The event: Hollywood insiders assembled at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Friday to pay tribute to stars Jane Fonda, Reese Witherspoon, Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez along with Universal Pictures Chair Donna Langley at Variety’s Power of Women awards, staged in partnership with Lifetime Television. Chosen for Lifetime Impact awards for their dedication to philanthropic causes, the honorees support the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential (Fonda), the Malala Fund (Witherspoon), Hunger Is (Davis), the Lopez Family Foundation (Lopez) and Vital Voices (Langley).
In addition, TV personality Maria Menounos received a Charitable Sole award (sponsored by a shoe company, thus the name) and entrepreneur Jessica Matthews received an Inspiration to Action award.
The program: Ike Barinholtz of “The Mindy Project” kicked off the ceremonies, at which Eva Longoria, Bryce Dallas Howard, Maria Bello, Ryan Seacrest, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and others took turns at the podium to deliver introductions.
The crowd: Industry executives Jeffrey Katzenberg, Ron Meyer, Bonnie Hammer, Sue Kroll and Cathy Schulman joined actors, models and others, including Allison Janney, Jessica Capshaw, Lizzy Caplan, Teri Hatcher, Ana Ortiz, Nikki Reed, Nia Vardalos, Mae Whitman, Bianca Santos, Constance Zimmer, Dascha Polanco, Edy Ganem, Lacey Chabert, Chrissy Teigen, Angela Lindvall, Louise Roe and Stacy Keibler.
The scene: A “philanthropy bazaar” lined the ballroom, “womanned” as Fonda phrased it, by charity representatives, so that guests could learn about the spotlighted causes. Over lunch, honorees shared their stories. Lopez, for example, said she turned her attention toward providing healthcare and education for mothers and children when she and her sister were both pregnant.
After the babies were born, she said, she wrote “One Step at a Time,” which became the theme song of her foundation.
Witherspoon talked of her daughter’s awe of 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai, creator of the Malala Fund and winner of the Nobel Prize Peace Price, announced that very morning. “She’s my role model,” said Witherspoon, speaking of Yousafzai’s dedication to girls’ rights to education and the teenager’s ability to stand up to world leaders.
More quotes of note: As the daughter of Henry Fonda, known for socially conscious films such as “The Grapes of Wrath,” Jane Fonda said, “I grew up believing that service is the rent you pay for life.”
Langley expressed her wish for future generations, saying, “I want them to grow up in a world where female empowerment and female rights are a birthright.”
In perhaps the afternoon’s most touching moment, Davis gave her personal reasons for focusing on childhood hunger. “I was one of the 17 million kids in this country who didn’t know where the next meal was coming from, and I did everything to get food,” she said, recalling how she stole, rummaged through garbage bins and befriended children whose mothers cooked three meals a day. “It has been the joy of my life to be able to start this campaign,” she said.
Ellen Olivier is the founder of Society News LA