“As a woman, especially a woman of color, I rarely saw a role model like her. We were shown that the only way to be successful was to be domineering, demanding, harsh … an old white guy in a three-piece suit, banging on a conference table. But Oprah shows us that you can have tenderness and sensitivity; you can care about the world and the people in it; you can have a heart … and still be a badass,” said the singer-songwriter, who took the stage dancing to her hit “No One.”
Keys explained that when she finally met Winfrey, the mogul was everything the musician hoped she’d be: “candid, funny and vulnerable.” She added that Winfrey “is a guiding light for me, and everyone in this room, and absolutely for our world.”
The award, which Keys revealed will going forward be called the Oprah Winfrey Empowerment in Entertainment Award, honors individuals who have created opportunities for people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ community and other emerging voices in the industry.
“Oprah has done that throughout her career, not only as a broadcaster, producer and creative force, but as a philanthropist who has donated over $400 million to causes that change lives. More than anything, Oprah builds roads for others. Sometimes literally,” said Keys, before listing Winfrey’s numerous accomplishments and charities, such as the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa; Oprah’s Angel Network, which has built dozens of schools in rural areas across 12 countries; and Oprah’s Book Club, which provides books for under-resourced kids.
Keys joked that she wished she could list all of Winfrey’s accomplishments, but “we’d still be sitting here at dinnertime tonight.”
Keys concluded her remarks with one last round of praise before welcoming Winfrey to the stage: “She proves that you can be super successful and shine light at the same time. She shows me that there’s no such thing as the only way to get to greatness, instead everyone can carve their own path. We are grateful for you, and blessed to stand in your light today.”
The inaugural event also celebrated the launch of THR‘s Young Executives Fellowship, which will provide underserved and diverse youth from Los Angeles with entertainment career training.
Empowerment in Entertainment is presented by WME with platinum sponsor Amazon Prime Video and sponsored by Entertainment One, Imax, OWN, Starz and Casamigos.