By
with contributions from Layla Ilchi
 on December 7, 2017
Aja Naomi King, Andie MacDowell, Elle Fanning, Eva Longoria and Liya Kebede attend L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth Celebration 2017 on December 6, 2017 in New York City.

L’Oréal Paris USA on Wednesday night held its 12th annual Women of Worth dinner at the Pierre Hotel.The celebration — which honors 10 women who spearhead charitable initiatives in their local communities around the country — is typically an emotional one, punctuated by L’Oréal Paris-branded tissues placed at each table setting. But this year’s festivities — taking place amidst the onslaught of sexual assault allegations sweeping Hollywood and the New York media scene — were underscored by a more intense girl power vibe than in years past.“This is the year of women and you can’t silence us — we’re half the population and we need to be respected,” said Elle Fanning.The actress, who wore a lace Miu Miu dress to walk the red carpet, is one of L’Oréal’s youngest brand ambassadors.“In my family, my grandmother lives with us — my aunt, my mom and my sister. There are so many powerful women in my life, like my ballet teacher is really inspiring to me,” said Fanning on the women who inspire her. “Nicole Kidman…[she] is someone I’ve always wanted to meet and she was above and beyond anything I could have imagined. It’s exciting when you get to meet women, especially in the film industry that are your role models and you can look up to them and mold yourself after [them].”Other notable guests included Eva Longoria, Gayle King, Ariana Huffington, Ashley Benson of “Pretty Little Liars,” Hoda Kotb and longtime L’Oréal brand ambassador Andie MacDowell.As is tradition, a different celebrity spokesperson introduced each honoree. This year’s Women of Worth ranged from a Stanford student who founded a sustainable system that collects used cooking oil from restaurants and converts it into biofuel to heat homes for local families, to two victims of human trafficking who each founded organizations to help other victims.Most presenters found it difficult not to make reference to current events. “Sometimes in life, you have to put your big girl panties [on] and never give up — shout-out to Hoda,” King quipped onstage, in a thinly veiled reference to the recent firing of Kotb’s "Today" show costar, Matt Lauer.But the dinner presentations revolved primarily around the honorees, each of whom made their own impassioned speeches.“It’s important to lift up fellow ladies that are doing amazing things and also know that you don’t need to be rich and famous to be making a difference,” said Longoria. “People have their eyes on Hollywood, but this pervasive problem happens everywhere. It’s nice for us to put the spotlight on these extraordinary women doing extraordinary things.”L’Oreal Paris donated a $10,000 grant to each honoree. Shandra Woworuntu, founder of Mentari, an organization that provides services and assistance to human trafficking victims, was named National Honoree and was awarded an additional $25,000 for her initiative.

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