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Inside the Women In Film Gala: Issa Rae, Elizabeth Debicki and Cathy Shulman Talk Gender Parity

Remember when Issa Rae told Variety that she was “rooting for everybody Black” at the 2017 Emmys? Well she just did herself one better, while accepting the ‘Women In Film Emerging Entrepreneur Award’ at the organization’s annual gala on Wednesday night, with a memorable and hilariously braggadocious speech.

“Sometimes I feel like as women we tend to downplay ourselves and to dim our light. And we’re kind of conditioned socially to be humble,” Rae told the crowd at the Beverly Hilton. “None of my favorite [hip-hop] artists are humble. They don’t even know what that means.”

Some of the highlights of Rae’s epic acceptance speech – which she acknowledged was the exact opposite of how she normally would talk about such a tremendous honor – included quips like “I’m closing all doors behind me, so if you didn’t make it in – oops, your bad. Entrepreneur means I did that s–t by myself.” Rae even poked fun at the ongoing struggle between the WGA and Hollywood talent agencies, adding “UTA, worry about that writer’s strike, don’t worry about me.”

“So, in conclusion, entrepreneur till I die. I deserve this. Bye,” she declared to a standing ovation and the loudest applause of the night. Rae’s bold joke was just one of the many empowering moments at the yearly celebration, which also saw Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Debicki and Cathy Schulman honored for their work in pushing the entertainment industry towards gender parity in Hollywood.

“The change that I see and feel — and it is a very sort of visceral feeling — is a community [of women] that is not going to ever go backwards,” Debicki told Variety on the red carpet before receiving the ‘Max Mara Face of the Future’ award. “You’re always going to know that we stand together on this.”

The night’s host, actress Xosha Roquemore, also brought the funny while being brutally honest.

“Being a woman in film is hard. Some days I feel so marginalized, I don’t even know what the next step is. It’s like the chip on my shoulder is bigger than the pay gap between me and my famous baby daddy [Lakeith Stanfield],” Roquemore cracked, noting that the statistics about representation of and pay for women are “still trash”. “The only thing to do is keep showing up. Keep creating, keep putting yourself out there. Keep striving to make opportunities to cast a wider net for all women. All of my opportunities have come from very boss women who have created their own opportunities and then reached down and pulled me up with them.”

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JUNE 12: Women in Film President Cathy Schulman and Viola Davis, wearing Max Mara, attend the 2019 Women In Film Annual Gala Presented by Max Mara with additional support from partners Delta Air Lines and Lexus at The Beverly Hilton on June 12, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Women In Film)
CREDIT: Getty Images for Women In Film

Viola Davis presented outgoing Women In Film board president and Oscar-winning producer Cathy Schulman with the inaugural ‘Crystal Award for Advocacy in Entertainment’ award. In an emotional speech recalling the highs and lows she’s experienced fighting for gender parity in the industry, Schulman’s most powerful words were about moving forward.

“Inclusion is what happens when diverse people are actually present in equal numbers in decision making and heard — when their diverse, opinions are taken seriously and considered equally,” she said.

Poehler accepted the final honor of the night — the ‘Entrepreneur in Entertainment Award, ’presented by her “Russian Doll” leading lady Natasha Lyonne — reading a lengthy list of groundbreaking female-led films, television series and entertainers that have inspired her over her career, ending her speech by hoping for more.

Also honored were the inaugural class of ReFrame Rise directors and member’s choice award winning directors Anne Fletcher, Marielle Heller, Debra Granik , Chloé Zhao, and Mimi Leder.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JUNE 12: (L-R) Amy Poehler, wearing Max Mara, and Natasha Lyonne attend the 2019 Women In Film Annual Gala Presented by Max Mara with additional support from partners Delta Air Lines and Lexus at The Beverly Hilton on June 12, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Women In Film)
CREDIT: Getty Images for Women In Film

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