Elle held its annual Women in Hollywood event on Tuesday, this year celebrating America Ferrera, Danielle Brooks, Eva Longoria, Fantasia Barrino Taylor, Greta Lee, Jennifer Lopez, Jodie Foster, Lily Gladstone and Taraji P. Henson for their creative and cultural contributions.
Lopez, who was presented her honor by NBCUniversal Studio Group chairman and chief content officer Donna Langley, received the Icon Award at the event — and as it turned out, it was far from the first time she’s been bestowed with that title.
“I don’t have an Oscar and I don’t have a Golden Globe, and I don’t have a Grammy or a SAG Award or a BAFTA or a Critics Choice or a Hollywood Film Award. I do have a Palm Springs International Film Festival Spotlight Award — but this is my fifth Icon Award,” Lopez laughingly told the crowd at Los Angeles’ Nya Studios. “Of all the things I thought I would grow up to be when I was a little girl, the last thing on my list was Icon.”
The star continued that after starting off as a dancer before transitioning to being an actress and singer, she was met with opposition every time she expanded into a new field.
“The idea was that if you weren’t a real musician, if you were also an actress, or you’re not a serious actor if you’re a dancer, or a legitimate business person — if you’re an entrepreneur — if you’re an artist. But it went beyond that too. You couldn’t be good or credible at anything if you were sexy, and you couldn’t be sexy if you were a mom, and you couldn’t be intelligent if you were beautiful, and so on. And you certainly couldn’t be any of those things if you were a little Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx,” Lopez said, questioning, “Why can’t we do all the things? I certainly have always believed, and will always believe, that we can, that all of you can, that I can. I thank you for this honor and seeing me, and for recognizing me as one of your own.”
Henson said in her acceptance speech that, “at moments like this, when I’m surrounded by so many phenomenal women at the top of their game, I feel like my dreams have come true,” and Brooks paid tribute to the past women who have played her role of Sofia in the film.
“I stand in the gap today for the women who were shut out, who had to demand to be seen and heard and sometimes when they lost that battle, they kept getting up again and again and again because they knew that this thing that we do was bigger than them,” the actress said. “I’m speaking for the women who were deemed too dark, too fat, their hair was not straight enough. The women that were subjected to only playing maids and mammies and being the sassy big woman while being paid pennies to everyone else’s dollar.”
Taylor gave a special shout out to Winfrey, saying, “You saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself a long time ago, and I know you were just waiting for me to get it right. You were just waiting for me to see it, and I see it now.”
The Last of Us star Bella Ramsey was on hand to present to Foster, acknowledging the two had only met in person for the first time an hour before but “as far as I’m concerned, and I suspect as far as you’re all concerned, Jodie Foster is royalty.”
When Foster took the stage, she admitted she asked Ramsey to present for her “for entirely selfish reasons: I am here to embarrass you, Grandma-style. You are an amazing, exciting talent, so true, so strong, clear in your work on The Last of Us, and I for one want you to know that I have your back in this industry.”
The Nyad star also recalled her early days in the industry when there were almost no women on set, when “for the most part, it was me and a whole bunch of brothers and fathers who showed me the way. I am so grateful for their love and guidance, and for the most part they did their best, their very best. But now I got the sisters, and Bella has sisters, and all of us ladies in this audience are doing our very best impression of being grown-ass women in Hollywood, even though we are completely effed up, occasionally self-hating, mired in a system that perpetuates our worst neurosis, insecurities and objectifications.”
Also at the event, Stephanie Hsu presented to Lee, who joked that “my dad has been asking me for the last two decades, ‘Are you medium-famous yet?’ So I had to bring them here just to prove that this is real. I am finally medium-famous.” Kerry Washington presented to Longoria, who acknowledged that all of the honorees “share the idea that we are more, that we have the power to make our own choices and tell our stories; we have an unwavering faith in all of our abilities to do it all in an industry that always wants us so stay in our lane. We know that power is not given, we have to take it.”
Gladstone was honored by her Killers of the Flower Moon co-stars Cara Jade Myers and Janae Collins, as well as costume consultant Julie O’Keefe, noting “we come from communities where 95 percent of us, in some places at least, were wiped off of this earth, so our representation in Hollywood is a legacy of survival, a representation of stories that we tell. It’s really how we’ve kept going.” And Longoria returned to the stage to honor Ferrera, as the Barbie star told her fellow honorees, “It is an incredible honor to stand alongside you and to know that our work doesn’t require a separate diversity awards ceremony, that our work is worthy of being honored in the main spaces, the dominant spaces. I cheer you on and I celebrate your wins as my own.”