by Len Lear
Simonetta Lein, 36, is that rare combination of beauty, intellectual achievement and humanitarian good deeds that are impossible to ignore. Lein, who has been called a “celebrity wishmaker” in the press and a “the number one fashion influencer in the Philadelphia area,” was brought to our attention by Julie and John O’Connell, a realtor, who held a fundraising event in their West Gravers Lane home for Lein’s Wish Wall Foundation, a nonprofit that attempts to make wishes come true.
Lein, whose parents are both doctors, has a fine arts degree from the Academy of Fine Art in Rome and an honorary doctorate from the Universita Tiberina Ponte Sicia in Rome. Born and raised in a region of Northern Italy called Friuli Venezia Giulia, she and her husband, Raphael Amabile, moved to East Falls in 2015.
“We sold everything we had and left Italy,” Lein told us in an earlier interview. “Raphael is originally from North Jersey, but we fell in love with Philadelphia. We love it here.”
Lein was a columnist for Vanity Fair Italy and served as Brand Ambassador to several of Italy’s top luxury fashion, accessory and beauty brands. She appeared many times on TV in Italy, and her first book, “Everything Is Possible: A Novel About the Power of Dreams,” published by Sperling & Kupfer in 2013, was a best-seller in Italy. A digital, English-language version is available from Amazon.
The Italian transplant has also been a contributing fashion and lifestyle journalist and celebrity interviewer (opera singer Andrea Bocelli, chef Lidia Bastianich, etc.) for The Huffington Post, Italo Americano, Vogue Italia, Elle Italy, D di Repubblica and other publications. Lein has been featured locally on Fox-TV29, CBS-TV3 and WMCN Philadelphia.
In 2015, Lein founded the charitable organization, The Wish Wall Foundation. Its website provides a space for people from around the world to post their deepest wish or desire on its “Wish Wall.” The 501C-3 foundation then collaborates with other nonprofit groups to try to make some of the wishes come true.
“So I know how to use social media tools for good,” Lein told us last week. “This my dream. My parents taught me to leave the world a better place than I found it. We can give money and also do good. It is huge work, but it is a dream for me.”
As a model, Lein has been featured in Vogue Italia, Vanity Fair Italy and Cosmopolitan, and she has modelled for several fashion designers. She is also the CEO and co-founder of Ausonia Partners, a media and public relations agency headquartered locally.
One recent project by the Wish Wall Foundation was for a nurse in Tampa who had converted a truck into a mobile clinic that goes into low-income neighborhoods. She needed an EKG machine and monitor, which she did get as a result of efforts by the Wish Wall Foundation.
Another recent project was on behalf of Dignity Housing, a Germantown nonprofit that is the first housing and supportive services program in the nation to be founded and guided by homeless people and activists. They provide housing and services to thousands of local residents, mostly single African American women, some victims of domestic abuse, and their children.
The Wish Wall Foundation recently gave them boxes filled with new toiletries, “packages of love,” clothing, notebooks, school supplies, headphones, an activity day for kids and a playground for the children with picnic tables and benches. “It was so wonderful talking to the kids and encouraging them,” said Lein. “I loved it.”
The foundation’s efforts are not limited to helping the poor and homeless in this country. In the Philippines they donated money to 180 children who had to walk an hour and a half to go to school but had no shoes.
“We gave them shoes and school supplies and a one-day event with a magician and other entertainers,” said Lein. “I still have a happy image of the children. It was the first time they ever ate ice cream.”
In Nigeria, Lein is working with a nonprofit called “I Love to Read.”
According to the Italian import, “So many of the children there cannot read and write. We did a project with 100 girls. We had a great day for them and gave them backpacks, shoes, etc. A local artisan there made the backpacks and said it was her largest commission ever, so it was a real win-win, a wish within a wish.”
Another project in Nigeria is called the Simonetta Lein Literacy Competition. Every participating child gets books, and some get laptops and other electronic devices.
“I was humbled by the fact that they named it after me. We want to teach the women a usable skill. We donated sewing machines to 40 women along with two weeks of training. Women empowerment is my commitment. Maybe we’ll do another fundraiser in Chestnut Hill next spring.” (Lein was not able to go to the Philippines and Nigeria in person, but she hopes to do so next year.)
For more information, visit TheWishWall.org. Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com