Not So Or­di­nary

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Al­though WSJ. mag­a­zine’s an­nual In­no­va­tor Awards aims to cel­e­brate the least or­di­nary among us, John Leg­end closed out a flashy New York evening with a per­for­mance of his hit “Or­di­nary Peo­ple.”

The room — full of fash­ion in­dus­try types, mod­els and celebri­ties, in­clud­ing award re­cip­i­ents Ralph Lau­ren, Jonah Hill, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Ruth E. Carter, and their cho­sen pre­sen­ters Vir­gil Abloh, Chan­ning Tatum, Cara Delev­ingne and Lupita Ny­ong’o — mur­mured and swayed along to the song that iron­i­cally ap­plied to many of them. Leg­end, who re­ceived an award pre­sented by Gayle King, per­formed two other songs, in­clud­ing a ren­di­tion of Nina Si­mone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misun- der­stood,” af­ter not­ing that he was the only one in the room “who has to sing for my sup­per tonight.”

His wife Chrissy Teigen, who pre­sented an award to the en­trepreneurial chef David Chang, watched from the back. King, for her part, ad­mit­ted she agreed to be there sim­ply be­cause Leg­end asked her, not­ing she wasn’t even sure what event she was at, com­ing straight off two nearly sleep­less days cov­er­ing the midterm elec­tions. “I didn’t even know what this was, guys, I walk in this room and it’s a glam­orous night like this — I saw you, Jonah,” King said, list­ing off other no­ta­bles she could see. “Only in New York.”

Hill, who re­ceived an award for his first time writ­ing and di­rect­ing a film with the im­pend­ing “Mid90s,” joked af­ter Tatum handed off the award: “Who would’ve thought that me tak­ing the job as your oil boy in Tampa all those years ago would have brought us to such heights.” Af­ter a few more jokes, he turned earnest, say­ing he was grate­ful to have had the op­por­tu­nity to learn from so many peo­ple over a rel­a­tively brief ca­reer. “The sec­ond you fo­cus on the re­sults, you’re lost — the process is the re­ward.” He made his way back to his ta­ble, where an Olsen may or may not have been us­ing an e-cig be­tween pre­sen­ta­tions, but Tatum left early, his seat taken by Kar­lie Kloss.

Speak­ing of process, Ny­ong’o noted what an im­por­tant role a cos­tume de­signer like Ruth Carter, who held that role for “Black Pan­ther,” has in the mak­ing of a film. She said the “ex­pe­ri­ence im­me­di­ately be­came ex­cit­ing” when Carter’s de­signs took shape, even though they were al­tered and tweaked right up un­til shoot­ing. Carter, a fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor of Spike Lee’s with 30 years of movies on her ré­sumé, said, “Re­ally, my en­tire ca­reer has been dress­ing su­per­heroes.”

But stand­ing ova­tions were saved for Agnes Gund, a phi­lan­thropist who’s been rec­og­nized re­peat­edly for her gifts (it was her name on the lobby en­trance to the awards din­ner held at the Mu­seum of Modern Art), and Ralph Lau­ren, who’s 50th year in busi­ness has also been much-feted.

Gund took her time at the podium to re­mark that last year, Amer­i­cans set a record for char­i­ta­ble giv­ing of $410 bil­lion and said this pen­chant for char­ity “is one of the facts about this coun­try that makes me proud.”

The idea of Amer­ica also seemed to rile the crowd for Lau­ren, who was in­tro­duced by an ap­par­ently indefatigable Abloh as the man who cre­ated the idea of a life­style brand and “showed us what fash­ion can tran­scend to be.”

Lau­ren, who got the most sus­tained ap­plause and had to just start talk­ing for peo­ple to be seated, put a per­sonal theme on the idea of tran­scen­dence. “All th­ese ac­co­lades and I’m sit­ting here, in my chair — I’m the luck­i­est man in the world, be­cause I re­ally could have been just run­ning an el­e­va­tor.” He also took up the role of elder states­man ad­dress­ing his fel­low re­cip­i­ents to tell them “you’re all do­ing great” and to ex­plain that when he was start­ing out with his fa­bled ties, “I didn’t know what in­no­va­tion was — my life was in­no­va­tion.”

“In­no­va­tion is re­ally pas­sion and love and car­ing about what you’re do­ing; it’s your bat­tle and your fight,” Lau­ren said. “Af­ter 50 years I have re­ally loved the work I do and I’ll con­tinue, hope­fully as long as I can and I can still play bas­ket­ball, so I’m OK.” — KALI HAYS

Ralph Lau­ren

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