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The Hollywood Reporter‘s Women in Entertainment event, presented by Lifetime, returned to the Fairmont Century Plaza on Wednesday for the annual celebration of Hollywood’s leading ladies.
This year, the star-studded event — which coincided with the publication of THR’s annual Women in Entertainment Power 100 — honored Charlize Theron with the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, highlighting a woman who is a pioneer in her field. Issa Rae was also recognized with the Equity in Entertainment Award, given to an individual who amplifies the voices of underrepresented communities in the entertainment industry.
Ahead of the ceremony, A-listers mixed and mingled, as Margot Robbie walked the red carpet, Theron fangirled over RuPaul’s Drag Race star Shangela, Jamie Lee Curtis posed with Jennifer Grey, and Jurnee Smollett, Addison Rae and Heidi Klum waited their turn in the photo line. Connie Britton, Geena Davis and Diane Warren also made appearances, along with execs Channing Dungey of WarnerMedia, Universal Studio Group’s Pearlena Igbokwe and DGA president Lesli Linka Glatter.
Inside the breakfast, Chelsea Handler kicked off the morning, declaring, “There is nothing I take more pride in than supporting other women. Especially now, when we are making our voices heard more than ever on issues like equity, inclusion, and having a seat at the table.” She counted off some of this year’s victories for women, including victories in the midterms and Ketanji Brown Jackson’s appointment to the Supreme Court, and gave some advice to the 40 high schoolers in the room, who are a part of THR‘s Mentorship Program: “You don’t need to be jealous or competitive with one another. It is OK to celebrate the success of your peers. It will not dim your shine.”
Handler then brought Lansing to the stage, who showed a clip from Gabby Giffords’ recent doc Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down and called the former congressman her own mentor, saying, “This woman has shown me that whatever age we are, we can literally find someone to mentor us and inspire us to higher levels of awareness and action,” before Giffords joined her at the podium. “Our lives can change so quickly; mine did when I was shot. But I never gave up hope. I chose to make a new start, to move ahead, to not look back,” Giffords told the crowd. “Many, many people have helped me along the way and I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned when people care for each other and work together, progress is possible. A better world is possible, but change doesn’t happen overnight … and we can’t do it alone. Join me — let’s move ahead together.”
THR editorial director Nekesa Mumbi Moody and executive vp/co-publishers Beth Deutschman Rabishaw and Victoria Gold followed to congratulate this year’s honorees and thank its event sponsors, including Lifetime, which has partnered with THR on Women in Entertainment for the last 30 years. The trio introduced Carey Mulligan, who was on hand to support New York Times journalists and WIE keynote speakers Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey — the two reporters who first exposed the Harvey Weinstein scandal and are played by Mulligan and Zoe Kazan in She Said.
Mulligan noted, “It’s rare to be in the company of people who have contributed so much to our society, so how do I begin to do them justice,” adding that personally, “I think if it weren’t for them and for the truly heroic courage of survivors who came forward and continue to come forward, my life would be profoundly different,” changing the way she talks to her children and approaches work negotiations.
“The story they broke wasn’t about one man,” Mulligan continued. “They were interested in systems of power, systems that uphold and have upheld that behavior for millennia. And the story that broke, broke the dam and has begun the work to dismantle that system.”
Kantor and Twohey gave the event’s keynote speech, recounting the beginning of their investigation and commending the women who spoke to them about Weinstein’s abuse — who “took the casting couch and set it on fire” — which later was illustrated in their book and She Said. “We came to Hollywood for the truth and we got so much more,” Twohey said, as Kantor continued, “We’re not sticking around here. We belong in the newsroom. We’ve been hard at work on other investigations.”
The pair also asked no matter what happens going forward, to remember the lessons of the Weinstein story: It’s challenging solving a problem you can’t see; the best way to confront a bully is to do it together and not alone; and there’s no way to predict how much others might care about your story until you tell it.
Up next, Insecure star Yvonne Orji took the stage to present the Equity in Entertainment Award to Rae, recalling how they first met over Twitter and their relationship since then “as one of the voices that Issa has helped amplify.”
“In an industry that prides itself on being cutting-edge and forward-thinking, sometimes it’s a little backwards and they’re a bit lazy. It requires true risk-takers like Issa Rae,” Orji continued, saying, “The one ‘Awkward Black Girl’ is now a confident Black woman gracing the covers of magazines but remains loyal to the community that gave her her start and uses both creative and personal freedom to usher in the next generation of visionaries.”
Rae accepted her award with a story about a recent trip to Las Vegas to see Usher with her friends, joking that while on a weed trip she started to think about running out of time. “I’m obsessed with the time that I have left and a small window that I have to make the changes that I want to see before I hopefully get old and die,” she said. “I think operating from that scared place is actually really helpful because it makes you impatient about what you wish to happen, and it makes you fearless about the things you normally might be afraid of, like rejection, embarrassment or diminishment.”
“I’m gonna keep moving, like I don’t have many moves left,” Rae promised, before dedicating the award to her friend Yakira Chambers, a writer, actress and story editor who died last week.
Shifting into the mentorship portion of the morning, Kannie Yu LaPack, vp publicity, public affairs and social media for Lifetime — who served as one of this year’s mentors — presented a video highlighting the past and present high school mentees, who as part of the program are paired with women currently working in Hollywood.
Curtis and Janelle Monáe then teamed up to present $1 million in college scholarships, as Curtis (who wore a shirt with an image of Mahsa Amini, whose death sparked the protests in Iran) pointed to the mentorship video and said, “That’s what this is all about.” The incoming 2023 mentorship class, comprised of Los Angeles teens from underserved areas, each received a $10,000 scholarship to attend the university of their choice and a MacBook endowed by the Wasserman Foundation, which were handed out by TikTok star Addison Rae.
Six additional four-year, full-ride scholarships were also presented, as Monáe said she was “overwhelmed in the best possible way”: Best Buy’s scholarship to Loyola Marymount University went to mentee Melany (mentor Racheline Benveniste of Netflix); The Chuck Lorre Family Foundation’s scholarship to Chapman University went to mentee Seun Rebecca (mentor Randi Matthews of Multi-Hyphen Media); and the National Association of Theatre Owners California Nevada’s scholarship to Chapman University went to mentee Jasmine (mentor Ann Murphy of CAA).
Spotify’s scholarship to Chapman was up next, presented by singer-songwriter Gracie Abrams, to mentee Jazmine (mentor Audrey Rowe of CAA). Addison Rae returned to the stage to present Sony’s scholarship to LMU, awarded to mentee Elizabeth (mentor Marie Sheehy of WME). The final scholarship of the day, Paramount Pictures’ scholarship to Chapman, was presented by Robbie, who said “when I look out at all of your faces, I see the manifestation of progress.” The scholarship was awarded to mentee Karen (mentor Gabriela Zapata of Netflix).
To close out the event, Seth Rogen stepped up to the podium to present Theron, his co-star in 2019’s Long Shot, with the Sherry Lansing honor, joking that when they first met he was “literally physically intimidated to be around her because she murders people in every movie she does.”
Rogen teased “she is a fun person to hang out with, maybe too fun at times,” but “in all seriousness, Charlize is the most impressive person I’ve ever been around because she makes you want to be a good person. Her morality comes through with such ease and clarity, it constantly makes me question my own and those of the other people I chose to surround myself with. And it makes me honored that she would ask me to participate in her life in any way, shape or form.”
Theron was greeted by a standing ovation, teasing Rogen that “you always show up for me, buddy, you really do. I feel like I can never thank you enough — although you made me learn German and play a Nazi superhero on your show The Boys so I think we’re even.”
She began with out a shoutout to Lansing, saying “to be connected with any Sherry Lansing is a complete honor, shock to the system,” and joking: “Forrest Gump, Braveheart, The Truman Show; your name has behind so many of the all-time classics. So I have to ask, Sherry, what did I do to piss you off, because you put me in Aeon Flux.”
On a more serious note, Theron said that there’s often a heightened risk for women of being called a leader, as it puts a target on their backs and people want them to fail; she said, however, she sees a tide turning.
“I’m seeing more female directors and producers on set. I’m seeing more female department heads. I’m seeing more actresses open their own production shingles — yes you, Margot and Issa. Just chill, I’d like to have a show on TV as well,” Charlize joked.
She added that although she loves being an actor and producer, some of her greatest joy comes from her Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, speaking to her mission there. “It is our interconnectedness that makes us stronger, but we can’t truly commit to solidarity if we don’t confront the brutal inequities that all of us perpetuate,” she said. “If we ask ourselves why our world is so unequal, it’s because when we hold up that mirror, it’s about the power to control that some of us, most of us, don’t want to lose. And if we really want to see change in this world, then we need to listen to and be led by those closest to the challenges.”
“I take this leadership award less as a mark of accomplishment, but more as a challenge to keep doing the work. I see that being done today here, with the scholarships being given out these young people I absolutely know are going to use that to make giant waves in their communities,” Theron continued. “I’m looking out and I see an entire room of some of the most powerful women in the world who all showed up this morning to help make a bit of a change. You know it means something when this many women agree to a red carpet in full glam at 8 a.m. on a Wednesday, but we did it and I fucking love it. And I want us to keep each other accountable, use each other as resources, and push each other to keep using our voices and platforms for something greater than ourselves.”
She went on to thank her CTAOP executive director Ashlee George, producing partner Beth Kono and her mom, closing with, “I guess all of this is to say, leadership is not a one-person game, especially for women. We need community, not just to build one another up, but to help pass the baton to the next generation of great women who will undoubtedly be up here one day, telling us how they solved the climate crisis or how they became the first American president. We all want that or we wouldn’t be here today.”
Also in attendance at the event were WIE honorees and notable names such as Pamela Abdy, Effie T. Brown, Nicole Brown, Karey Burke, Daria Cercek, Jenny Chandler, Nicole Clemens, Ayo Davis, Jenna Dewan, Kathy Hilton, Paris Hilton, Amy Isreal, Theresa Kang, Blair Kohan, Sanaa Lathan, Wonya Lucas, Thuso Mbedu, Lauren Neustadter, Dawn Ostroff, Brooklyn Pletz Beckham and Nicola Peltz Beckham, Lisa Rinna, Susan Rovner, Nina Shaw, Cybill Shepherd, Leslie Siebert, Sandra Stern, Casey Wasserman, Erin Westerman, Janet Yang, Sasheer Zamata and Ida Ziniti. See images from the event here.
The Women in Entertainment event was sponsored by Best Buy, Cadillac, Spotify, eOne, FIJI, Gersh, SAG-AFTRA, and in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles, Chapman University, College Access Partnership, and Loyola Marymount University. This event was held in compliance with local health and safety guidelines.
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