The Hollywood Reporter (THR) held its annual Women in Entertainment Breakfast last week, honoring Jennifer Aniston with the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award and Selma Blair with the Equity in Entertainment Award. The event coincided with the publication of The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Power 100 Women in Entertainment list, and celebrated the accomplishments of entertainment leaders and changemakers in Hollywood.
The event, presented by Lifetime, took place at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles.
Steve Carell presented Aniston with the Sherry Lansing Award, and delivered a heartfelt, funny speech, quipping, “she’s more talented, nicer and more generous than any of us here today…She cares deeply for others. She leads by example. And she makes a difference.” Aniston was recognized with the award due to her immeasurable contributions to both the entertainment industry and her philanthropic work with organizations such as St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Stand Up To Cancer and Feeding America. She joins a legendary group of previous honorees, including Oprah Winfrey, Shonda Rhimes, Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Viola Davis, Barbra Streisand, Jodie Foster and Barbara Walters.
In her acceptance speech, Aniston said, “I got into this business mostly because I wanted to make people laugh…but somewhere along the way, my motivation for being an actor, performer, producer and storyteller deepened because I deepened as a person, and the idea of making some kind of contribution got sparked in me. I’ve realized that what we get to do as storytellers can be emotionally healing for people. I think stories also help us shine a light on cultural illnesses, like sexual harassment and racial discrimination and gender bias in the workplace. Stories can also give us a much-needed laugh after we do all that heavy lifting, so I’m glad I could be a vitamin of sorts for people out there from time to time.”
Golden Globe-winning Actress Michelle Pfeiffer presented Selma Blair with the Equity in Entertainment Award, which recognizes those committed to the inclusion of underrepresented communities, including those with disabilities, in the entertainment industry. Blair’s transparency through her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis and her commitment to increasing opportunities for those with disabilities on-screen have made her an agent of change for the betterment of the industry. Pfeiffer gave a touching speech, stating “[Selma] is completely transparent with the challenges and heartbreak [of multiple sclerosis] and speaks to her struggle and successes like a poet. She brings a depth of compassion that we are all inspired by and is a much-needed example of how social media can and should be used. As a tool for connection, inspiration and healing.” Previous recipients include changemakers and visionaries such as Ronan Farrow, Ryan Murphy, Nina Jacobson and Amy Pascal.
Blair’s inspirational speech moved the audience to tears. She said, “My story is but one of many. Disability is not a distant monolith. It is an intractable part of our shared humanity. Everyone in this room knows the power of entertainment to create a sense of community. And it is our responsibility, those of us in this room, to do so. By creating more inclusive content, by telling stories that more authentically represent and include all of us, by being allies in our workspace by setting the bar higher for accessibility standards, by living and working in the intersectionality of our collective human experience, we become worthy of the enormous access and influence we have.”
Jennifer Garner led a presentation of scholarships as part of THR’s Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program, with support from Halle Bailey, Tessa Thompson and Kelsea Ballerini. Garner presented a full scholarship to Loyola Marymount University underwritten by Sony Pictures Entertainment to student Ailani Anglin. As a special surprise, Bailey presented new Apple MacBook Air laptops to each mentee generously provided by the Edie Wasserman Women in Hollywood Fund. Through the Wasserman Foundation, Casey Wasserman created the Fund to support tenacious and up and coming young business and creative women in their educational and career pursuits. “Ted Lasso” stars, Hannah Waddingham and Toheeb Jimoh also joined Bailey to aid in distributing the laptops.
Tessa Thompson presented a scholarship to Chapman University underwritten by The Chuck Lorre Family Foundation to Kennedy High School student, Ashly Galvan Perez. Inspired by the program, Thompson dared the audience, noting “I want to challenge every studio, network, and agency in this room to step up and support these girls. Because someday these girls are going to be on The Hollywood Reporter Power 100 Women in Entertainment list for the work they are doing for you.”
Kelsea Ballerini opened her presentations with a bold play-on-words, saying “Ya know, I can’t think of anything better than a morning of sipping a strong cup of coffee in a room full of even stronger women.” She presented a scholarship to Chapman University underwritten by Spotify to El Segundo High School student Taya Good-Smith, underscoring her own experiences in the music industry and the importance of mentorship along the way.
In total, the women presented nearly $1 million in scholarships. The program, which is a joint venture between THR and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles, pairs the best and brightest high school girls from underserved communities in the Los Angeles area with top-level female executives, lawyers, and agents. More than 200 girls and 200 mentors have taken part in the program, with the mentees going on to universities including Harvard, UC Berkeley and UCLA, supported by $10 million in scholarships raised by THR.
Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times Magazine and creator of The 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones delivered a keynote speech, which echoed the importance of safety and equity for women in the entertainment industry and beyond as well as democracy.
“Saturday Night Live” alum and “The White Lotus” star Molly Shannon kicked off the program with a humorous opening that caused a roar of laughter amongst attendees. “Ladies, it’s time to admit that…men also have a point of view that deserves to be heard. They can play the same roles that women have. For example, Matt LeBlanc, here, can wear a bikini and wash a car, can’t you, Matt? Steve Carell can hold up a card with a number on it between rounds at a boxing match.”
Guests in attendance included Alana Haim, Alexandra Daddario, Alexandra Shipp, Amanda Anka, Ariana DeBose, Ashley Park, Amber Riley, Camila Alves McConaughey, Candice Patton, Chris Nee, Connie Britton, Courtney A. Kemp, Dominique Fishback, Elaine Welteroth, Eva Marcille, Fortune Feimster, Gloria Calderon Kellett, Halle Bailey, Hannah Waddingham, Jane Levy, Jenna Dewan, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Morrison, Jillian Mercado, Kathy Hilton, Kelsea Ballerini, Kristin Hahn, Laura Harrier, Laura Marano, Loni Love, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Maggie Q, Maria Bakalova, Maria Sharapova, Marlee Matlin, Monique Coleman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Molly Shannon, Nicole Sperling, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Rachel Brosnahan, Rebecca Hall, Ron Frierson, Ruth Negga, Sarah Shahi, Selma Blair, Sherry Lansing, Simone Ashley, Steve Carell, Susan Kelechi Watson, Terry Crews, Tessa Thompson, Tia Mowry and Toheeb Jimoh.
Sponsored by (in this order): Cadillac, FIJI Water, Amazon Ads, SAG-AFTRA, eOne, and Gersh; and in partnership with Chapman University, Loyola Marymount University, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles.