NEW YORK (AP) — Using her own family and Robin Williams as an example, a tearful Glenn Close urged some of the most powerful women in entertainment to help society shed its fear of those fighting mental illness in an emotional speech Friday at Variety's Power of Women luncheon.
Close was among the honorees, who also included Kim Kardashian and Whoopi Goldberg.
Close's speech was a tear-jerker for many in the crowd. She started off with a joke: "As an actress, I've terrified men, and I've certainly terrified children, but I have yet to terrify women. Contrary to the cliche, there's little that frightens us."
But she went on to talk about how the specter of mental illness scares her most, and the need for greater awareness. Her sister has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, her nephew has schizo-affective disorder, and she recalled that her mother, who died two months ago, struggled with depression.
As she fought through tears, Close said, "Whoopi, I feel Robin here today. He would be whispering in my ear, 'A couple of jokes would help right now.'"
Williams, Close's co-star in "The World According to Garp," committed suicide last year. Referencing Williams and others who have killed themselves, Close said: "We have lost so many." She urged support of the mentally ill through her charity, Bring Change2Mind.
Lena Dunham, who also was honored, talked about her experience as a rape survivor and how it led her to support GEMS, an organization that helps girls caught in the sex trafficking trade.
She praised GEMS for championing those girls, and recalled when she too was in a vulnerable situation.
"When I was raped, I felt powerless. I felt my value had been determined by someone else, someone who sent me the message that body was not my own my choices were meaningless," she said. "It took years to recognize my personal worth was not tied to my assault, that the voices telling me I deserved this were phantoms, they were liars."
Kardashian choked up as she talked about her late father, famed attorney Robert Kardashian, who died of cancer. His death, she said, led her to become a supporter of the Children's Hospital in Los Angeles.
Actress Rachel Weisz shared success stories from the Opportunity Network, which provides support for underprivileged backgrounds so they can get a college degree. Colbie Smulders received a special Samsung Galaxy Edge Award for her work with the Oceana group (Trisha Yearwood, Ava DuVernay and Emmy Rossum got separate Barbie honors).
Goldberg, who was cited for her support of Figure Skating in Harlem, brought laughter to the event, noting it ran a bit long (three hours) and admitting it wasn't exactly her thing.
"We don't need to talk about it — do it," she said. "Women are not good at helping each other, we talk (stuff) about women like that.
"If you are in power, look around and see what's missing . pretty soon, it won't be about empowering women, it will be about empowering men."