You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

En Vogue, Sara Bareilles and Alicia Keys Take the Stage at Sylvia Rhone City of Hope Fete

The music industry turned up en masse to honor Epic Records chairwoman and CEO Sylvia Rhone with City of Hope’s “Spirit of Life” award on behalf of her professional and philanthropic achievements. The black tie event, held at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, is curated by City of Hope’s Music, Film and Entertainment Industry Group which has raised over $124 million since its founding 46 years ago. Performers who took the stage throughout the night included Yolanda Adams, Sara Bareilles and Alicia Keys and En Vogue.

Previous recipients of the Spirit of Life Award include Coran Capshaw, founder of Red Light Management; Joel A. Katz, chair of Global Entertainment and Media Practice of Greenberg Traurig; Sir Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group; Eddy Cue, senior vice president of Apple’s Internet Software Services; and Rob Light, head of the Music Department, partner and managing director of Creative Artists Agency, among others.

Rhone marks the first woman of color to be recognized by the renowned medical treatment center, and the significance wasn’t lost on Rhone. “It’s a historic moment tonight,” she told Variety. “This is an organization that has been around for 46 years and in that time very few women have been honored. And until last year when Jon Platt got his, there were not that many people of color honored. So for me it’s like a homecoming, so to speak —it’s for me, but it’s for every black woman. I look at it that way in a collective sense.”

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 10: (L-R) Swizz Beatz, Alicia Keys, Spirit of Life honoree Sylvia Rhone, Chairman & CEO Epic Records, and Sara Bareilles attend City Of Hope Spirit Of Life Gala 2019 on October 10, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for City of Hope)
CREDIT: Courtesy of City of Hope

Rhone has literally made a career of shattering glass ceilings, and back in April, she became the first woman of color to chair a major label. “Sylvia is a trailblazer — a pioneer in every sense of the word,” said Platt. Eric H. Holder Jr., the 82nd Attorney General, hailed her as “the most inspirational woman in the history of the music business.” Alicia Keys also sang Rhone’s praises to Variety: “She’s a legend,” said the Grammy-winning artist. “She is powerful. She is like the one of one. And I’m so proud to be supporting her as another woman in the music industry.” DJ Khaled was also onhand to support Rhone: “She’s a queen, a music mogul, an icon,” he said, noting her relentless work ethic. “She’ll text me at like four, five in the morning.”

But in an industry that is arguably dominated by women of color — from Beyoncé (pop) and Lizzo (R&B) to Cardi B. (rap) and Jennifer Lopez (Latino/dance) — why isn’t that diversity reflected on the executive side? Rhone averted her eyes and sighed. “That’s life in America,” she said. “So that’s the problem. Even on the female exec side, how many chairmans are there of companies? But I’m very optimistic about what the opportunities are going to be. This is a big watershed moment today, so we’ll see what happens.”

Platt couldn’t agree more. “We have to continue to have these moments where people from all walks of life can see themselves in that moment — because not only will our industry be better for it but the world will be better for it,” he said on the red carpet. “Listen, music has always been diverse. And our industry should be as diverse as the music that we represent. That’s the goal.”

That sentiment was echoed later on thanks to a surprise performance by one of Rhone’s signature acts on the 30th anniversary of their formation — the original funky divas from Oakland known as En Vogue. “Free your mind and the rest will follow,” sang all four original members, the inescapable chorus to the group’s 1992 hit. “Be color blind — don’t be so shallow.” But before that unexpected reunion, Yolanda Adams belted out a solo set, followed by a duet between Keys and Sara Bareilles, who sat facing one another at conjoined grand pianos for the anthemic mash-up of “Girl on Fire” and “Brave” that we didn’t know we needed.

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 10: Spirit of Life Honoree, Chairman & CEO Epic Records Sylvia Rhone (C) poses with (L-R) Cindy Herron, Dawn Robinson, Maxine Jones, Terry Ellis, and Rhona Bennett of En Vogue at City Of Hope Spirit Of Life Gala 2019 on October 10, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for City of Hope)
CREDIT: Courtesy of City of Hope

“We tried to put together a night that was more female-driven,” Rhone said of the entertainment. Then she got personal: “I sat in these rooms for 20 years wondering if there would be anybody up here that looked like me getting the award. I sat there with a a great deal of respect for those honorees. No question about it — they were amazing men. But,” she added after the laughter in the room eventually died down, “it’s time for a change.”

Named chairman/CEO of Epic Records earlier this year, in the 1990s, Rhone became the first African American woman to serve as chairman of a record company, holding that title at Elektra for a decade before she moved on to positions at Universal Records and Universal Motown. She began her career at Buddah Records in 1974.

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 10: General view of atmosphere during City Of Hope Spirit Of Life Gala 2019 on October 10, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for City of Hope)
CREDIT: Courtesy of City of Hope

More Music

  • Bruce Springsteen

    Bruce Springsteen Stuns Fans With Surprise Two-Hour Set at Stone Pony (Watch)

    Bruce Springsteen stunned attendees at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey Saturday night with a surprise two-hour performance at a private event benefiting Boston College. The lucky 400 attendees for the invite-only event got a 22-song set that included hits from his albums “Born in the USA,” “Born to Run,” “Greetings from Asbury [...]

  • Elizabeth Warren Taylor Swift

    Elizabeth Warren Backs Taylor Swift in Big Machine Battle, Slams Private Equity Firms

    Taylor Swift’s battle with Big Machine has spilled into the political arena. Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren retweeted Swift’s Thursday message about her former record label preventing her from performing her old hits at the American Music Awards, adding that Swift is “one of many whose work as been threatened by a private equity firm.” [...]

  • Cynthia Erivo

    Cynthia Erivo Almost Gave Up Singing to Become a Spinal Surgeon

    Before Cynthia Erivo went on to become a Tony and Grammy winner, she nearly gave up singing to be a spinal surgeon. In her “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors” conversation with Alfre Woodard, the “Harriet” star said she had been singing since she was toddler. Her mother noticed she’d hum while eating her food when [...]

  • 'Roxanne' Singer Arizona Zervas Signs With

    'Roxanne' Singer Arizona Zervas Signs With Columbia

    Hotly tipped singer-songwriter Arizona Zervas, whose viral hit “Roxanne” is in the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100,  has signed with Columbia, Variety has confirmed. Since the release of the track on Oct. 10, “Roxanne” has reached nearly 50 million streams on Spotify. The single topped Spotify U.S. top tracks chart for an uninterrupted [...]

  • taylor swift, scott borchetta and scooter

    Rage Against the Big Machine: What's Driving the Taylor Swift Showdown

    The latest Taylor Swift-Scooter Braun-Scott Borchetta kerfuffle involves the sort of music business minutiae that doesn’t commonly interest the general public — in fact, it’s probably safe to say that untold thousands if not millions of people are suddenly familiar with the concept of re-recording old masters. But in blasting Braun on social media and [...]

  • Lil Peep Everybody's Everything

    Album Review: Lil Peep's 'Everybody's Everything'

    When Lil Peep died after an accidental overdose in 2017 at age 21, we had still only just touched on the life and aesthetic of the neophyte emo-trap-punk-rap king. We were just beginning to find out how he went from an Allentown, PA working class youth with an absentee father, and a child of mental [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content