As a guest of sponsor Frederique Constant, I had a prime seat at the annual luncheon celebrating women in Hollywood
At a time when misogyny is a topic of national concern, it was refreshing to sit in a room full of smart, powerful women on Friday and feel the camaraderie uniting us.
I arrived at the luncheon, held at the posh Beverly Wilshire hotel, on Friday shortly after noon to find a ballroom buzzing with Tinseltown insiders who’d gathered to congratulate eight honorees—director Ava DuVernay, Spanx founder Sara Blakely, actress Laverne Cox, Universal Music Group chairman Sir Lucian Grainge, actress Helen Mirren, fashion designer Georgina Chapman, actress Scarlett Johansson, and singer Miley Cyrus—for their work with charitable causes.
The star-studded event featured no shortage of political statements, beginning with opening remarks by host Rachel Bloom, creator and star of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: “We’re here to celebrate women and their p—ies!”
I had come to the event feeling physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted (this toxic election season needs to end!), but I left feeling inspired and uplifted. The luncheon, which celebrated seven women and one man for using their clout to draw attention to worthy organizations, was the perfect antidote to Donald Trump’s offensive remarks about women.
DuVernay—director of the forthcoming Wrinkle in Time, making her the first woman of color to direct a live-action film with a budget surpassing $100 million—was honored for her work with #1000BlackGirlBooks, an initiative founded by 11-year-old Marley Emerson Dias to promote diversity in children’s literature.
Blakely, the recipient of Variety’s innovation and leadership award this year, spoke about her passion for inventing and told the audience about how she wrote her own patent for Spanx 16 years ago. “I wanted to help women,” she said. “It’s amazing that I started with their butts.”
Cox, the first transgender woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show, told the audience about her support of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, an advocacy group for the LGBTQ community. “When we deny our stories, that defines us,” she said. “But when we own our stories, we can write a brave new ending. So much of the work is about changing the narrative about violence in the LGBTQ community.”
Grainge, the lone man to be honored at the event, accepted the EmPOWerment Award for his support of women in the music and entertainment industry. In his remarks, he praised his mother, a successful and talented accountant who became the chief financial officer of a major company in London at a time when women were mostly expected to stay home and raise children.
Mirren, honored for her work with SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young, cut straight to the point when she got on stage: “This is a defining moment. I feel some kind of earthquake has happened and there is a real, real possibility for change [that] will have an incredible impact all over the world,” she said. “It’s time for the best role model in the White House.”
Helen Mirren in Ellagem jewelry on the cover of Variety
Chapman, creative director of Marchesa, was presented with the Moroccan Oil Inspiration to Action Award, for her support of Magic Bus USA, an Indian NGO that mentors kids affected by poverty.
Following a hilarious introduction by Robert Downey Jr., Johansson gave an impassioned speech touting the important role Planned Parenthood has played in the lives of millions of women and girls. “A woman’s right to choose what to do with her body is a human rights issue,” she said. “It’s a deeply personal issue and has nothing to do with politics.”
Last but not least came Cyrus, whose charity, the Happy Hippie Foundation, advocates on behalf of homeless and LGBTQ youth. “I just want to say to anyone who has ever felt like they’re different or they don’t fit in, I want you to take that victory and feel like you’re not alone,” Cyrus said. “I’m wishing for peace and love on our planet because hate and war has gone on way too long.”
Amen, sister! Thank you to Frederique Constant CEO Peter Stas and his wife, Aletta, for inviting me to join them at such an important, uplifting event.
From left: Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Miley Cyrus, Laverne Cox, and Ava DuVernay
(Photo courtesy of Variety.com)