Variety‘s Power of Women: Los Angeles, presented by Lifetime, was held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Friday, gathering an intimate group of some of the most philanthropic women in Hollywood at an exclusive luncheon.
This year’s program was kicked off by host Judd Apatow, who provided a mix of comedy and seriousness when addressing not only the trailblazing women in the room, but recent events in the news from Harvey Weinstein to Donald Trump.
Variety’s co-editor-in-chief Claudia Eller’s opening remarks thanked Variety and PMC’s Jay Penske for being a leader in the industry who supports “extraordinary and powerful women.”
In a week that saw scandal emerge for the industry after “decades and decades of abuse of power [and] sense of entitlement” from powerful men, Eller was glad to acknowledge the women speaking up and speaking out right now and implored more to do so.
This year’s honorees included a cross-section of entertainment leaders from film, television, and music, recognized for their work giving “voices to the voiceless” with charities that range from environmental and education programs to child and animal rights’ organizations.
Michelle Pfeiffer, who was representing Environmental Working Group (EWG), spoke about her history with the company that she compared to a “wilderness guide to the deep, dark forest of toxic chemicals,” noting her interest in the environment came early on, when she was reading labels on common home and kids’ products like sunscreen and toothpaste and realized how unsafe they could be.
“At one point I was mixing my own bug repellent in my kitchen, spraying my kids with vodka. I’m not proud,” Pfeiffer said. “How do you want to know what non-toxic products are best? EWG will tell you. I came to EWG for the advice, but I stayed for the advocacy. The fight is real, and it’s never been so important.”
Priyanka Chopra accepted her award for her work as UNICEF ambassador, saying that as a child growing up in India, “giving back was not a choice, it was a way of life.” The daughter of doctors in the Indian Army, Chopra shared she was working as an assistant pharmacist at age eight, and she was never treated differently from her brother, which for India and developing countries around the world was an exception and a privilege.
“Your achievements not just inspire me but also so many others to work harder, be better and make a dent wherever we can,” Chopra said to her fellow honorees and all that made it out to celebrate the “bada–” women in the room.
Kelly Clarkson, recognized for efforts with XQ Institute, was exceptionally honored to be selected for the award because it’s one that’s about something beyond herself. “It’s about standing up here and speaking about organizations that usually don’t have this platform,” she said.
XQ is all about education, which Clarkson said is more important now than ever in a time in which it is “so divisive and scary to have kids.”
Octavia Spencer, who was celebrated for her work with City Year, asked the room to close their eyes and imagine their earlier days in school, starting with their first day when they were most likely apprehensive or nervous, straight through the confidence that comes from graduating. But she asked the room to imagine if they’d be where they are today if they had given in to those early nerves and dropped out after all. Education, she pointed out, “can turn tides.”
Patty Jenkins was called out a few times throughout the event for the inspiration she has provided the future female directors, as well as young girls in general for “Wonder Woman.” However, it was an earlier film, “Monster,” that first set her on the path to this award. It was then that she became interested in fairer justice practices, and Jenkins was honored today for her work with Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC).
“Nobody is born wanting to be the bad guy,” Jenkins said. “I believe that a superhero is anyone, and anyone deserves to be that superhero.”
Moroccanoil presented the Moroccanoil Inspiration to Action Award to the Sato Project’s founder and president, Chrissy Beckles, while the Variety 2017 EmPOWerment Award went to chairman and CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff.
Former Golden Globes boxing champion Beckles shared that she always takes inspiration from her sports career, but now more than ever those lessons are necessary. The Sato Project rescues abused and abandoned dogs in Puerto Rico, and she got the news about winning this award in the middle of two hurricanes that were decimating the country. “You put me in a corner, and I come out swinging,” she said, noting that she’s a “scrappy female featherweight from Manchester” and if she can do something, she implored others to “do something, too.”
Eller celebrated Benioff by pointing out that he invested six million of his own dollars in the company to close a gender gap and said she believes the world needs more people like him. Through Benioff, Salesforce is committed to supporting equal advancement, equal opportunity, and equal pay for its employees, as well as the next generation of business leaders who are still in school today.
“Education is equality. And diversity is equality. We have to include everybody in our workforce. We have to include everybody in these revolutions that are going on. We can’t leave anyone behind,” Benioff says, noting the importance of treating others how you want to be treated. “That’s love and equality, and that’s the power of women, isn’t it? That’s what women teach us.”
Thanks to Lifetime, a few real life heroes from Flint, Michigan (including actress Betsy Brandt) were recognized at the event that saw music direction from Daisy O’Dell.
Five hundred invite-only guests from the world of entertainment and media, including additional participants like Gwyneth Paltrow, Tracy Oliver, Blake Shelton, Nikki Reed, Viola Davis, and Gal Gadot, also came together at pre- and post-ceremony cocktail receptions thanks to premiere sponsors Audi, Dermstore, Moroccanoil, and the Venetian Las Vegas.