Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington, John Legend & More Honored at Women in Entertainment Gala

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Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington, John Legend & More Honored at Women in Entertainment Gala

The Hollywood Reporter (THR) hosted its 28th annual Women in Entertainment breakfast gala presented by Lifetime today, honoring Reese Witherspoon with the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award and Ronan Farrow with the Equity in Entertainment Award. This year's honorees were joined by best-selling author, entrepreneur and political activist Stacey Abrams, who delivered the keynote speech. The event - held at MILK Studios in Los Angeles - coincided with the publication of THR's annual Power 100 Women in Entertainment issue, guest edited by Olivia Wilde.

Kerry Washington presented Witherspoon with the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, established in honor of the former CEO of Paramount Pictures and first woman to head a Hollywood studio, which recognizes trailblazers and philanthropists. Witherspoon was recognized for both her work as an acclaimed actress, as well as being one of Hollywood's most prolific producers. She is the founder of Hello Sunshine, a media brand and content company dedicated to female authorship and storytelling across all platforms. Witherspoon recently starred and executive produced the award-winning HBO series Big Little Lies, Golden Globe-nominated Apple series The Morning Show, and upcoming Hulu series Little Fires Everywhere; and co-founded Time's Up. With this accolade, Witherspoon joins a long line of preeminent former honorees, including Shonda Rhimes, Oprah Winfrey, Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Dame Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, Halle Berry, Jodie Foster, Glenn Close, and Barbara Walters.

Addressing the young girls in the audience, Witherspoon recalled a setback she faced early in her career. Speaking to her 22-year old self, she said, "One day, I'll be sitting in a room with so many women who are leading our industry by producing, creating films and television shows on every platform for audiences of millions who really want to see better stories about women on film. There will be so many of us, you won't be able to write us off."

In the event's spirit of mentorship, Witherspoon reflected on a moment in which fellow Sherry Lansing Award recipient Shonda Rhimes told Witherspoon that she was the person that was going to change the culture of the entertainment business. "What changed for me in that moment was the realization that even if you don't think of yourself as capable of leadership, if someone else does, it just might work."

Prior to Witherspoon's honor, Gretchen Carlson presented Ronan Farrow with the Equity in Entertainment Award for his part in breaking the first allegations of rape and sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein in The New Yorker. Reflecting on the award, which recognizes an individual who has worked against gender-based discrimination toward greater inclusion of women and people of color in the entertainment industry, Farrow turned the spotlight on the female voices and importance of listening. "Any award I've gotten, it's because of brave women who were sources in my reporting," said Farrow, who went on to devote the majority of his speech to read the names of 37 women who came forward to share their stories.

As part of her keynote, Abrams shared the power of storytelling in her political career and its parallels in entertainment: "We must tell our truths on screen, in boardrooms, and behind the scenes. We must be honest about the challenges that exist for women -- particularly women of color in this industry, in order to find the solutions that will empower others."

Additional highlights from the morning included:

Charlize Theron took the stage to announce the launch of a new $100,000 scholarship fund from Jeffrey and Marilyn Katzenberg; unveiled the Chuck Lorre scholarship winner; invited Mindy Kaling on stage to present the Netflix scholarship recipients; and awarded students with Wasserman Foundation laptop computer gifts. In turn, Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program mentees surprised Theron by announcing a scholarship made by Entertainment Industry Foundation in her name.

Olivia Wilde received a standing ovation speaking to the mission of the Power 100 issue, noting the incredible work of female directors over the past year, quoting Gloria Steinem, "The glass ceiling is cracked by one, but shattered by many."

Bryan Lourd announced, with and on behalf of his daughter Billie Lourd, a new scholarship in the late Carrie Fisher's name.

Sherry Lansing also announced a first-time scholarship she will fund that carries her name.

John Legend and Maggie Rogers presented the newly established Spotify scholarship.

Power 100 honorees in attendance included Agnes Chu, Aleen Keshishian, Amy Gravitt, Ann Sarnoff, Beatrice Springborn, Blair Kohan, Bonnie Hammer, Carolyn Blackwood, Cathleen Taff, Channing Dungey, Cindy Holland, Dawn Ostroff, Donna Langley, Elizabeth Gabler, Elyse Scherz, Emma Watts, Frances Berwick, Gina Balian, Hildy Gottlieb, Jana Winograde, Jane Wisemen, Janet Mock, Jennifer Salke, Jessica Elbaum, Julie McNamara, Karey Burke, Kathleen Remington, Lisa Gregorian, Lisa Katz, Lisa Nishimura, Liz Gateley, Lorene Scafaria, Lorrie Bartlett, Lulu Wang, Margie Cohn, Meg Whitman, Meredith Ahr, Michelle Bohan, Michelle Sneed, Mindy Kaling, Nicole Clemens, Nina Shaw, Olivia Wilde, Pearlena Igbokwe, Sandra Stern, Sarah Aubrey, Sarah Schechter, Sharon Jackson, Sonya Rosenfeld, Susan Rovner, Theresa Kang-Lowe, Toni Howard, Tonia Davis and Tracey Pakosta.

Additional guests in attendance at the breakfast included Abigail Spencer, Anna Paquin, Chelsea Handler, Chuck Lorre, Connie Britton, Gigi Gorgeous, Jill Soloway, Kaitlyn Dever, Lyndsy Fonseca, Niecy Nash, Sandra Lee, Whitney Port, among many others.

THR also announced that it raised $1.6 million in university scholarships for high school seniors who have been participating in its Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program this year. The year-long program, now entering its 10th year, pairs 20 high school juniors from underserved communities in Los Angeles with some of the top women in film and TV. More than 200 girls and 200 mentors have taken part in the program, with the mentees going on to universities including Harvard, Berkeley and UCLA, supported by $7.8 million that THR has raised in scholarships. The program is presented by Lifetime and sponsored by Loyola Marymount University in partnership with the Entertainment Industry Foundation.

Since the program's inception in 2008, previous mentors in the program include high-powered executives such as head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke, Chairman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment Dana Walden, IMAX Entertainment president and executive VP of IMAX Corp. Megan Colligan, and Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley.

The Women in Entertainment breakfast gala presented by Lifetime, is sponsored by Cadillac, MoroccanOil, Fiji, eOne, Gersh, SAG-AFTRA, Loyola Marymount University, in partnership with Entertainment Industry Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles.

Women in Entertainment is part of a dedicated week of programming produced by Billboard-The Hollywood Reporter Media Group focused on honoring top female artists and executives in entertainment and music. The week includes: Billboard's annual Women in Music dinner and awards ceremony, held in conjunction with the release of BILLBOARD'S WOMEN IN MUSIC issue; a new She Is the Music songwriting bootcamp; a reception celebrating the 10th anniversary of THR's acclaimed Mentorship Program; and other events.

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