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Chelsea Handler encouraged women of every age to support and celebrate the successes of fellow women as their own while opening The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment gala, presented by Lifetime, on Wednesday.
After beginning with a warm welcome to event’s attendees at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles, the comedian and TV host launched began her speech — equal parts sentimental and acerbic — with a joke about former senate candidate Mehmet Oz, who she noted “has a ton of free time now.”
Later in her speech, Handler would also mention the 2022 midterm election turnout, which saw several pieces of legislation pass in response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
“Recently, women dominated the polls in the midterm elections, showing up with one of the biggest voter turnouts to date — fighting for control of our own bodies,” Handler said. “We made our voices heard. Five statewide ballot measures all came out in favor of abortion rights, even in red states like Kentucky and Montana.
“I don’t know where those states are,” she added, “but now I’m interested in summering there.”
Handler didn’t just put politics in her comedic sights. She also had jokes for the WIE honorees and presenters, including quips about Sherry Lansing Leadership Award recipient Charlize Theron’s beauty and a message for fellow comedian Seth Rogen, who is presenting the The Old Guard actress with her leadership honor.
“Seth Rogen is here because he’s one of the few men in Hollywood that women can still stand to be around,” Handler said. “Seth, thank you for being an ally to women. And I’m not only saying that because you got me stoned in the parking lot before this. But thank you for that as well.”
At another point, Handler highlighted how women in the room know “if you see something, you need to say something.” She joked that during a dinner at Katie Couric’s, she was seated across from Woody Allen and his wife, Soon Yi. “I leaned in to him and Soon-Yi, and said, ‘How did you two meet?’ Then Katie Couric turned to me and said, ‘OK, well, it’s time to go, Chelsea.'”
As deftly as Handler delivered her signature sense of humor, she pivoted to celebrating all the event’s honorees and the “young 40 girls” in the Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program.
Focusing her speech around the importance of women empowering one another, Handler pointed to the historic election of 12 female governors — including Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healy, the first openly lesbian governor in the U.S. — as well as the confirmation of Supreme Court confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson, as recent examples of how a single woman’s success can open doors for the women who follow.
“There is a lot of power in being a woman. And if someone can’t see that in themselves, show them. Be the sister that you would want, because when we stand together, we’ll rise up together,” Handler later added. “Also, because everyone knows if you want to get shit done right, have women do it.”
While she spoke to the “tables filled with women” already leading the way in their work, including WIE presenters Jamie Lee Curtis, Janelle Monáe, Margot Robbie and Addison Rae, Handler also took a moment to single out the high school students who are part of The Hollywood Reporter‘s Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program.
“If they can glean anything from this, I hope it’s realizing that you don’t need to be jealous or competitive with one another,” Handler said. “It’s OK to celebrate the success of your peers — it doesn’t dim your shine. You will get your moment. We can all help each other. There’s room for everyone.”
The gala is sponsored by Best Buy, Cadillac, Spotify, eOne, FIJI, Gersh and SAG-AFTRA and in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles, Chapman University, College Access Partnership, and Loyola Marymount University.
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