Glass ceiling? We’re smashing it! A special evening hosted by designer Kelly Hoppen and YOU’s editor Jo Elvin

What does it really take to be one of Britain’s most successful women? You’d be surprised, as we discovered at a special evening hosted by designer Kelly Hoppen and YOU’s editor Jo Elvin.

YOU editor Jo with PR mogul Jenny Halpern Prince and Kelly Hoppen. Image: Hannah Harley Young.

What do YOU’s Editor Jo Elvin and interior designer Kelly Hoppen have in common? The ability to gather together a group of awe-inspiring women in order to swap stories and foster connections. Held in the magnificent setting of Kelly’s London home, an evening of ‘female celebration’ brought together a star-studded guest list of high achievers. Journalists Eve Pollard and Rachel Johnson caught up with Samantha Cameron over champagne, while Countryfile presenter Anita Rani lavished praise on designer Melissa Odabash’s swimwear and Strictly alumnae, entrepreneur Jo Wood and actress Tameka Empson, discussed dance moves.

Presenters Laura Whitmore and Anita Rani. Image: Hannah Harley Young.

Conversation sparkled as the guests enjoyed champagne from Fortnum & Mason, Flow alkaline spring water and canapés from Rosemary Ferguson.

‘It’s so important for women to connect and support each other,’ says Kelly. ‘We are so good at that. With so many incredible women under one roof, the evening was full of wonderful conversations and laughter. There is simply nothing better than that kind of high – just pure energy.’

In the name of all things female – and in the spirit of empowerment – we asked some of the women to share what’s helped them get where they are today…

Designer Melissa Odabash and Christine Lampard. Image: Hannah Harley Young.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made – and what did you learn from it?

Melissa Hemsley, cook and author:

So many! One is putting my trust in the wrong people. Now I always listen to my gut, make sure I do my research and ask questions. Another one is doubting myself after getting it wrong. It’s important to be your own biggest cheerleader and to have positive people on standby who will lift you up, share their knowledge, time, energy and book of contacts.

Melissa Hemsley
Melissa Hemsley. Image: Hannah Harley Young.
Hannah Harley Young

Anita Rani, TV presenter:

I mess up on a daily basis – and I think it’s the best way to learn. I’ve been working in live TV for 20 years and it’s still the scariest thing in the world, but also the most thrilling. I know I’ve frozen, or felt that I’ve said the wrong thing and a second feels like an hour. Now I’m learning that it’s OK to take a breath and relax. No one knows that you made the mistake. Just style it out.

Kelly Hoppen with designer Storm Keating
Kelly Hoppen with designer Storm Keating. Image: Hannah Harley Young.

Best piece of advice you’ve received?

Tameka Empson, actress:

My mum told me to always be true to myself and do what pleases me. I went for an audition once and they wanted me to be nude and I said, ‘No, I’ve got some great underwear!’ The costume lady even came to my parents’ house to see it – I said, ‘That’s what I’ll wear’ and that’s what I did wear. I was sassy – and true to myself.

Laura Whitmore
Laura Whitmore. Image: Hannah Harley Young.

Eve Pollard, author and journalist:

My mother always said, ‘Get enough sleep! If you’ve got enough sleep you can handle anything.’ It’s something I’ve passed on to my daughter Claudia [Winkleman].

Katherine Jenkins
Katherine Jenkins. Image: Hannah Harley Young.
Rachel Stevens and Justine Jenkins
Rachel Stevens and Justine Jenkins. Image: Hannah Harley Young.

What used to scare you that doesn’t anymore?

Rachel Stevens, singer and TV personality:

When I was younger, if I found something scary I would try to push the feelings away. Now it’s all about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. You just have to keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone – just like when I did Strictly.

Tameka Empson
Tameka Empson. Image: Hannah Harley Young.
Jo Wood
Jo Wood. Image: Hannah Harley Young.

Katherine Jenkins, singer:

Being a working mum. I’ve found that everything has more clarity and perspective. When I was single and on tour I’d sleep in hotels and just think about the tour. But now I travel back home through the night so I can have breakfast with my kids and spend the day with them before I go off to another gig. It’s taught me that you can create your new normal if you put your mind to it. Women are amazing at multitasking and we absolutely can do it. It’s just about realising that some things will go wrong – we will drop the plates at some point, but that’s OK because we’re holding so many.

canapes by Rosemary Ferguson
Healthy canapes by Rosemary Ferguson
Kelly Hoppen and Eve Pollard
Kelly Hoppen and Eve Pollard. Image: Hannah Harley Young.

Jo Wood, entrepreneur:

When I first became single I had never been out without my ex-husband [Ronnie Wood]. Then I designed a tree for charity that was being displayed at the Natural History Museum and going to that event was the first time I’d ever had to had to walk in somewhere by myself. I thought, ‘I can’t do it.’ I could see all these people walking inside in couples. I rang my daughter-in-law [Tilly Wood] and she said, ‘Don’t be silly Jo, of course you can do it.’ So I walked in, and that night made two good friends. That gave me so much confidence. I can do anything on my own now.

Samantha Cameron
Samantha Cameron. Image: Hannah Harley Young.

Samantha Cameron, founder of fashion line Cefinn: 

As you get older, walking into a room is much less of an issue than it was when you were in your 20s. It’s that understanding that people aren’t as scary as you think they are. You can always walk up to another woman and introduce yourself; in the main, they’ll be supportive.

Report by Miranda Thompson