Five ‘Legendary Women’ honored at American Heart Association’s ‘Go Red for Women’ event

By Diane Y. Welch

There was a sea of red and a sense of celebration as around 800 women dressed in red — and a sprinkling of men wearing red ties — gathered at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines recently as guests of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 11th annual “Go Red for Women” luncheon.

Themed around sisterhood and inspiration, the Valentine’s Day luncheon focused on three areas to support the fight against heart disease in women: heightening awareness of the issue, creating a passionate call-to-action, and generating funds to support education and research.

This year the AHA honored five “Legendary Women” for their efforts in supporting the campaign to educate women about heart disease and related conditions: Lee Goldberg,

Dr. Mary Lyons, Zandra Rhodes, Debbie Turner, and Judy White. News anchor Barbara-Lee Edwards served as emcee, and Trisha Khaleghi, CEO for Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women and Newborns, was campaign chair.

Del Mar resident Rhodes, world-renowned couture designer, staged a dramatic fashion show that brought to the runway a series of her collections that included outfits from her 1980s historical collection — elegant hand-beaded evening wear; jazzy flowing geometric printed tops — several with the Rhodes signature squiggle design; and her nature-inspired print dresses and kaftans from her recent Sketchbook collection. A sparkling wedding dress was the dramatic finale.

This was the second year that Rhodes has supported the “Go Red for Women” campaign with a fashion show, she said. Five of Rhodes’ models were heart disease survivors, dressed in specially-designed knife-pleat skirts and matching tops. These five volunteers joined the models on the runway. One of them, Maran, a 6-year-old, twirled in her Rhodes-designed knife-pleated dress with Rhodes holding her hand. Diana Cavagnaro, celebrity milliner, designed their headwear and cocktail hats that topped off the outfits. Solana Beach hairstylist Vickie Lavanty provided the colorful Rhodes-inspired wigs for the models. There was a pop-up boutique after the show where guests could browse Rhodes collections and Cavagnaro designer hats.

Guest passion-speaker Jeanne Jones both moved and entertained guests with her story about her own experience with a heart-related condition. “Last year I was a ‘Legendary Woman,’ this year I’m a survivor,” said Jones, who recently suffered two mini-strokes but through fast action has fully recovered. She shared the acronym “FAST,” which represents three warning signs of a stroke — a drooping face, an arm going numb, slurred speech — and action, “time to call 911” so that all women could be alerted to these early signs and get help.

“I suddenly realized listening to Jeanne’s story the importance for women to know these signs,” said Rhodes. More women get strokes and heart-related conditions than they do breast cancer, she added.

“Go Red for Women” is sponsored nationally by Macy’s and locally by UC San Diego Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center. Rhodes, who has just accepted a place on the board of the San Diego Opera, will be honored by the AHA for her 17-year support for the Sulpizio center. Rhodes has annually donated her artistry and designer products to help fundraising efforts, she said. When asked if she felt proud of the recognition Rhodes replied, “I think to some extent you have be humble, otherwise you just get too big for your boots.”

For more information on the AHA visit To see more of Zandra Rhodes collections visit and to see Diana Cavagnaro’s designer millinery visit