Honorees From Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to Betty White Collect Matrix Awards

New York Women in Communications Present Annual Honors

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Rosie O' Donnell and Cindi Berger at the 2011 Matrix Awards.
Rosie O' Donnell and Cindi Berger at the 2011 Matrix Awards. Credit: AP
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It was another good year for inspiration, career advice and the occasional well-tossed F-bomb at the New York Women in Communications' annual Matrix Awards on Monday.

The event, now in its 41st year of honoring women who make an impact in their communications fields, was hosted at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York by More magazine editor in chief Lesley Jane Seymore, a last minute substitute after slated host and Food Network personality Sandra Lee canceled due to a family illness. Ms. Seymore feigned a bruised ego at her self-proclaimed "'All About Eve' moment," joking she wasn't the first pick to sub.

TV icon Betty White, who saw a career resurgence at age 88 last year after appearing in a popular Super Bowl spot for Snickers, received a Lifetime Achievement Award and delivered a cheeky acceptance speech via satellite from Los Angeles. "It's wonderful to be a role model at 89," she said. "It's wonderful to be anything at 89."

"If there's any advice I can give to all of you out there in the audience," Ms. White added, "it's to keep doing what you love -- long after everyone assumes you've died."

Huffington Post Editor Arianna Huffington was on hand to present a Matrix Award to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, noting the recipient's humanity and compassion as well as her business savvy. "She knows not just how to do intimacy, but how to monetize intimacy," Ms. Huffington said. PBS's Gwen Ifill, who covers Washington and famously moderated the 2008 Vice Presidential debate between Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Joe Biden, accepted her award from boss Paula Kerger, PBS's president and CEO.

Former Awards host Rosie O' Donnell took to the podium to present a Matrix trophy to Cindi Berger, CEO of PMK*BNC. Though her remarks were tame when compared with her previous turn at the Matrix microphone, they were certainly memorable. "I feared her," Ms O' Donnel said of Ms. Berger, about their working relationship before the two became friends. "It's not easy being Rosie O' Donnell's publicist. Just one of the many [PR challenges], off the top of my head: Remember the lesbian haircut? ...Without her, I don't think I'd still be around. I'd be on the macadamia nut farm with Rosanne Barr, wearing overalls and going, 'What the f*** happened?'"

Among other things, Ms. Berger spoke about her unconventional approach to tackling the challenges of motherhood while still working (she kept a nanny and crib in the office). She was followed on-stage by a performance from John Legend, one of her clients.

Robin Koval, who along with business partner (and presenter) Linda Kaplan Thaler helped form the Kaplan Thaler Group, was lauded for her smarts and bravery in business. A&E Television Networks CEO Abbe Raven accepted her award from producer and friend Mark Burnett, recalling her mother's sacrifice and determination to continue her education after raising her children. Gina Sanders, CEO of Fairchild Fashion Group, likened her leadership outlook over the past three years to her experience riding horses with gauchos in Argentina over dangerous terrain during a storm -- trusting in both training and instincts to lead with absolute conviction.

Broadway and television star Idina Menzel, known for her starring role in "Wicked" and her appearances on Fox's "Glee," was the final recipient. After an enthusiastic presentation by CBS anchor (and fan) Dana Tyler, she noted she didn't even realize she was a member of "the media," but was happy to discover it. "I feel like the Arianna Huffington of musical theater," she said.

She closed the ceremony with its most memorable quote, in the form of some more parting advice to young women: "If ever in your lives you're getting some award and you think, 'Why me?' just keep moving and say, 'Why the f*** not?'"

The NYWIC also presented its 2011 scholarship recipeints, who were on hand to accept.

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