Janelle Monáe, Cate Blanchett and Patti LuPone were among the entertainment industry stars offering a salute to female frontline workers in the TV special “Lifetime Presents Variety’s Power of Women: Frontline Heroes,” which premiered Thursday on Lifetime.
The tribute also featured such Hollywood notables as Natalie Portman, Laverne Cox and Nicole Kidman putting the spotlight on the work of women around the world who have been first responders in battling the coronavirus pandemic. Robin Roberts, anchor of ABC News’ “Good Morning America” and producer of Lifetime’s “Robin Roberts Presents” movie series — hosted the hourlong special.
“In times of global crisis, women have the most to lose, financially, professionally and socially. And yet women are ones rolling up their sleeves to give others hope and just plain get us through it,” Roberts said.
Musician and activist Monáe, an eight-time Grammy nominee, highlighted the racial disparities related to the crisis and how much harder the health and economic effects of the outbreak have hit many in the Black community. She recognized the work of Jasmine Crowe in Atlanta, founder and CEO of the food management platform Goodr, which has to date delivered more than 1 million meals locally.
“Being someone who feels deeply connected to the experience of a Black woman and also being a part of the LGBTQIA+ communities, it’s super important to try and use my platform to share the mic and to give opportunity,” Monáe said.
Crowe explained that she was motivated to act after realizing how many children in her community were going hungry because of the business shutdowns spurred by the outbreak. She reached out to local businesses and developed a system of distributing leftover food that would otherwise go to waste.
“It just makes me feel really good that I’m walking in my purpose every day. And I think, ‘Hey, women are amazing, right?'” Crowe said. “No one would be here without us, and I think in a pandemic we’re showing up and we’re supporting everyone.”
LuPone, a two-time Tony winner, shared her love for New York and highlighted her work with the Actors Fund and Broadway Cares. She noted that Broadway is experiencing its longest-ever shutdown because of the virus, which has led to economic turmoil for many in the theater community.
“I don’t think I’ve ever known New York theaters to be dark this long. It hurts. And I am keeping my fingers crossed that the city bounces back,” said LuPone. “With the Actors Fund in tandem with Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS, it’s social services for our community. And now that there are no theaters open, they have adapted and raised $5 million to help the industry.”
For LuPone’s Power of Women “hero,” she put the spotlight on Tamar Shapiro, a social worker who joined the Actors Fund in 1986. Shapiro is currently reviewing 9,000 cases of entertainment industry professionals who have requested emergency assistance from the fund.
“People who work in the arts are essential to the development of our culture, which helps to educate people, helps to stimulate imagination and curiosity,” Shapiro said. “But COVID-19 has impacted all of us in a myriad of ways, and for people in this industry, their primary craft has come to a dead stop.”
Blanchett, a two-time Oscar winner and a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Refugee Agency, devoted her segment to celebrate the work of Alessandra Morelli, who works in emergency and conflict matters at the agency.
“No matter where in the world we live, I think we’ve really profoundly realized just how connected we all are,” Blanchett said. “We’ve all learned what it means to live with great uncertainty. That’s what I think about the privilege I’ve had working with and meeting refugees who live with profound uncertainty. And that is something that I think we need to honor and learn from as we reemerge.”
Morelli said that the agency helps refugees receive food, clean water and health care. They now focus on producing soap and masks as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on refugees who are already living in difficult circumstances.
“All of us should be united because we’re all part of the same mankind, humanity. And I think that COVID-19 made us understand that and I hope it stays,” Morelli said. “I think female leadership has this capacity to merge care and ethics into a magic formula that makes the world a better environment.”
Other stars featured in the special included Tiffany Haddish, Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, Gigi Hadid, Jennifer Garner, Blake Lively, Eva Longoria and Helen Mirren. Frontline workers that were honored included emergency room nurses, mental health professionals, teachers, workers who combat domestic violence and homeless advocates.
In closing, singer-songwriter Andra Day performed a rendition of her anthem “Rise Up,” which was paired with footage of frontline workers in action.
“Lifetime Presents Variety’s Power of Women: Frontline Heroes” was produced by Variety and A+E Networks.