Elle's 22nd annual Women in Hollywood bash had been on the books for months, but it seemed presciently timely Monday night, given recent headlines sparked by Jennifer Lawrence's essay about equal pay for women performers and the passage of California's Fair Pay.
The magazine honored eight of the industry's biggest stars — actresses Kate Winslet, Dakota Johnson, Amy Schumer, Salma Hayek, Carey Mulligan, Alicia Vikander, Gena Rowlands and director Ava DuVernay — all of whom showed up at the party, save for Rowlands, who was ill.
That group alone would have given the event plenty of star power, but more celebs were on hand to fete the honorees, like Meryl Streep, who turned up for her "Suffragette" costar Mulligan, and Lena Dunham, there to support fellow funny lady Schumer.
The event was held in Beverly Hills, with roughly 250 guests gathering for an intimate dinner. The ballroom at the Four Seasons was lit dramatically in blue, and neat bouquets of tulips adorned marble tabletops. Despite the chic surroundings, the gathering had a casual vibe. Talent from disparate corners of the business mixed easily with their assigned tablemates: Schumer was flanked by America Ferrera, Johnson was across from Judd Apatow, and Zoe Kravitz was a few seats over from Kiernan Shipka.
There was a wide display of emotion throughout the evening too. Winslet — introduced by "Divergent" star Shailene Woodley — kicked off the acceptance speeches on a sensitive note when she mentioned that her woman of the year was her 15-year-old daughter, who "looks in the mirror every day and tells me she's happy being her." DuVernay took a more serious tack, telling the audience about how different her career trajectory had been from that of a white male director she came up with at the Sundance Film Festival.
Even Schumer read a somber poem by Anne Sexton.
That was, of course, after she joked about how she had a "Cabbage Patch face" that she was going to force everyone in town to look at for years to come. And after Dunham said Schumer was like "Suze Orman, if Suze Orman loved [sex with men]."
"She's the kind of ride-or-die friend you spend your life hoping for" Dunham said of Schumer, who had brief cameos on "Girls" in seasons 2 and 3. "She will walk very slowly with you for nine miles and call it exercise."
Streep, meanwhile, seemed equally obsessed with Mulligan, saying her British accent sounded like "warm caramel poured over the English language" The veteran Oscar winner's name came up during numerous speeches, as multiple attendees noted her presence in the audience and expressed their subsequent nerves. Johnson said she uttered the F-word aloud when she noticed Streep — "always in the front, right there. So beautiful" — and Leslie Mann said she was shocked Streep stuck around after delivering her speech early on in the evening. But the 66-year-old seemed to be enjoying herself, and indeed stayed until the end of the night — even sitting through Hayek's 20-minute speech.
"Can you imagine if they had this great big meeting once a year and called it 'Men in Hollywood?" Streep mused to the crowd. "We would be pissed, right? Oh, wait. They have those meetings every day, in every country and every city in the world.
"Oh, I can't do stand-up!"