How Hollywood’s Trump Ennui Has Changed Awards Season
Starting Nov. 8, at events from the Saban Clinic Gala to the HFPA’s celebration of this year’s Miss Golden Globes — three Stallone daughters — stars and execs have used the red carpet as a soapbox on issues and a platform to advocate for hope.
As election night came to a close, and Republican candidate Donald Trump emerged as president-elect, Hollywood — an overwhelmingly pro-Hillary community whose outspoken members seemed to include nearly every studio head and celebrity aside from Scott Baio and Kirstie Alley — was stunned. Once the dust began to settle, though, new questions emerged: How do we continue to make our voices heard? What happens next? And, yes, with the annual awards season in swing — how will this affect the tone and scale of the endless parade of events?
In the days following the election, attitudes — and attendance — were all over the map. “We produced a small influencer event the day after, on November 9, with Baccarat Legendary and Gearys Beverly Hills,” says Cara Kleinhaut, founder of The AgenC, which also plans annual industry fetes like Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood and Global Green’s Oscars celebration. “That morning, we were concerned our guests might not feel festive and cancel. What is amazing, though, is that not one person canceled. It seemed the need for real connection and getting together was stronger than ever.”
Meanwhile, in Venice, a Nov. 10 party for a collaboration between Junk Food and L.A. artist Donald Robertson seemed noticeably quiet. The publicist blamed the shop’s out-of-the-way Abbot Kinney location, but Robertson blamed himself. “I worry people didn’t want to come because of my name!” he joked as he signed colorful custom tote bags with his signature “DONALD,” which could also be seen on paintings of pizza boxes lining the walls. “I’m going to have to completely rebrand myself.”
By Nov. 11, however, the tone seemed to change from disbelief to acceptance. At the Hollywood Foreign Press and InStyle’s celebration of the 2017 Miss Golden Globes — awarded to Sylvester Stallone's and Jennifer Flavin’s three daughters — a surprising number of A-listers, including Jessica Chastain, Armie Hammer, Susan Sarandon, Marion Cotillard and Hailee Steinfeld, were in attendance. The usually uneventful party — sponsored by Fiji Water and Moet — was surprisingly upbeat, with stars flooding the dance floor at Catch LA and staying well into the night.
The vibe continued the following night at the Baby2Baby Gala, where the evening’s honoree, Jennifer Garner, boogied with pals Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson to a performance by Boys II Men. The night was especially bittersweet for Baby2Baby’s co-founder, Kelly Sawyer Patricof (wife of producer Jamie Patricof), who has been a major fundraiser and supporter of the Clinton family since 1992. “It was a tough four days for my family — my daughters made over 1,000 phone calls for Hillary with me, knocked on doors in Nevada and North Carolina with my husband, and were deeply invested,” she explains. “I imagined the mood at the gala was going to be somber. It was in fact the opposite!” The event was also an unequivocal success, raising a record-breaking $3 million.
The mood was a bit more somber at the eighth annual Governors Awards, also held Nov. 12 at the Dolby Ballroom in Los Angeles. Although the show itself was business as usual, and not overtly political, the red carpet was charged with sociall -minded chatter, from 86-year-old documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, who proclaimed Trump to be a “sexist, racist, misogynist, nationalist man,” to Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wore a safety pin as a symbol of support for refugees and migrants. “There are a lot of people who do not feel safe because of the outcome of this election,” Miranda told reporters. “This is just a symbol to say that if you’re talking to me, you’re safe. That’s important now, more than ever.”
This combination of urgency and activism mixed with a natural survivor’s instinct to move on seems to be the trend as Hollywood eases into awards season. “There is a sense of the status quo, in that people have to keep on moving forward,” says Patrick Herning of PMH Partners. “But any minority causes like GLAAD and LBGT programs that are in danger of losing federal funding are being supported. There is an undercurrent of mobilization.” Todd Hawkins, who runs Hawkins Mikita, a social innovation company with Justin Mikita — an equal rights activist and husband of comedian Jesse Tyler Ferguson — echoes this sentiment: “In the weeks following the election, there came a sense of clarity and need for purpose. Influencers began using their stage time at events as a platform to give feedback and offer tangible action items to make change.”
This was certainly the case at the Saban Community Clinic’s 40th Annual Dinner Gala, held Nov. 14 at the Beverly Hilton. Host Aisha Tyler went off-script midway through the evening, addressing the elephant in the room. “Let’s just talk about what’s going on right now, shall we? What the f—?” The star-studded crowd came together to raise more than $250,000 in less than 10 minutes in support of the Clinic, which offers medical, dental and behavioral health services for low-income patients. “It was a very emotional evening. It was a perfect storm so to speak,” says Richard Weitz, WME partner and president of the board of the Friends of the Saban Community Clinic. “While we don’t know what’s to come, the gala was an important reminder that the entertainment industry is steadfast in its belief of the Clinic’s founding principle that health care is a right, not a privilege.”
Meanwhile, on the same evening, Glamour’s Editor-in-Chief Cindi Leive turned her annual Women of the Year awards — held for the first time in Los Angeles, and originally planned to be a celebration of the first female president — into a time for heartbroken members of the Hollywood community to come together. “We were five days out from Hillary conceding, and the mood among a lot of young women and people in our room was still a really mournful one — mournful with touches of outrage,” Leive explains. "We hadn’t really passed into the moment where people were making jokes about it, so we wanted to capture that without making it feel like a funeral of some kind.”
Over in New York, as protesters flooded Fifth Avenue outside of Trump Tower, actor Tom Hanks used his position as honoree of the Museum of Modern Art’s Film Benefit on Nov. 15 as a platform to speak movingly about the election results. “We are all going to be all right,” he assured guests that included Aaron Eckhart, Emma Watson and Steve Martin. “America has been in worse places than we are at right now.”
At the International Emmy Awards on Nov. 21, held at the Hilton New York — the midtown hotel where Trump first stood as president-elect — host and Good Wife actor Alan Cumming couldn’t mask his distaste. “I feel it is my moral obligation to inform you: On November 8th this hall was the venue for one of the darkest and most negative and utterly destructive moments in the history our country,” he said to the audience. “This very stage was where Donald Trump first stood as president-elect of the United States of America…we have to breathe the same foul, ignorant and bigoted air that was recently exhaled by the Cheeto Jesus.”
The bold speeches continued at the 26th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards, with honoree Oliver Stone reminding independent filmmakers that “You can be critical of your government, and we’ve forgotten that.” But perhaps the biggest surprise — and the most significant turning point — of the season came on the evening of Nov. 29, at UNICEF’s annual Snowflake Ball in Manhattan. Hillary Clinton herself — dressed in a cheerful yellow jacket — emerged onto the stage to introduce one of her biggest supporters, Katy Perry, with the pop star’s survival anthem “Roar” playing in the background. “On a personal level, I cannot tell you how delighted I am to be here to help celebrate,” Clinton proclaimed, calling Perry “someone whose powerful voice and creative lyrics remind us when you get knocked down to get back up.”
Members of the Hollywood community continue to use the event circuit surrounding awards season as an opportunity to speak about social issues. “Right now, it is business as usual as far as the scale and scope of these events,” says AgenC’s Kleinhaut, noting that the economy is still strong, with sponsors continuing to spend. “But I think we’re going to see a lot more advocacy and politicized speeches at these events, especially those that are televised like the Globes, the Grammys and the Oscars. The programing won’t change, but the content and the news they create will be a little different.”
At the TrevorLIVE Los Angeles gala Dec. 4 at the Beverly Hilton, an emotional video paid tribute to Abbe Land, The Trevor Project’s CEO and executive director, who announced that she would be departing the organization. “Already, the aftermath of one of the most contentious presidential elections has yielded the highest number of calls, chats and texts from LGBTQ youth in our organization’s history,” Land said. “We must reach out to youth more than ever before, remind them of their value, advocate for laws that protect their lives and futures.” And, in a surprising twist, Kelly Osbourne turned her award acceptance speech into a message of hope and support. “We’re living in a time where we might not have the future president that we wanted in this country. As an immigrant who can’t vote, I don’t really get to say much, but tonight I do,” she said. “And people voted for him. So just like they gave us a chance to love equally, we will fight to keep that, but we must give him a chance as well.”
On Dec. 5, at Equality Now’s Make Equality Reality Gala — which honored Jane Fonda and welcomed guests that included Gloria Steinem, Lily Tomlin, Elizabeth Olsen and Melanie Griffith — deputy executive director Yasmeen Hassan turned her initial despair into a hopeful message. “I believe that we in the U.S. have become a bit complacent in the last decade. We think that we are moving up and up,” said the Pakistan-born women’s rights leader. “What I see happening here is that everyone is now activated.… We are very excited about this event and it’s really about galvanizing people to be an activist in whatever [capacity].”
At the International Documentary Association’s annual awards ceremony in Hollywood on Dec. 9, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced that it would be establishing an unprecedented four-year, $5 million grant to support journalistic independent film. “This is a really dangerous moment, and now more than ever, we need a strong and vibrant independent free press that can really speak truth to power and hold people to account,” said IDA’s executive director, Simon Kilmurry. “We are funding and supporting projects that are journalistic and truthful in how they address the issues which they are taking on.”
The holiday break may be a much-needed celebratory calm before the storm,. “You know, the transition happens in January,” points out Carleen Cappelletti, president of Culver City-based events company Bounce-AEG, who produced Nov. 15’s Rolex Awards for Enterprise at the Dolby Theatre as well as the White House’s annual National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, held in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, which included appearances by Garth Brooks, Kelly Clarkson, James Taylor and Eva Longoria. “This [was] the last time doing it with the Obamas, who have been really wonderful about wanting everyone to be involved in this kind of celebration,” she says. “I feel like there’s a little bit of a grace period right now, because the beginning of the year is going to be a different story.”