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Hollywood’s leading ladies — the ones running the industry, that is — gathered Wednesday morning to be honored at The Hollywood Reporter’s 21st annual Women in Entertainment breakfast at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The event follows the publication of THR‘s Women in Entertainment special issue, which ranks the 100 most powerful women in entertainment.
Among the honorees in attendance were A+E’s president of entertainment and media Nancy Dubuc, THR cover girl and No 7 on the list; Disney Media Networks co-chair and Disney/ABC TV president Anne Sweeney, ranked No. 1 for the third straight year; A+E chief Abbe Raven; NBCUniversal Cable chair Bonnie Hammer; and Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chair Amy Pascal, along with plenty of others. Kathy Griffin attended the event again, as well as Dexter actress Jennifer Carpenter, Lisa Kudrow, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Don’t Trust the B—- star Dreama Walker, model Molly Sims, The Office’s Ellie Kemper and Revenge’s Ashley Madekwe.
Mindy Kaling kicked things off on a light-hearted note, joking that she nearly bypassed her spanx for the event since there would be very few men in attendance. “Do I have to wear spanx to this? Isn’t it just going to be women?” she asked herself at 5:30 in the morning. Ultimately, though, she decided to don the shape wear because she “needed to look bangin’ for Diane Keaton,” who was on hand to receive the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award. Kaling also credited Keaton with mastering the graceful art of deflecting praise, adding that she could learn a thing or two because “I love praise.”
Kaling thanked the women who preceded her in Hollywood, allowing her to pull of “the greatest scam in the history of television” — creating and starring in a network show about a smart, selfish, “not-skinny” woman of color. Kaling noted that her character on Fox’s The Mindy Project could not have been the lead and heroine of any project 10 years ago, or even when she first moved to Los Angeles.
THR editorial director Janice Min next took the stage, encouraging all those in attendance to read the feature “If Women Ran Hollywood…,” calling out Community’s Joel McHale as one of the most memorable responses. When asked to finish the sentence, the comic mused that “If women ran Hollywood, Universal Studios would have just unveiled ‘Magic Mike: The Ride.’ ”
THR publisher and SVP Lynne Segall spoke about the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, now in its eighth year. Although Lansing was unable to attend the breakfast this year due to a commitment in Singapore, she passed along a special message to honoree Keaton. “Diane, Sherry wants you to know that she loves you, she deeply respects you and sends you her hearty congratulations,” she said. Segall also thanked the event sponsors, including Lifetime, BCBG, Samsung Galaxy and Roberto Coin, who designed a one-of-a-kind trophy for Keaton with diamonds and black onyx.
Raven, No. 4 on the list, used her time at the podium to remind attendees of their first and most important mentor: their mothers. “Let’s never forget our moms,” she told the audience. “Call your mom tonight.”
Among the many moms in the audience, Elizabeth Banks drew from her own experience as a mother while introducing keynote speaker, Sandra Fluke. She recalled meeting the social justice activist at a Barack Obama campaign event this year (“Immediate girl crush,” she said), and thought about how Fluke’s own mother should have felt pride at seeing her daughter take the national stage to fight for issues she believes in. And while that moment initially was thwarted by infamous comments from Rush Limbaugh, Fluke used her sudden notoriety for inspiration. “The villain did not prevail,” Banks said of Limbaugh.
While Fluke joked that she was taking a cue from Julia Roberts — who based a big career move on “being called a prostitute” in Pretty Woman — she encouraged those leaders in the audience to change the landscape of film and television as we know it, giving young girls (and young boys) more female characters to look up to in the media. She said that it was Hollywood’s duty to place women in leadership roles on the screen to “show [children] how to imagine that” in real life.
Scandal star Kerry Washington introduced THR’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program, explaining why her own personal mentor isn’t a real person at all: She is Olivia Pope, the character Washington portrays on the ABC drama. “Mentors are invaluable,” she said before reading the names of this year’s mentors and mentees. Also shown at this time was a heart-tugging video of last year’s mentees spending time with those industry mentors who helped them realize their passions and achieve goals as they head toward college.
Lisa Paulsen, president and CEO of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, then presented Lizette Delgadillo with a $15,000 scholarship fund from Lifetime and EIF as part of the program.
American Horror Story’s Sarah Paulson — donning a classic black and white dress meant to honor Keaton’s signature style — hit the stage to present her co-star in 1999’s The Other Sister with the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, recipients of which have included Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Jodie Foster, Halle Berry, Glenn Close and Barbara Walters.
Paulson opened by reading an email Keaton sent to her upon learning that she would be presenting the award: “I’m sorry you got stuck writing a speech about me. It’s OK to let everyone know even an idiot can endure.”
She recalled meeting Keaton on the set of Other Sister and how the veteran actress truly embraced her at that time, laughing about Keaton enjoying a glass of red wine on ice during their first interaction. Paulson presented the award to “my favorite idiot,” prompting a standing ovation from the audience as Keaton took the stage.
Keaton laughed through her nerves, confessing that she was in “such a panic” over delivering a speech. She spoke about her parents’ work ethic (her father viewed work as a “responsibility,” while mom made work “play”) and praised Lansing as a great leader. Among the qualities required for leadership, Keaton cited persuasion. “That’s not me,” she said, but later conceded, “I’m the leader of my life, and you’re the leader of your life.”
In a heartfelt moment, Keaton expressed regret at not having told her mother — who died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2008 — how much she admired her. Directing her remarks to her mom Dot, whom she called “my first and most inspired leader,” Keaton said: “Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had told you how much I love the sound of your laughter. Would that have made you feel proud of yourself? Or what if I just told you how proud I was to be the daughter of a really special former Mrs. Los Angeles? Would that have made a difference?”
Addressing the audience again, Keaton said, “Our stories do strengthen our bond and I know that stories give us the value, and the value of listening is to help us recognize that every life matters.”
On their way out the door, guests were presented with 22-pound gift bags including Samsung White Glove Service, La Prairie spa products and gift cards, as well as gifts from Roberto Coin, BCBG and Taschen.
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