Women in Entertainment Event: Shonda Rhimes, Angelina Jolie Fete the Power 100
Melissa Rivers also spoke at length about her late mother Joan Rivers at the annual event at Milk Studios Wednesday
The Hollywood Reporter welcomed many of the most powerful women in Hollywood to Milk Studios in Los Angeles on Wednesday morning to honor the Power 100 at the 23rd annual Women in Entertainment breakfast.
Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and ShondaLand founder and producer, received The Hollywood Reporter's Sherry Lansing Award, which recognizes a woman who is a pioneer and a leader in her industry. Unbroken director Angelina Jolie, also featured on THR's Power 100 list (No. 9), also took the stage to introduce THR’s Hollywood Mentorship program, produced in cooperation with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles. The program presents scholarship awards to 18 inner-city girls who participate in THR's Mentorship Program, pairing girls with leading figures from the entertainment industry.
NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Bonnie Hammer, who topped this year's list was honored during the welcoming remarks by Joel McHale and Hoda Kotb. Many women from the Power 100 joined Hammer at the event, including Fox Television Group's Dana Walden (No. 2), Sony's Amy Pascal (No. 4), Universal's Donna Langley (No. 5), Stacey Snider, (No. 7) and Sue Kroll (No. 10).
After welcoming speeches from co-president and chief creative officer of Guggenheim Media’s Entertainment Group Janice Min and senior vp and publisher Lynne Segall, Sarah Silverman took the stage for a special tribute to Joan Rivers.
"Joan Rivers was not done," she said. "At 81, she’d lived a life that would jam-pack 10 lifetimes, but she wasn't done. She left us unfinished."
Silverman, a close friend of the comedian who died in September, added that Joan had "this underdog mentality —it was the motor behind everything she did."
"She loved fiercely and she was passionate – you did not want to get on her bad side," she added.
After a touching retrospective video about Joan Rivers, her daughter Melissa received a standing ovation as she took the stage to speak at length about her mother for the first time.
"My mother was fearless," said Rivers. "And I don’t mean she didn’t have any fears. I mean that even though she was only 5’2, she stood tall and walked through them."
"Truth be told, my mother never thought of herself as a woman working in a man’s world," she added. "She just wanted to do her job and that was to make people laugh."
Unbroken director and actress Jolie, introduced by Sherry Lansing, presented this year's scholarship awards, giving one of the 18 mentees a full, four-year ride to Loyola Marymount University, valued at $220,000. The honor went to Melissa Sandoval, who broke down in tears while accepting the award. For the first time, WME will also be funding a full-ride scholarship to Loyola Marymount University. The second scholarship went to Megan Castillo, who was also surprised with the award at the event. The Entertainment Industry Foundation and Lifetime are funding the grants — which provide each mentee with $10,000.
"This means that one of the 15 mentees will be able to spend four years at a great university without student debt, completely able to focus on her studies," said Jolie, who had privately met the 18 mentees before the event. "All come from underprivileged backgrounds, and most of them will tell you that to come to a university like this is a dream."
For the first time, the event, sponsored by Samsung Galaxy, Gucci, Audi, Roberto Coin, Gersh, Keurig and Loyola Marymount University, was held at Milk Studios, moving from the Beverly Hill Hotel, where it had been held for the previous 20 years due to the latter's ties to the Sultan of Brunei. The breakfast, by Wolfgang Puck, featured baked organic eggs with spinach and wild mushrooms, winter citrus salad and a trio of crispy kennebec potato latke with smoked salmon.
Many of the stars of Shondaland projects were on hand to support their showrunner including Scandal’s Tony Goldwyn, Darby Stanchfield, Dan Bucatinsky and Portia de Rossi, and Grey’s Anatomy’s Geena Davis, Kate Walsh and Jesse Williams. Other guests included Lea Michele, Jenna Dewan Tatum, Sharon Stone, Jay Leno and Gone Girl’s Emily Ratajkowski.
Goldwyn, who plays the president on ABC's Scandal, shared warm words about his show's creator.
"Every day I am just blown away by the force of Shonda’s intellect by her clarity of focus, her humor, her compassion and her ability to spin stories that are fantastically addictively entertaining and at the same time, deeply, sometimes uncomfortably real," he said before introducing a video greeting from First Lady Michelle Obama, who told the audience that she's an avid fan of Scandal.
“She’s created strong characters that reflect who we are are as a country," she said.
Rhimes took the stage to receive the honor, speaking about the praise she's received for breaking through the glass ceiling as a woman of color. But she wouldn't take all the credit for her achievements, instead praising the women who came before her.
"Making it through the glass ceiling to the other side is simply a matter of running on the path created by other woman’s footprints," she said. "This was a group effort. I want to thank all the women in this room and I want to thank all the women who never made it to this room."
The event follows the publication of THR's Women in Entertainment special issue, which ranks the 100 most powerful women in entertainment. Past recipients of the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award have included Oprah Winfrey, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Jodie Foster, Halle Berry, Glenn Close and Barbara Walters.