“As a woman, a mother and a person of color in this business, I could not be prouder to be here with all of you,” Ciara shared as host to a crowd of “Agents of Change” at The Hollywood Reporter‘s inaugural Empowerment in Entertainment event on Tuesday at Milk Studios in Hollywood.
Whether the attendees arrived at the gala through “film, TV, music, sports, politics, or climbing the corporate ladder,” the Grammy winner lauded that despite how “many of us have heard more ‘no’s than ‘yes’es in our careers,” through perseverance “we’re fortunate to be in this room and have a voice.”
Issuing a rallying cry, Ciara proposed: “Let’s all use our voices to speak up and empower the next generation to succeed with less hate, less sexism and less discrimination.” Calling on the next generation of students selected for the Young Executives Fellowship, designed to create an inclusive pipeline for future leaders in entertainment, she encouraged the 20 young adults to embrace obstacles: “Let them be your motivation. They build character and integrity.”
Ciara also reminded them to remember where they came from, but that their origins do not determine how far they will go. “Your dream is as big as you can dream it,” she said.
Kumail Nanjiani delivered the opening monologue at the gala, while CNN’s Don Lemon gave the keynote speech. Alicia Keys presented Oprah Winfrey with the first-ever Empowerment Award, honoring individuals who have created opportunities for people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ community and other emerging voices in the industry.
Formally kicking off the event, Ciara said, “I am proud of each and every one of you. All it takes is one person to believe, and that person is you.”
The singer and her husband, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, just announced the launch of their new production company, Why Not You Productions. Focusing on content across platforms including film, television and digital projects scripted and unscripted, the couple aim to create “inspiring and aspiring narratives and human stories,” per their announcement on Monday.
The production company expands upon Wilson and Ciara’s joint youth empowerment-oriented organization, Why Not You Foundation. Ciara also runs her own entertainment company and record label, Beauty Marks Entertainment.
Amazon’s Jennifer Salke, Marsai Martin, Gina Torres, Logan Browning, Sherry Lansing, Anthony Anderson, Netflix’s Cindy Holland, Jill Soloway and Franklin Leonard were also among those in attendance.
THR‘s inaugural Empowerment in Entertainment event was presented by WME with platinum sponsor Amazon Prime Video and sponsored by Entertainment One, Imax, OWN, Starz and Casamigos.