Step Up Inspiration Awards attendees rose to their feet to cheer and applaud ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey before she spoke a single word onstage. The standing ovation came on the heels of Dungey’s decision Wednesday to cancel “Roseanne,” after star Roseanne Barr directed a racist tweet at former Obama administration aide Valerie Jarrett.
“I was saying to Channing before the event, she’s usually such an under-the-radar person, but not anymore,” Step Up founder Kaye Popofsky Kramer said during the ceremony. “It makes me so proud to have her as such an incredible role model for our girls and a symbol of what every woman should be: fierce, bold, fearless.”
Dungey served as a presenter and moderator for Friday’s luncheon honoring “Girls Trip” actress Regina Hall, in which Dungey, Hall and more discussed the importance of women empowerment both within and outside the entertainment industry. Other presenters at the event, presented in partnership with Variety at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, included stars January Jones, Julie Bowen, Sanaa Lathan, Garcelle Beauvais, and Jaina Lee Ortiz.
Bowen kicked off the donation portion of the afternoon, visiting tables and personally thanking guests around the room for their contributions. Dungey was the first to donate, giving $5,000 that was followed by praise from the “Modern Family” actress for standing up against “racism and heinous behavior at ABC.”
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Toward the end of the luncheon, Lathan took the stage to introduce her best friend, Hall, who she called her “human diary” and “one of the most consistent, loving, and unconditional friends I’ve ever had.” Ahead of the ceremony, Lathan spoke to Variety about Hall’s groundbreaking role in the summer hit “Girls Trip,” which has been heralded as a milestone for women of color in the industry.
“I loved that it was African American women and showing how wild we can get, too,” Lathan said. “A lot of times, there’s these stereotypes of you have to be either one extreme or the other — you’re the judge or you’re the crackhead … and I think now there’s kind of a Renaissance in Hollywood where we’re getting to see representation, not only of African American women, but women of all colors.”
During an onstage conversation with Dungey, Hall imparted advice to the young women in the room, who she encouraged to “pursue excellence” and not compare themselves to others. She also spoke about the importance of projects highlighting women, like “Girls Trip” and upcoming summer film “Support the Girls,” which follows women in the sports bar business.
Over the course of the two-hour ceremony, young Step Up participants and alumni shared their stories, including one graduating senior in high school who said meeting Selena Gomez through the Step Up foundation restored her will to live and inspired her to help others. In total, guests raised nearly $500,000 to support girls pursuing higher education in Los Angeles.