Oprah tearfully empowers women to help others at Variety's Power of Women

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Oprah Winfrey Among Honorees at Variety's Power Of Women Initiative
By VARIETY


Oprah Winfrey, who was selected this year as a Variety Power of Women honoree along with Salma Hayek Pinault, Anna Kendrick, Gwyneth Paltrow and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, brought down the house at the Power of Women luncheon, presented by Lifetime, held Friday at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire hotel in Beverly Hills.

Variety's biannual event, held both in Los Angeles and New York each year, honors women in the entertainment industry who use their public platform to raise awareness and work toward charitable causes.

Recognized for her incredible work with the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation, Winfrey was the only one to receive a standing ovation at the event. However, in true Oprah fashion, the media mogul, who was introduced by director Ava DuVernay, put the attention on the other women in the room.

For more Oprah Winfrey news, scroll through the gallery below:

28 PHOTOS
Oprah through the years
See Gallery
Oprah tearfully empowers women to help others at Variety's Power of Women
Oprah Winfrey speaks during the unveiling ceremony of the Maya Angelou Forever Stamp at the Warner Theater in Washington, DC, on April 7, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Oprah Winfrey attends the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - FEBRUARY 21: Oprah Winfrey speaks onstage during the 2015 Film Independent Spirit Awards at Santa Monica Beach on February 21, 2015 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - FEBRUARY 06: (L-R) Actress Carmen Ejogo, actress/producer Oprah Winfrey and director/producer Ava DuVernay accept the award for Outstanding Motion Picture for 'Selma', onstage during the 46th NAACP Image Awards presented by TV One at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on February 6, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards)
Actress/producer Oprah Winfrey arrives for the Oscars Nominees' Luncheon hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, February 2, 2015 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. The 87th Oscars will take place in Hollywood, California February 22, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
SELMA, AL - JANUARY 18: 'Selma' director Ava DuVernay, actor David Oyelowo, and producer/actress Oprah Winfrey participate in the ceremony to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 18, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. (Photo by David A. Smith/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 15: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Actors David Oyelowo (L) and Oprah Winfrey attend the 20th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards at the Hollywood Palladium on January 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for A&E Network)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 09: (EDITORS NOTE: IMAGE WAS SHOT IN BLACK AND WHITE) Actors Miles Teller (L) and Oprah Winfrey attend the 15th Annual AFI Awards at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on January 9, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI)
SANTA BARBARA, CA - DECEMBER 06: Oprah Winfrey attends the 'Selma' and the Legends Who Paved the Way gala at Bacara Resort on December 6, 2014 in Goleta, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - SEPTEMBER 27: Oprah Winfrey attends the Oprah's The Life You Want Weekend - Day 2 at Prudential Center on September 27, 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - SEPTEMBER 26: Oprah Winfrey speaks at the Oprah's The Life You Want Weekend - Day 1 at Prudential Center on September 26, 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Oprah Winfrey speaks onstage during the 45th NAACP Image Awards presented by TV One at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on February 22, 2014 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16: Presentater Oprah Winfrey poses in the winners room at the EE British Academy Film Awards 2014 at The Royal Opera House on February 16, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 18: Actress-TV personality Oprah Winfrey in the audience during the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 18, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - JANUARY 16: Actress Oprah Winfrey attends the 19th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards at Barker Hangar on January 16, 2014 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20: Oprah Winfrey attends a dinner in honor of the Medal of Freedom awardees at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on November 20, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama chats with broadcast journalist Oprah Winfrey before presenting her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on November 20, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Medal of Freedom is the country's foremost civilian honor. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Oprah Winfrey waves as she speaks during the Let Freedom Ring Commemoration and Call to Action to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on August 28, 2013. Thousands gathered on the mall on the anniversary of the march and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous 'I Have a Dream' speech. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 12: Oprah Winfrey attends LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER Los Angeles premiere, hosted by TWC, Budweiser and FIJI Water, Purity Vodka and Stack Wines, held at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on August 12, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for TWC)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 05: Oprah Winfrey attends the press conference for The Weinstein Company's LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER at Waldorf Astoria Hotel on August 5, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Lee Daniel's THE BUTLER)
CAMBRIDGE, MA - MAY 30: Oprah Winfrey receives an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree at 2013 Harvard University 362nd Commencement EXercises at Harvard University on May 30, 2013 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)
COLLEGE PARK, GA - MAY 20: Oprah Winfrey attends the Spelman College Commencement at Georgia International Convention Center on May 20, 2012 in College Park, Georgia. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Oprah Winfrey attends at the 3rd annual Diane Von Furstenberg awards at the United Nations on March 9, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)
US television talkshow Queen Oprah Winfrey gestures during an interview at Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) in Jaipur on January 22, 2012. Television chatshow queen Oprah Winfrey received a rock star's welcome when she spoke on Sunday to a heaving audience of thousands of fans at the Jaipur Literature Festival in India. Winfrey, wearing a gold and red Indian outfit, told the packed crowd that her love of books had helped her education and enabled her to rise from a poor childhood in Mississippi to become one of the world's most influential women. AFP PHOTO / Prakash SINGH (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)
MEYERTON, HENLEY ON KLIP - JANUARY 14: Oprah Winfrey poses with the Graduates at the inaugural graduation of the class of 2011 at Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls on January 14, 2012 in Henley on Klip, South Africa. (Photo by Michelly Rall/Getty Images)
US talk show queen Oprah Winfrey looks on as she answers to journalist's questions at her South African girls' academy on January 13, 2012 in Henley on Klip. Winfrey founded the $40-million school for girls in 2007. AFP PHOTO/ STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Oprah Winfrey winner for Favorite Talk Show Host during The 30th Annual People's Choice Awards - Press Room at Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California, United States. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
NASHVILLE, TN - MAY 2: Oprah Winfrey arrives at the opening of Charlie's War at the Nashville Film Festival at the Green Hills Regal Cinema May 2, 2003 in Nashville, Tennessee. Her father Vernon Winfrey has a role in the film. (Photo by Adriane Jaeckle/ Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

"I have always known this about celebrity," Winfrey said, giving a nod to the public figures in the room. "The real power is understanding that what Salma has done, what Susan has done, what Gwyneth has done, what Rebecca has done, what Jim has done, is you, too, can do [it] because true philanthropy comes from living from the heart of yourself and giving what you have been given."

Winfrey urged the room to make a difference themselves, continuing, "What we've done, you can do. The real empowerment comes when each person leaves this room and makes a decision."

Becoming weepy while speaking of "her daughters" from her girls' school in Africa (one of whom was in the audience), she recalled something significant that Maya Angelou once told her: Your legacy is seen in those whose lives you've touched. "It's a beautiful thing to receive an award and to be on the cover of Variety," Winfrey said. "But the true reward comes from the lives you have been able to touch and you know that you have impacted."

SEE MORE:Salma Hayek Blasts Hollywood Sexism at Variety Event: 'We're Not Going Away at 30'

Hayek Pinault, who was honored at the luncheon for her work with the Chime for Change charity, touched on similar subjects when delivering her remarks. "What gives me a hope is that in a world that is becoming apart, women are coming together," she said, garnering a huge round of applause from the awe-inspired crowd.

Introduced by Jada Pinkett-Smith, who called Hayek Pinault "the ultimate ride-or-die chick of Hollywood," the Mexican-American multi-hyphenate spoke of coming to the States as a young actress.

"I thought I was going to be working right away, but I was really worried about the other girls... And I was so wrong," she recalled of the catty stereotype of competitive women in the biz. "For my very long career in the United States, I have to say, when I am about to die, I will remember with a smile on my face and in my heart, the amazing sisters, the extraordinary friends that I've made in this industry. I don't know if maybe this is the industry that has the best women in the world — maybe because we've been so suppressed, we have kind of a bonding."

Gallery: Variety's Power of Women Presented by Lifetime

Hayek Pinault added that she feels "very confident" that she is part of the generation of change, noting that women in Hollywood no longer just want to be considered for romantic comedies with the fantasy of finding the perfect Prince Charming. "We changed, but no one took the time to change with us in the industry," she said.

As the packed room dined on a three-course meal and celebratory champagne, Lisa Kudrow took the stage to present the next award to Kendrick, with whom she worked on the Duplass brothers' upcoming film "Table 19." Kudrow added, "There are no half measures for Anna."

The "Pitch Perfect" star was recognized for her work with the Trevor Project, providing crisis intervention and suicide services to LGBTQ teens.

"If you've spent any time on social media, you've probably seen there's this sexual revolution happening," Kendrick said. "And it's beautiful and it's fun and it's exciting, and it gives me hope that this generation is onto something."

The youngest honoree, Kendrick walked the event's red carpet with the Trevor Project's founder, and raved that she was taken by surprise to be named one of the five Power of Women honorees, noting that she can't believe her face is on Variety's special covers for the event. "Fun fact," she said, sharing a story that raised laughter from the crowd. "The day of my cover shoot, I had jury duty and missed my shoot...I feel like if I had any real power, I could have gotten out of it. I feel like Oprah could have probably gotten out of it."

Before Oprah took the stage, Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon presented the EmPOWerment Award to the only male honoree, 20th Century Fox chairman/CEO Jim Gianopulos, for whom Witherspoon produced "Gone Girl" and "Wild."

"We're not going to talk about you when you leave and tell you that you can't be the love interest opposite George Clooney — but you can be the mother," Witherspoon sassily quipped as she introduced Gianopulos, referring to the topic of ageism and male domination in Hollywood.

Gianopulos, however, took center stage to relay the exact opposite message.

"I hope that someday, the concept of honoring men for empowering women will be obsolete and seem ridiculous. I hope that someday I tell my grandchildren that I received this award and they'll laugh at me," he announced, adding that women "don't need empowerment, they empower me." The movie studio exec thanked the women he works with and spoke on behalf of the biz, saying, "The talent exists... It's our job to hire them." He continued, "Change is happening. It's happening in the hearts and minds of the industry and there's a growing recognition that the status quo is simply unacceptable."

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Moroccanoil ambassador for the beauty company's Inspired By Women campaign, presented the Moroccanoil Inspiration to Action award to Rebecca Welsh of the HALO Foundation, who works with orphans and at-risk children.

Other sponsors for the daytime event included Frederique Constant; Audi; Unite4Good; Saint Vintage, whose founder, two-time cancer survivor, Paige Jansen-Nichols, spoke about finding a cure at the luncheon; plus charity partner Entertainment Industry Foundation, which matches the Variety Foundation's donations to the honorees' charities.

Amid the emotional speeches, Lifetime's head of programming Liz Gateley showed a video of Lifetime's Broad Focus initiative, which champions female content creators in the industry. Eva Longoria and Queen Latifah are among the many women working with the cable network, which Gateley announced has always welcomed women to be in positions of power.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki was honored for her work with the educational charity Room to Read. "My mom was the first one in her family who was able to go to college. It changed her life, it changed her trajectory, it changed my life and it changed my sister's life as well," Wojcicki shared, explaining her commitment to spreading education.

Introduced by YouTube sensation Bethany Mota — who spoke to Variety on the carpet about overcoming cyber-bullying — Wojcicki was proud to be the first female tech exec recognized at the bi-annual ceremony. "As the first woman coming from Silicon Valley for this award, it's a little intimidating, but it's wonderful to be here and I really hope it's an opportunity for these two parts of California to work together more in the future," she said.

Mega-producer Ryan Murphy took the podium to welcome Gwyneth Paltrow, who he revealed is his child's godmother.

"As a younger gay, I was also obsessed with the legend of Gwyneth," he said, referring to her red carpet glamour in the '90s and many Vogue covers. "But having known her now for 10 years, the thing that resonates with me the most is that none of these things are preoccupied with image or success when it comes to this lady."

Paltrow, who spoke of her charitable work with L.A. Kitchen, spoke of the times Murphy mentioned, recalling when she was urged not to use SAT words during interviews because career-driven and intelligent women were seen as "ambitious" — and that was a bad thing. Giving kudos to powerful women who have recently shared their experiences of being women in Hollywood such as Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Patricia Arquette and Ashley Judd, who bravely revealed her own sexual abuse by a studio mogul, Paltrow said, "Today, the power of women rings a bit differently and you can feel the shift."

"I believe that we are on the verge of creating a new archetype," Paltrow said, adding that it is now possible to be a woman who is "ambitious, while being a woman who is nurturing, maternal, sexual and for other women."

The audience applauded as Paltrow spoke of supporting other women. And she made sure to give a nod to the pioneering woman who was the talk of the event: Oprah — or as Paltrow said it best, "The original trailblazer, the mother of us all."


More from Variety:
Ashley Judd Reveals Sexual Harassment by Studio Mogul (EXCLUSIVE)
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki Crusades for Family Benefits
Anna Kendrick Helps Give Hope to LGBT Teens With the Trevor Project
Read Full Story

People are Reading