Hollywood’s leading ladies were on hand Wednesday morning at Milk Studios to celebrate The Hollywood Reporter's Power 100 at the 25th annual THR Women in Entertainment breakfast, presented by Lifetime.
The VIP event coincides with the publication of THR’s annual Women in Entertainment: Power 100, the definitive guide to the leading women in film and television. Jennifer Lawrence, who graces THR’s cover with an interview by Oprah Winfrey, received the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, which honors a woman who is a pioneer and a leader in her field.
Prior to the ceremony, guests like Jeffrey Katzenberg, Sterling K. Brown and Bryce Dallas Howard sipped coffee and green juice with this year’s Power List honorees, including Bonnie Hammer, Ava DuVernay and Stacey Snider. Conversation was dominated by the fires that surrounded the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Bel Air and the Valley, which kept several of the attendees — including Equity in Entertainment Award honoree Amy Pascal and presenters Meryl Streep and Selena Gomez — from the event.
The breakfast comes as the industry finds itself in the middle of a massive culture shift, with brave women coming forward to speak out against men in Hollywood who have abused their power. New York Times reporters Jodie Kantor and Megan Twohey, the duo responsible for the explosive expose that began an avalanche of sexual assault and harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein, were in attendance at the morning event. But many honorees used their speeches to focus on female power and collaboration, instead of addressing the sexual harassment revelations and subsequent firings that have taken over Hollywood’s headlines.
Sarah Silverman delivered opening remarks, kicking off the breakfast, saying, “In this society (as it is now) women are often set up to compete against each other. And it's up to us to wholly reject that." She added: “We have a responsibility as women to reject this toxic drug in the air that makes us feel like the success of one woman can only come at the failure of another."
THR executive editor Matthew Belloni and THR and Billboard executive vp/group publisher Lynne Segall, who thanked the morning’s partner, Lifetime, as well as sponsors American Airlines, Fiji Water, Forevermark, Gersh, eOne, SAG-AFTRA and Loyola Marymount University, took the stage to introduce guest editor of the Women in Entertainment issue, Shonda Rhimes.
"It was an honor and it was a gift for me," the Shondaland producer said of the task. "I just want the world to know how powerful and creative and badass and original you all are."
Nancy Dubuc, president and CEO of A+E Television Networks, also spoke on behalf of event sponsor Lifetime, using her speech to empower attendees in the room to "flip the script" on criticisms used to "slap women on the wrist." She added: "Power is never given; it is taken. And it is time to take it. Own your swagger, and then own the room."
Angelina Jolie, the morning's keynote speaker, then addressed the room, placing a spotlight on women across the globe who are fighting for "the right to think freely and to speak freely."
"It's hard to celebrate our progress while that is still the case," Jolie said. "We have a level of freedom that is unimaginable to women around the world." The actress turned filmmaker dedicated her keynote speech to showing "solidarity with them, to champion them, [and] to help them tell their stories." She added, "I pay tribute to all the women who came before us, who pushed the boundaries in their lifetime so that we could be here today."
Justin Timberlake was on hand to introduce the 21 girls that were chosen as the 2018 class of THR's highly competitive Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program, now entering its 10th year. The program, which was created in partnership with Big Brother Big Sisters, allows each of the girls to receive a $10,000 scholarship to the university of her choice thanks to Lifetime and Entertainment Industry Foundation. Additionally, American Airlines gave each of the graduating mentees 50,000 American Airlines Advantage miles.
Ahead of the scholarship presentations, Timberlake joked about being one of few men in attendance at the event: "I'd like to say to all the women — strong, beautiful souls — I'm happy to be here to be your arm candy."
He added, "To the men in this room, I think we are here because we deserve the opportunity to speak up, to say when something is not right. … We are nothing without the strength of women."
Timberlake also announced the winners of a full, four-year ride to Loyola Marymount University, valued at nearly $250,000. Shark Tank star and entrepreneur Lori Greiner handed out a new Lori Greiner Scholarship, while prolific producer Chuck Lorre, through his Chuck Lorre Family Foundation Scholarship, awarded two scholarships.
Gal Gadot then took the stage to present the first-ever Wonder Woman Scholarship, a full-ride, four-year scholarship funded by Warner Bros., to LMU. Gadot said of recipient, current LMU student Carla A., “Like a true warrior, our new Wonder Woman has proved she can conquer hardship. She’s proved she has talent. She’s proved she’s a winner.”
Closing out the ceremony, Sherry Lansing took to the stage to present Lawrence with her namesake award. Past recipients of the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award have included this year’s guest editor Rhimes and Lawrence’s interviewer Oprah, as well as Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Jodie Foster, Halle Berry, Glenn Close and Barbara Walters.
Lansing recalled the first time she met the actress at a dinner party at Michael Burns’ home prior to the release of Lawrence’s would-be blockbuster The Hunger Games. She said: “I knew she was a very special person and that she would be more than fine. Jennifer was unfiltered. She was authentic; and above all else, Jennifer was comfortable in her own skin. Since that first meeting, I have watched Jennifer’s career soar and I have marveled at her talent.”
Lansing concluded: “I know that Jennifer will continue to be a role model and an inspiration for women everywhere. Because of Jennifer, I believe that young people will view philanthropy and giving back as just a natural part of their lives.”
The star-studded breakfast concluded with honoree Lawrence taking the stage to accept the award from Lansing. "This last year been a challenging and trying time in our world, and our industry specifically. Every day, we wake up to a myriad of headlines that deeply impact us, from around the globe," Lawrence said. Honoring Jolie, Gadot, Rhimes and other honorees and speakers seated in the room, the mother! actress thanked all of women who paved the way in Hollywood and "stood up to adversity."
"Let's be outspoken, let's be resilient, let's all be silence breakers," she said, urging women to create an industry "where outspoken women matter, where outspoken women lead."