"It's like a great big ladies tea party."
That's how one well-known TV actress described the Elle Women in Television event Tuesday night at the Sunset Tower in West Hollywood -- and she was dead-on, assuming tea parties come with dinner and abundant wine. The mood was collegial and fun as friends and colleagues connected en masse.
"This is the best party I've ever been to," a delighted Sia quipped as a compilation of TV highlights kicked off the party, which featured no stuffy presentations, only a funny pep talk by Elle editor Robbie Myers. The singer-songwriter, who sported a floor-length tomato-colored jacket, wound up surrounded by friendly faces for the bulk of the evening.
With an assist from Olay and Hearts on Fire Diamonds, Elle brought together dozens and dozens of top-notch ladies, literally elbow to elbow at long tables, to celebrate Lena Dunham's February cover story in the magazine's television issue. Big behind-the-scenes names spotlighted included show runners Shonda Rhimes of "Scandal" and Jill Solloway of the Golden Globe-winning "Transparent."
"Love how they celebrate & honor women," Jenna Elfman said on Instagram, posting a shot of herself with Myers.
While the mood was celebratory -- Elfman, Angie Harmon and others had no problem shouting above the din to chat while "2 Broke Girls" star Whitney Cummings posed for pics with the likes of Dascha Polanco of "Orange Is the New Black" and Tracee Ellis Ross of "black-ish" -- the challenges facing women in TV couldn't help but bubble up.
Women "have to get comfortable with the idea of being an advocate for oneself in the face of the status quo," said Kate Walsh, the "Private Practice" star who took on an executive producer role for the first time on her most recent project, "Bad Judge."
And in addition to that "status quo," performers now have to navigate social media as well, a point made by "House of Cards" actress Constance Zimmer.
At auditions, execs are asking about the size of social-media followings, said Zimmer, who plays brusque journalist Janine Skorsky on the Netflix series and had to do some trial and error to find her social-media voice
"I would post something and people would hear it in the voice of my characters, not in my voice," she said. Since she frequently plays blunt, smart-mouthed women, there was a disconnect and she found her comments being taken the wrong way.
Now, she said with a laugh, "Before I post, I ask myself, 'What would Meryl Streep do?' I have to set a standard for myself!"
The new standards set by Netflix and other alternative means of production and distribution are exciting, she said, in that they give audiences more control over what they choose to watch.
"When I would say I was on a series on Netflix, people would feel sorry for me," Zimmer said.
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