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Porter magazine, in association with Estee Lauder, hosted the third annual Incredible Women gala to honor the female-empowerment organization Vital Voices. The evening featured dozens of the most powerful women in Hollywood, including Charlize Theron, Tiffany Haddish, Amber Heard and Universal Pictures Chairman Donna Langley, who all gathered at the historic Ebell Theater on Tuesday evening.
The night began with a champagne reception in the theater’s courtyard, where high-profile stars gathered to network and discuss the progress and setbacks the #MeToo movement has made over the past year.
Alison Brie laughed with Alice Eve as she sipped champagne and there was a buzz of excitement in the air as the A-list actresses chatted about how to continue to empower women in Hollywood and around the world.
A few Hollywood men also made an appearance at the event, including Mahershala Ali, Aaron Taylor Johnson and Judd Apatow, who arrived with his wife Leslie Mann. Apatow was seen engaged in a deep conversation with Busy Philipps.
Langley spoke to the importance of women continuing to push forward and make sure that their voices are heard and their bodies are respected.
“It’s on us to continue to challenge the status quo and to make sure that there are more women leaders in every company, in every community and in every important role around the world — while we’re separated by land, by culture, by religion, what we all want is so much the same,” she said. “We want to make our own choices. We want to raise our families in safety and we want to live our dreams.”
The evening — an intimate affair with 130 people seated at two long, candlelit tables — was full of dramatic moments, such as when the white-robed Prazium Gospel Choir took over the courtyard’s top deck and serenaded the assembled guests to announce the start of dinner.
Before dinner was served, Porter editor-in-chief Lucy Yeomans spoke to the progress that has been made in the past year since the #MeToo movement first rose to prominence: “This year we are celebrating those who are one year stronger — those women who are not only less afraid to speak out and challenge the status quo, but also are effecting real change both in the workplace and in society as a whole.” She added, “We’re hearing the voices of strong women of all ages on so many important subjects today. We’re setting the agenda on issues from the pay gap to poverty to mental health to climate change.”
Guests enjoyed arugula salad and harissa chicken breast au jus before more than a dozen women and men read letters, speeches and poems that spoke to the vital importance of women’s empowerment.
Theron read a poem by the noted Nigerian poet Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; Annie Lennox read a tribute to the late war correspondent Maria Colvin; and Ali read a letter from President Barack Obama celebrating gay families.
Minnie Driver served as the evening’s emcee, and she began her hosting duties by kicking off her high heels, a gesture that was joined in solidarity by Heard, Haddish and director Sam Taylor-Johnson, who took off a colorful pair of Nike sneakers.
However, not all of the speakers joined her, and Ellen Pompeo quipped, “I’m not taking my shoes off, but they are killing me, the dress is choking me and I’m going to do this in my harshest Boston accent.”
The evening ended with a performance by the Prazium Choir, which sang a tribute to Aretha Franklin, who was posthumously being honored at the American Music Awards at the same time across the city, to finish off a night that honored the accomplishments that women have made around the world while also recognizing that there is still much progress to be made.
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