When you have a chance to chat with them, one-on-one, you realize that celebrities are just real people. For instance, Kyle MacLachlan, best-known for playing Trey MacDougal in Sex and the City and FBI agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks, told me that, earlier that morning, he’d almost cried after dropping his 5-year-old son off for his first day of kindergarten. I told him that even though my kids, Brandon and Savannah, are 14 and 9, I remembered those days vividly.
They were just a few of the wonderful people I met last week, when I participated, for the second year in a row, in Cantor Fitzgerald’s Charity Day. The financial trading firm hosts the annual event to commemorate the lives of the 658 Cantor employees lost on 9/11, with 100 percent of the proceeds—commissions made on trades that day—going to more than 100 charities, including the Foundation Fighting Blindness.
Even if no one knew exactly who April Lufriu was, I had my “nametag”—my Mrs. World sash and crown—which qualified me as a “celebrity ambassador” for FFB there to meet and greet and help with sales. And, yes, I actually helped brokers make a few sales, only I can’t say exactly how. While I did get a tutorial before getting on the phones, the terminology they used sounded like Japanese to me. So I had to be fed what to say, and I was still messing it up.
Fortunately, the brokers closed the deals. And in fact, later, I was pulled aside by Howard Lutnick, Chairman and CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P. and BGC Partners, Inc., who told me I was the talk of the trade floor because of a huge Verizon bond trade I’d helped with. I said to him, “Is that a big deal?” He said, “Oh, yeah, that’s a big deal.”
A big shout-out to the Lutnick family, by the way—they made me and many others feel so welcome, a part of their family, really. I think that’s the point of Charity Day, to offer some solace to the families of those lost on 9/11. And during a video interview, when I was asked why I was there, right off the bat I said I’m representing my two children—who, like me, have retinitis pigmentosa—as well as the Foundation, because it’s funding research to find a cure. I do what I do as a mom first.
But I’m not going to lie. Rubbing shoulders and chatting with the other celebrities was pretty exciting. Among them were Jamie Foxx, Billy Crystal, Dr. Ruth, Bruce Jenner and the Today Show team of Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, who pulled me over to take a photo with them.
I’m especially thankful to the Foundation for giving me these kinds of opportunities. I’ve said, and written, in the past that the reason I got back into the beauty pageant circuit, after doing it in my twenties, was to raise awareness about retinal diseases and promote FFB’s incredible focus on research. I’ve been able to do just that these past couple of years, but I don’t see myself returning to Charity Day next year—because on November 23, a new Mrs. World will be crowned.
But, believe me, my work for the Foundation is far from over. And if I can, I’ll help the Foundation find another celebrity, perhaps another beauty queen, to represent FFB at Charity Day next September 11th.