Bonnie Hammer, chairman of NBCUniversal Cable and Entertainment Studios, was honored Wednesday night at the Alliance for Children’s Rights’ 26th annual dinner.
The organization, which protects the rights of abused and neglected youth, presented Hammer with the National Champion for Children award for her work caring for those living in poverty and foster care. During her acceptance speech, the NBCU executive spoke about her personal connection to the cause, as she found out at 12 years old her older sister had been adopted, and has since helped other couples with the process.
“There are two ways you can look at an honor like this: it can be a celebration or a motivation,” Hammer said when she took the stage. “While tonight is a wonderful celebration, I hope we all see this as a motivation to do more for children and families, to bring more hope into the world, and to advance the work of the Alliance to give all children the loving, stable home they need and they deserve.”
“Suits” actress Gina Torres, who will star in USA Network’s upcoming spinoff of the hit show, presented Hammer with the award, saying, “while I play a strong boss lady on TV, Bonnie is the real thing. She has been a force for change, using her tremendous platform to uphold the principles of inclusion, acceptance, understanding and diversity, a thread that runs through almost everything she does. She embraces different points of view and is helping to grow our next wave of leaders.”
The gala, hosted by Andy Cohen, welcomed guests Christian Slater, Lisa Edelstein, Mark Feuerstein, Sarah Rafferty and Paul Adelstein. Darren Criss performed three songs during the event, which featured an auction to raise money for the Alliance. The night’s program also included a memorial for former NBCUniversal executive vice president of deputy general counsel Jamie Lichtman, who died suddenly in November.
Edelstein, star of “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce,” told Variety that Hammer fought for her amid criticism that she was too old for the show’s main role and would need some form of plastic surgery to make her look younger.
“When I got the job on ‘Girlfriend’s Guide,’ the first message I got from Bonnie was to please not touch my face,” the actress said. “She was worried, because it happens, that I was going to show up filled and injected, which I don’t do anyway, but I really appreciated the fact that at the time they’d hired a 48-year-old woman and they wanted a 48-year-old woman to show up for work. That was totally a Bonnie Hammer influence.”
Edelstein added that in the era of female empowerment in Hollywood, Hammer was a trailblazer, as “I really admire what a powerhouse she is and how successful she is. Now we see a real thrust for women moving forward but that was not the case when she started in this business.”