After a week of female-centric events in Los Angeles, Elle’s annual Women in Hollywood awards managed to draw an equally high-profile group. Honorees included a newly engaged Lady Gaga, Keira Knightley, Charlize Theron, Mia Farrow, Sarah Paulson, Angela Bassett, Yara Shahidi, and Shonda Rhimes, in addition to presenters like Anita Hill and Ronan Farrow.
“I promised I would take her in,” Farrow said, referring to his mother as he bypassed reporters at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. “I will see you on another red carpet.”
Lady Gaga rendered the crowd speechless as she spoke of a sexual assault she endured at the hands of a Hollywood insider she declined to name.
“As I tried on dress after dress today getting ready for this event, one tight corset after another, one heel after another, a diamond, a feather, thousands of beaded fabrics and the most beautiful silks in the world, to be honest, I felt sick to my stomach,” she said. “And I asked myself, ‘What does it really mean to be a woman in Hollywood?’ We are not just objects to entertain the world. We are not simply images to bring smiles or grimaces to people’s faces. We are not members of a giant beauty pageant meant to be pit against one another for the pleasures of the public. We — women in Hollywood — we are voices. We have deep thoughts and ideas and beliefs and values about the world and we have the power to speak and be heard and fight back when we are silenced.”
She continued, “So after trying on 10 or so dresses, with a sad feeling in my heart that all that would matter was what I wore to this red carpet, I saw an oversize Marc Jacobs suit very quietly in the corner. I put it on to a resounding view of eyes glaring at me in confusion. ‘But the Rodarte was so beautiful,’ one said. ‘But the Raf Simons for Calvin Klein was so stunning on you,’ said another. ‘But what about the Brandon Maxwell?’ ‘What about the Dior?’ They were all dresses. This was an oversize men’s suit made for a woman. Not a gown. And then I began to cry. In this suit, I felt like me today. In this suit, I felt the truth of who I am….And then wondering what I wanted to say tonight became very clear to me. As a sexual assault survivor by someone in the entertainment industry, as a woman who is still not brave enough to say his name, as a woman who lives with chronic pain, as a woman who was conditioned at a very young age to listen to what men told me to do, I decided today I wanted to take the power back, today I wear the pants.”
After thanking her “fiancé” Christian Carino, Lady Gaga concluded her speech by stating: “Be kind to yourselves. Be kind to each other. And to the designers who sent me all those beautiful dresses, thank you, too.” Both Hill and Mia Farrow sought out Gaga at her seat shortly after the singer’s powerful 20-minute speech.
Rhimes also got the crowd’s attention while discussing the fact that women struggle to share their accomplishments — herself included. Rhimes compared how she handled landing her multi-million dollar deal at Netflix with how Ryan Murphy navigated his impressive deal. She noted that Murphy spoke openly and proudly to press about his accomplishment. “And I applaud him,” Rhimes said. She then explained, “When I made a deal with Netflix, I let them report my salary [incorrectly] in the press and I did as few interviews as possible and I put my head down. In other words, I hid. I’m getting this award for inspiring other women, but how can I inspire anyone if I’m hiding? So let me take a deep breath and on behalf of women everywhere….I will brag.” She paused, then stated, “I am the highest paid showrunner in television.” The crowd roared.
Presenters at the Calvin Klein, L’Oréal Paris and Hearts on Fire-sponsored dinner included Jennifer Lopez, Sandra Bullock, Kathleen Kennedy, Ellen Pompeo, Kenya Barris and James Corden. Also in the mix were Kate Beckinsale, Aja Naomi King, Laverne Cox, Sara Sampaio, Juliette Lewis, Malin Akerman, Natasha Lyonne, Holland Taylor, Sasha Lane, Ryan Murphy, Debby Ryan, Molly Sims, Sofia Carson, Kay Cannon, Sue Kroll, Channing Dungey, and Diablo Cody. In the spirit of the evening, Elle made a donation to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund.
Earlier in the night, Paulson walked the red carpet with her girlfriend, Holland Taylor. “It’s always an incredibly moving night,” said Paulson, who was among the honorees. “Nights like this remind us that we’re all the same and we all have the same fears and hopes and dreams. When you’re all collectively in the same room, you can feel the vibration of that. It causes forward motion.”
Chloë Grace Moretz also said she looks forward to attending each year. “I’ve been coming to this event for years now,” she said, “and it’s always been really special to bring my mother. My mother raised me and my four brothers [as a] single [mom], so being able to be here surrounded by so many powerful women and to feel the energy in the room is palpable — especially in this day and age.”
Newcomer Sydney Sweeney said she looked forward to interacting with her idols. “I think it’s important to meet as many people as you possibly can,” she said. “When I was younger, my mom always told me that networking is key to any business or any career. She said, ‘Whenever you go somewhere, always introduce yourself to two people every time and you’ll create more relationships.’ I just saw Kate Beckinsale, so I’m probably going to go say hi.” Asked who would be her second introduction, Sweeney didn’t miss a beat. “Lady Gaga,” she said.