Harvey Weinstein, Whoopi Goldberg and David Frankel were among the industry figures who joined Michelle Obama at the White House on Friday for a workshop for high school students considering careers in entertainment, with the first lady telling the teenagers that technical knowledge alone isn’t the key to success: “grit” as well as “determination and resilience” are also needed.
Weinstein, who was at the White House on Thursday evening for a screening of his company’s “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” organized the event. Calling Weinstein “a wonderful human being, a good friend and just a powerhouse,” Obama also shared the story of how he lost an eye when he was 10 years old while playing with some friends.
“But Harvey didn’t just sit around feeling sorry for himself,” she said. “He knocked on the door of a retired librarian who lived next door to him and asked for books. Now, for those of you who know Harvey, can you imagine a 10-year-old Harvey in conversation with a librarian?” The crowd laughed. “But from that moment on, Harvey developed a love of reading and a knack for finding good stories — a skill he has used every day for decades.”
She also cited Goldberg’s childhood growing up in the housing projects, and her battle with drug addiction in her 20s, when she was a single parent. “Whoopi never let any of that stop her from pursuing her passions for comedy and acting,” Obama said. “She took all kinds of jobs — good grief — bricklayer, dishwasher, beautician in a mortuary. All of that just to support herself and her family as she performed with comedy groups and developed her standup comedy routine.”
One of Obama’s points was that a big part of making it in the business is dealing with setbacks. “It’s not just about being a good actor or knowing how to create the best special effects,” she said.
The students had workshops on directing, acting, special effects, music, costuming and wardrobe.
Also present were Naomie Harris, Ryan Coogler, Blake Lively and Gayle King.
White House photo of First Lady Michelle Obama reacting to a high schooler who got special effects makeup as part of an event focused on film industry careers.