From onstage, as she accepted Women in Film’s Lucy Award for Excellence in Television earlier this week, Taraji P. Henson, best known as Cookie Lyon on Fox TV’s “Empire,” talked of the bad rap women sometimes get in the entertainment industry being called “diva, difficult, catty – when all we’re doing is in those moments, when you call us being difficult – we’re fighting for what we deserve.
“We’re all we got, ladies,” she said. “If we don’t support each other, who will?”
The show of support took place Wednesday at Women in Film’s star-studded Crystal + Lucy Awards, sponsored by Max Mara and BMW, with presenters including actors Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale and Claire Danes; Fox Television Group Chairwoman and Chief Executive Dana Walden; and Nicola Maramotti of Max Mara.
“Saturday Night Live” veteran Chris Parnell was the host for the soiree, which also named Natalie Dormer of “Game of Thrones” the 2016 Women In Film Max Mara Face of the Future Award recipient (Dormer attended a related party Tuesday at the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood that was given in her honor by Max Mara).
Also, eight trailblazing female producers were honored with the Crystal Award for Excellence in Film: Lauren Shuler Donner, Lynda Obst, Denise Di Novi, Lucy Fisher, Lianne Halfon, Jane Rosenthal, Paula Wagner and Paula Weinstein, and additional honorees were director Lesli Linka Glatter and talent agent Hylda Queally.
Given Women in Film’s mission to achieve gender parity in the entertainment industry and ultimately off-screen as well, we asked celebrities and honorees to give us their advice to young women during the cocktail hour before the official ceremonies.
1. “If you have a dream, know that no one can take it away,” said Henson. “If you go for a job and that door is closed, that doesn’t mean another one isn’t opening. You can’t let someone say that means you’re not talented. You just say, ‘Let me move on to the job that’s for me.’”
(On a side note, we had to ask: And how much is Henson like her “Empire” character? “I’m a tough ‘cookie,’” she said with a laugh, adding, “I’m not as loud and boisterous as she is, but yes, I’m a tough cookie.”)
Become excellent at your craft and focus on that, as opposed to focusing on fame. That’s the thing that’s going to get you ahead.
2. “I would advise young women to be true to their hearts and chase their dreams. Be bold. Be daring,” said Dormer. “Sometimes women have a tendency to be apologetic or overly modest when they’re good at something, and I’m not just talking about in the entertainment industry. I’m talking about in all industries. I genuinely believe you have to scare yourself a little bit and take yourself out of your comfort zone to grow.”
Regarding her assessment of her TV character Queen Margaery’s method of achieving her goals, she said, “Fundamentally I believe that Margaery is a good person. It’s just that she’s a go-getter. She’s not Machiavellian. She’s just being psychologically observant about the people she’s around. She’s assertive, considered, psychologically and emotionally highly intelligent and very perceptive. I don’t see any negativity in any of those motivations. I just think she’s politically savvy and she uses the cards that she’s dealt – and that’s what we all ought to do in life.”
3. “I have one word for young women entering this industry – work,” “Goliath” star Maria Bello said. “Just do the work. Become excellent at your craft and focus on that, as opposed to focusing on fame. That’s the thing that’s going to get you ahead.”
4. “Don’t take rejection personally,” said Shuler Donner, producer of “X-Men” and other blockbusters. “The easiest thing for the person on the other side of the desk to say is ‘No.’ Keep a sense of humor and keep believing in yourself. Know you’re right and know you’ve got the talent.”
5. “One has to be very, very tenacious,” said Linka Glatter, director of “Homeland,” “The Walking Dead” and “The Newsroom,” among other shows. “Don’t let anyone tell you, ‘You can’t do it,’ and remember to keep the joy of storytelling alive because whenever it gets hard, it’s easy to forget what you love about [the work].”
6. “Listen and ask a lot of questions,” said “Rizzoli & Isles” actress Sharon Lawrence. “When you’re just starting out, listening may be the key. It’s a good secret weapon, a way to get knowledge you wouldn’t have gotten if you were too busy talking.”
7. “Don’t take no for an answer,” said Songwriters Hall of Famer Diane Warren, who has been nominated eight times for her music for an Academy Award.
8. Hopeful about the future, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” producer Di Novi said, “I think this is maybe the best time in history for young women to enter the industry. … I think the statistics woke everyone up and now there seems to be a concerted effort to try to make things more equitable.”