting the Design Innovator award to costume designer Ruth E. Carter, cited the many corners of African culture Carter had intensively researched as she helped create Wakanda, the fictional nation in Black Panther. After discarding his notes, Designer Virgil Abloh gave an impromptu tribute to Fashion Innovator Ralph Lauren. When he asked the audience who had ever worn something designed by Lauren, nearly every hand in the room shot up. “Therein lies an innovator,” Abloh said.

Some speeches were calls to action: “Almost every American can contribute to others,” said Philanthropy Innovator Agnes Gund in her acceptance speech. Gund’s sale of a Lichtenstein painting netted $165 million, kickstarting her Art for Justice fund dedicated to ending the racial biases of mass incarceration.

The end of the night held a final surprise. After Gayle King presented John Legend with the Entertainment Innovator award, Legend playfully called out Teigen (“I want to thank my wife for naming me as her second-favorite man in the room, after David Chang”). He then sat down at the grand piano, center stage, where he delighted the audience with a cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” followed by two of his own songs, “Ordinary People” and “All of Me.” After which guests were invited to enjoy dessert while taking in MoMA’s Bruce Nauman exhibition, “Disappearing Acts.”

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