While January Jones, Sanaa Lathan, Julie Bowen and Kaley Cuoco were among the celebrities who turned out for the 20th annual Step Up Inspiration Awards, Friday afternoon’s real stars were the children and female alumnae who are part of the Los Angeles-based mentoring program.
With that in mind, honoree Regina Hall, a star of “Girls Trip,” made a point of doling out advice to the girls in the audience as she accepted the organization’s Inspiration Award. “We’re in a time of social media so I encourage our beautiful young girls to pursue excellence, not likes,” Hall told the crowd. “It’s really easy to look and compare yourself but who you are is so incredibly powerful. And you don’t have to look, think or be like anyone. You just have to love to your highest degree and pursue your highest best. And that shouldn’t be compared to anything.”
This was just one of the many uplifting speeches given during the reception and luncheon, which was presented by the Coach Foundation.
The June 1 benefit, which was at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, raised close to $500,000, which is nearly half of the funds needed for the nonprofit’s annual initiatives for girls living in underserved Los Angeles communities. Step Up’s confidence-building mentorship program has seen tremendous success, which was underscored by the sheer number of past and present Step Up participants in attendance at the luncheon.
Jennie Garth brought her young daughters along to the affair. “I love showing my girls that a part of what I do is this kind of work, which is bringing awareness to things that are important to me,” she said while walking the event’s red carpet. “It’s not about looking pretty and showing up. It’s about lending my name and helping organizations get the awareness that they need.”
Garth said she has worked with Step Up for a number of years now. “I came from a household where I was taught I could do anything and the world is your oyster,” she said. “But there are a lot of young women that grow up and don’t have that support. So this organization provides that support to those women and allows them access to mentors and things they wouldn’t have access to.”
During the ceremony, Channing Dungey, president of ABC Entertainment, hit the stage to moderate an interview with Hall. As Dungey made her way toward the podium, the audience members quickly rose to their feet for a standing ovation — a nod to Dungey’s recent cancellation of the “Roseanne” reboot following the comedian’s recent racist remarks on Twitter. The Step Up Los Angeles board member declined interviews on the carpet and kept all focus on the afternoon’s message of empowerment.
Meanwhile, Bowen had a unique approach to raising money for the cause during the event’s fundraising portion of the afternoon. “Ladies, what do your shoes cost?” the “Modern Family” actress asked as she worked the room. “Give three times as much!” she quipped.
Eight-hundred guests turned out, among them Lisa Ling, Lacey Chabert, Garcelle Beauvais, Torrey DeVitto, Christine Lakin, Holly Robinson Peete, Jillian Rose Reed, Louise Roe, Emeraude Toubia, Marla Sokoloff, the Coach Foundation’s Margaret Coady, Amy Elaine Wakeland, the first lady of Los Angeles, and Step Up Chief Executive Jenni Luke.
Beauvais said she’s been working with Step Up for the last 10 years. “I just love what they do,” she shared. “I’m a girl’s girl, and women helping women and young girls is everything. This organization helps so many girls feel confident and empowered.” The actress and television personality reminisced about the time she’s spent with mentees. “We’ve had spa days with the girls. We’ve had days where we do Pilates. We’ve had days where we just go and talk to them,” Beauvais said. “Mentoring is everything. … Seeing these girls from when they first start the program to when they get on stage and say how they’ve evolved? It’s amazing. I’m getting goose bumps.”
Roe has also been an ambassador for several years now. “When I moved to L.A., I was looking for charities to work with, and this one really stood out to me because it’s hands-on,” Roe said. “I go into high schools and mentor the young women. I help them get their résumés in order to apply to college. They’re often the first girl who’s ever been to college in their whole family. Or sometimes we’ll just talk about boys and shoes. It’s totally up to them, but I love it. It means a lot to me. Having just had a daughter, I think it seems more important than ever to set a good example.”