NEW YORK – Powerful is an understatement.
Stars gathered Friday to honor some of the entertainment industry’s powerhouse women at Variety’s Power of Women event, including model Gigi Hadid, actresses Taraji P. Henson and Bette Midler, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves and journalist Christiane Amanpour.
Host Michelle Wolf, whose 2018 White House Correspondents’ Association speech made her a household name, brought the jokes during her opening monologue.
The accomplished women were honored for their careers and philanthropic work during the luncheon at Cirpriani Midtown, with speeches ranging from tear-jerking to laugh-inducing that produced standing ovations from the packed audience.
We rounded up the biggest moments from the event that showcased the “Power of Women.”
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Comedian Michelle Wolf attends Variety's Power of Women: New York presented by Lifetime at Cipriani 42nd Street on Friday, April 5, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) ORG XMIT: NYEA133 (Photo: Evan Agostini, Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Michelle Wolf skewers, well, everyone
Wolf didn’t hold back, roasting everyone and everything from President Donald Trump and CNN tostars-turned-defendants Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman (as with the Correspondents’ dinner, not all of her jokes landed with the crowd).
Wolf joked that maybe next year the event could level up to a dinner instead of a lunch: “Nothing says women aren’t still there yet by assuming we have nothing to do in the middle of a workday. ‘Oh Friday at noon? Yeah sure, free as a bird!’ Assuming we’re not doing anything in the middle of a workday? Who do they think we are – the president?”
#PowerOfWomen NY host Michelle Wolf starts the show with a quick roast pic.twitter.com/F92DbXN4s0
Throughout her opening monologue, she poked fun at actresses Loughlin and Huffman, who have been charged in the college admissions cheating and bribery scam.
“The reason I’m hosting this event is because I earned it – through a $100,000 bribe that allowed me to get an athletic scholarship on the Variety crew team,” Wolf said.
When she heard about their arrests, “I was a little proud. It’s nice to have women running schemes where enough money is involved that it flags the FBI. That’s power.”
Wolf thanked CNN chief Jeff Zucker for attending, saying, “Nothing says Power of Women like a man.”
Gigi Hadid and Taraji P. Henson were two of the honorees at Variety's Power of Women event in New York City on April 5, 2019. (Photo: AP)
Taraji P. Henson, Gigi Hadid tear up during emotional speeches
There was not a dry eye in the audience when Hadid and Henson delivered powerful speeches.
Hadid, honored for her work with UNICEF, choked up recounting her first trip to a refugee camp housing the Rohingya people, the majority-Muslim ethnic group fleeing persecution in Myanmar, with the relief organization.
Hadid explained what the some of the women and girls she met in the Rohingya camp wanted to fulfill in life: “Even with their lives in limbo, these women and girls had such desire to do more, to be more, and to get educated to better their lives.”
“At the end of the trip I went home, and they were still there,” Hadid said.
Gigi Hadid chokes up while talking about her @UNICEF experience: "At the end of the trip, I went home. And they were still there" | #PowerOfWomen NY presented by @lifetimetvpic.twitter.com/YQ0Q5ohXjP
Henson told stories of powerful real-life women she played in movies and reminded the audience that despite unimaginable adversity and hardships, these women kept going.
She was honored for her work with the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, which she named after her father, and she spoke about the foundation’s mission: “Our vision is to eradicate the stigma around mental health in the black community by breaking the silence and breaking a cycle of shame. We were taught to hold our problems close to the vest out of fear of being labeled and further demonized as weak, or inadequate.”
She cried recounting the suicide rates for black children, calling the state of mental health in black communities “a national crisis.”
“My dad is one of the reasons I started this foundation, and my son, and my neighbor, and my friends, my community, our children is why I keep going,” she said.
Bette Midler sings about showbiz, loves the environment
Leave it to Midler to show up singing and dancing.
The veteran actress was introduced by Julianne Moore to receive her honor for environmental workwith her New York Restoration Project.
Midler began by singing a snippet of “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” then revealing what she loves about the business.
“Nowadays everybody calls our work ‘the industry.’ I call it ‘the biz,’ or ‘the business,’ because I’m old school,” Midler said. “I’ve always, always been riveted by the feuds, the fights, the hits, the misses, the disses, the slights. Despite what the song says, as we all have come to realize, everything about it is not appealing.”
Honoree Bette Midler attends Variety's Power of Women: New York presented by Lifetime at Cipriani 42nd Street on Friday, April 5, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) ORG XMIT: NYEA134 (Photo: Evan Agostini, Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Henson and Hadid weren’t the only ones getting emotional. Midler also got teary-eyed when talking about the environment.
“I refused to accept the status quo and refused to ignore what was so clearly unfair,” Midler said. “And that, to me, is empowerment.
“I have always picked up trash. I was born in Hawaii, when it was a pristine territory, and it was considered a sin to defile the land with so much as a gum wrapper,” Midler said, joking that when she moved to New York City she became “the Marie Kondo of the outdoors! Because make no mistake, I love nature despite what it did to me.”
Gayle King talks R. Kelly interview, can’t get enough of Kacey Musgraves
King opened up more about her bombshell interview with R. Kelly.
“I think part of the reason why R. Kelly got so irritated and angry with me and the circumstances that day [is because] I think he feels the walls are closing in, we’ll see,” King said, following a speech from three of R. Kelly’s accusers, Lisa Van Allen, Kitty Jones and Asante McGee.
Television journalist Gayle King attends Variety's Power of Women: New York presented by Lifetime at Cipriani 42nd Street on Friday, April 5, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) ORG XMIT: NYEA104 (Photo: Evan Agostini, Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
But the real reason King took to the stage to introduce Musgraves, who was honored for her work with the Grammy Museum to promote music education.
The CBS This Morning” co-anchor raved about the Grammy-winning country singer, even saying that “girl’s girl” Musgraves flagged King about lipstick on her teeth before King made her way onto the stage.
“I fell in love with Kacey’s music back in 2013,” King said. “I’m not late to the Kacey Musgraves party!”
And King proved that she’s a Musgraves super fan by belting out lyrics from each of Musgraves’ studio albums.
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