Celebrities honored for philanthropy at Power of Women event

AP News
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Posted: Apr 08, 2016 5:42 PM
Celebrities honored for philanthropy at Power of Women event

NEW YORK (AP) — Host Billy Eichner quipped at Variety's Power of Women luncheon Friday that he wasn't being paid nearly enough for the emcee job he was doing — and that's why he knows what it's like to be a woman in Hollywood.

But otherwise, the event focused squarely on the serious philanthropic efforts of the celebrity honorees, who included two Oscar-winning actresses (Lupita Nyong'o and Julianne Moore), a Fox anchor much in the news this election season (Megyn Kelly), a trailblazing ballerina (Misty Copeland), a top fashion designer (Vera Wang), and a TV star (Mariska Hargitay).

Copeland, who is the first black female principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre and has become a star far beyond the confines of the dance world, was the first to accept an award, honored for her efforts to diversify her art form.

She spoke of overcoming hardship in her youth to arrive at the pinnacle of the heavily white ballet world. "I was discovered at a local Boys & Girls Club, on a basketball court," she said. "I went from living in a motel to dancing at the Metropolitan Opera House." Her charity, Project Plie, launched with ABT in 2013, uses a similar model, she said, working with Boys & Girls clubs across the country to help increase diversity in dance. The lesson: "Representation matters," Copeland said.

Nyong'o, a 2014 Oscar winner currently appearing on Broadway in "Eclipsed," spoke of her work with Mother Health International, an organization providing relief to pregnant women and to children in areas of disaster, war and extreme poverty, working with midwives, for example, in rural areas. "We live in a world where the war on women can be felt around the globe," she said. "But we are fighting back, refusing to be silenced, refusing to be shut down."

A tearful Hargitay was honored for her work with the Joyful Heart Foundation, which seeks to combat sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. She said her aim was "to bring about an end — yes, I said an end, not a reduction — to this violence. It may not come in my lifetime ... but things are changing."

Kelly, the Fox News Channel anchor who's been the subject of countless headlines about the badmouthing she's received this election season from Donald Trump, was honored for her involvement with Childhelp, a group that works to prevent child abuse.

She spent much of her speech explaining how she learned in her career to channel fear into opportunity. "I am not fearless," she said, "nor do I know any fearless people. The goal is not to get rid of it, but to walk through it."

Designer Wang gave one of the most personal speeches of the event, speaking of her work helping young people who suffer from anxiety — something, she explained, that she has experienced herself for many years. "Anxiety is my constant companion," she said.

Wang spoke of how difficult it is for parents to understand and deal with anxiety and depression in their children, and to know where to turn. Wang works with the New York-Presbyterian Youth Anxiety Center, which focuses on anxiety disorders in people aged 16 to 28.

Oscar winner Moore was honored for her work in preventing gun violence with the group Everytown for Gun Safety, formed in 2014. She spoke of her efforts to keep the news of the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut school shootings away from her then-10-year old daughter, and finally realizing that was impossible, and that it was more important to take action against gun violence. "I firmly believe that this is not a partisan issue," Moore said. "It is a safety issue."