Elle continued its tradition on Monday night of honoring some of Hollywood’s most creative, inspiring and powerful women at the magazine’s annual Women in Hollywood dinner.
Hosted by Issa Rae, the evening at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills started with Reese Witherspoon getting teary-eyed while presenting the first award to her “A Wrinkle in Time” co-star Mindy Kaling. “We take our sense of injustice, of not belonging, and use it as fuel,” Kaling said. “In the immortal words of the prophet Rihanna, we ‘work, work, work, work.’ And we make our own opportunities and we make opportunities for others. We don’t wait for others to decide if we are good enough. If I was still waiting for others to decide if I was good enough, I would be teaching an improv class in North Hollywood. We are good enough right now.”
“There may be gatekeepers, but guess what,” she continued. “We are gatecrashers. The power belongs to those who reach out and take it.”
Nicole Kidman recalled recently asking her 11-year-old daughter Sunday Rose what she wanted to be when she grew up. “She said, ‘I want to be a director and I am pretty sure I can make that happen,’” said the Oscar winner, who was introduced by her “Bombshell” co-stars Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie. “And I went, ‘Wow.’ That there is progress because for that little girl to be able to say, ‘Yeah, I can be a director,’ I would never have said that. I said I could be an actress, but I never said director. … The journey is never going to be easy, it’s never going to be easy for creative people because we’re always going to be trying to carve our own paths, but I know that this journey will be easier because of a lot of the women in this room, because of the trails that you blazed, the stories that you’ve told and the examples that you’ve set.”
The evening’s other honorees included Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Dolly Parton and “Queen & Slim” director Melina Matsoukas, along with the film’s writer Lena Waithe and star Jodie Turner-Smith.
Matsoukas delivered a sobering and powerful speech, dedicating her award to black women, including Atatiana Jefferson and Sandra Bland, who have been killed by police.
“I was up late last night trying to write my speech, trying to show my appreciation for the opportunities and the love and support I’ve been given,” she said. “Trying to use my breath and my voice to create change and inspire on this stage today, but all I could think of were those whose breath was taken from us. All I could think of were my sisters who are not here, who could no longer speak, love or thrive solely because of their existence as black woman.”
She continued by saying that she wanted to “honor all the black and brown bodies whose lives were taken by law enforcement, who could have easily been me or Lena or Jodie or Indya [Moore, who presented the ‘Queen & Slim’ team with their awards]. To shed light on this epidemic as Lena Waithe appropriately calls it, ‘to give these lives justice and carry their legacies’ because that is the reason we create art, to create change. We create art to create change, to illuminate and to disrupt.”
In the final remarks of the program, Waithe said, “We must tell our stories and not just to educate white audiences, but to speak directly to those who have been ignored, to those who have been silenced, to those who have been taken far too soon. When the hunter tells the story, the lion will always be conquered.”
The Emmy winner said “Queen & Slim” is a story about legacy, “and I already know what I want mine to be — I want a legacy of love. I want a legacy of truth-telling. I want a legacy of fearlessness.”