Viola Davis, Reese Witherspoon, and J.Lo Showcase ‘Power of Women’ at Variety Event

Honorees Viola Davis and Reese Witherspoon attend the Variety Power of Women presented by Lifetime. (Photo: Jason Merritt, Getty Images for Variety)
Honorees Viola Davis and Reese Witherspoon attend the Variety Power of Women presented by Lifetime.
(Photo: Jason Merritt, Getty Images for Variety)

Annually, this is one of the most inspiring events in Hollywood.

At Variety’s Power of Women luncheon on Friday, sponsored by Audi and held at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel, some of the most impressive movers and shakers in today’s entertainment landscape were lauded for giving back.

Jane Fonda was noted for her work for the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential, Universal chief Donna Langley accepted an award for her work for Vital Voices, Jennifer Lopez was lauded for The Lopez Family Foundation and Reese Witherspoon talked extensively about the Malala Fund.

On stage, Witherspoon credited her daughter Ava, 15, for bringing Yousafzai’s story to her attention. Mother and daughter have teamed up to bring awareness to the foundation.

“I’m so proud to tell you today that Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize,” said Witherspoon. “She is my role model.”

There was little room for petty controversy at the luncheon, which included guests Eva Longoria, Lizzy Caplan and Bryce Dallas Howard. But before Davis took the stage, friend Maria Bello introduced her as “a classically beautiful woman who inspires, and turns her pain into compassion” – a pointed reference to the recent New York Times article by critic Alessandra Stanley.

The article infamously employed ‘angry black woman’ stereotypes while attempting to praise Davis’ new show, How to Get Away with Murder, and forced an apology from the NYT, which called the piece “tone-deaf.” But when Davis took the stage, she gracefully (and tearfully) redirected the conversation to why she works to eradicate hunger for children in the U.S..

“I was one of the 17 million kids in this country who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from,” said Davis, talking of “sitting in front of a SAT falling asleep because I was hungry…I sacrificed a childhood for food. And grew up in immense shame.”

Less well-known talent was praised, too. An inspiring speech came courtesy of Jessica Matthews, a Nigerian-American Harvard grad who developed Soccket, a soccer ball that transforms 30 minutes of play into a generator that lasts for three hours. Over 50,000 energy-harnessing balls are set to be distributed to impoverished children worldwide by April.

“I don’t know how I got here,” said Matthews, promising to continue efforts to make a difference (while marveling at having just run into Lopez and Witherspoon). “I can’t believe this! Legally Blonde was a thing, girl!”

SOURCE: USA Today – Andrea Mandell

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