Charlize Theron, John Legend, Mindy Kaling Surprise High School Girls With $1.6M in College Scholarships
Sherry Lansing and Maggie Rogers were also on hand to surprise teens who are currently taking part in the Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program. Meanwhile, Bryan Lourd presented the Carrie Fisher Scholarship in honor of the late actress.
Charlize Theron and John Legend took part in offering full-ride scholarships to select students during The Hollywood Reporter's 2019 Power 100 Women in Entertainment event presented by Lifetime, which was held Wednesday at Milk Studios in Los Angeles.
Theron and Legend were in attendance at the star-studded event to present some surprises to the girls from THR's Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program. The program, now in its 10th year, is in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles and Entertainment Industry Foundation.
"For many years, WIE has been backed by two very special organizations, Lifetime and the Entertainment Industry Foundation. I’d like to thank Lifetime’s Paul Buccieri and Michael Feeney and EIF’s Nicole Sexton and Chris Silbermann for all their support. Thanks to them, every girl in this room — all 40 of them — will receive a $10,000 scholarship," Theron said onstage, as applause erupted from the audience.
The Bombshell actress then announced that "new supporters" Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg created a $10,000 scholarship fund, which would allow every girl from the program access to the Katzenberg Fund to aid in acquiring essentials such as books, tuition and travel. "It's incredible," Theron said.
After the mentorship video presentation was shown, a visibly emotional Theron introduced Kalis, who was the recipient of the The Black Panther Scholarship — a scholarship worth $250,000 to Loyola Marymount University, a longtime partner in the program — from last year's WIE event and 2018 WIE mentee Katherine. The two took the stage to share more surprising news: "And now we have a surprise for you, Charlize. In honor of your support, the Entertainment Industry Foundation would like to dedicate a $25,000 scholarship in your name," Kalis said, as the audience applauded. "My mind is blown. Thank you! I'm really touched by that," Theron said of the announcement.
Welcoming the Women in Entertainment Mentees, Class of 2020, Theron then took a moment to note that the Wasserman Foundation, in honor of Edie Wasserman, would gift every new girl in the program brand-new Apple laptops. "You get a laptop! You get a laptop," Theron yelled, as the girls received a round of applause while accepting their new computers.
Theron also unveiled a surprise for other mentees as she presented more scholarships for a total of $1.6 million awarded Wednesday. The scholarships were awarded to L.A. teens from underserved communities who are currently taking part in the Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program.
After thanking Loyola Marymount University's Tim Snyder, Stacy Barnes and Peggy Rajski for helping to fund three full-ride LMU scholarships, Theron explained that for the first time, four additional scholarships — each worth $100,000 — would be presented to girls to attend the university of their choice. "This is so fun," Theron said as she shared the happy news.
The first recipient of the Chuck Lorre Family Foundation Scholarship — which would grant them admissions to LMU— was Katherine, who was joined onstage with her mentor Dee Dee Myers. "It feels like I'm in a dream and I don't want to wake up," Katherine said. "My heart is about to burst out of my chest right now," Myers added.
Two scholarships would also be awarded from Netflix — one scholarship for LMU and the other for $100,000. To introduce the recipients of the scholarships from Netflix, Never Have I Ever star Mindy Kaling joined Theron onstage. Kaling announced the recipients as Lianne (LMU scholarship) and Priscilla ($100,000 scholarship).
Industry icon Bryan Lourd then took the stage and mentioned that after attending last year's WIE event he "cried for two hours." He also explained that after speaking with his daughter, actress Billie Lourd, he decided to create a scholarship in Carrie Fisher's name. "Carrie's biggest regret was not being able to be educated. She used to joke she went to USW, which was the University of Star Wars," Lourd quipped of the late actress. He also explained that Fisher would always say, "I want to hire a professor to follow me around and teach me stuff." "She meant it. She tried to do it. It didn't work out so well. So today all of you are making someone's dream to get a professor and an education," he said, before announcing Natalie as the first recipient of the Carrie Fisher Scholarship winner.
Sherry Lansing followed and expressed her delight in joining the ceremony. "I think they had me go last because they knew I'd be crying the most," she joked.
Prior to announcing the next scholarship winner, Lansing took a moment to honor the recipient of the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award: Reese Witherspoon. "I am so honored that you are accepting this award. You are my icon. I admire you so much. I thank you for the all the work you do everyday... You really are a role model for me," she told the actress, seated in the audience.
"As a proud 75-year-old woman, I have watched all of you and I have to say what Olivia [Wilde] and Stacey [Abrams] said has never been truer. This is our time and you made it happen. All of the girls who are the mentees, they are the future," Lansing said.
"We literally spent hours going over each girl's application to determine who the winners would be. But then we spent even more hours worrying about the other girls who hadn't been chosen," Lansing explained, reiterating that "every one of these girls deserves one."
Lansing recalled reading the story about a young woman who "grew up in poverty surrounded by violence and drugs," ultimately making her homeless. Despite her hardships, the woman maintained straight A's in her academics and was selected as the class valedictorian. Breanna was selected as the winner of the Sherry Lansing scholarship, who, Lansing mentioned, was the first person she met when attending the reunion and between mentors and mentees.
"I never really thought I would have the opportunity to go to brother because my older brother wasn't able to go so thank you," Breanna said as she fought back tears. "I don't know how I got talked into this," an emotional Theron joked after Breanna left the stage.
Legend and Maggie Rogers then took the stage to announce two final scholarships.
"As people who believe that every child deserves access to a quality education, Maggie and I would like to thank the entire team at Spotify for funding a $100,000 scholarship for one truly unique young woman to go to the university of her dreams," the singer said.
Trinity was named the winner of the Spotify Scholarship — Legend also mentioned that he went to school with her mentor Chika. After that, the performers unveiled one more $100,000 scholarship from Shark Tank star Lori Greiner, writer Melissa Blake and attorney Nina Shaw: The Angels Scholarship, given to Samantha.
"You are the change that we so desperately need. So go out there, kick ass, take names and do whatever you need to do," Theron said the the mentees before leaving the stage.
Since the program's inception, more than $9.4 million in scholarship money has been raised.
The event's honorees included Reese Witherspoon and Ronan Farrow. In addition to Legend, Kaling, Theron and Rogers, Stacey Abrams, Kerry Washington and Gretchen Carlson served as speakers and presenters. President of MRC Media, which includes THR and Billboard, Deanna Brown, and publisher Lynne Segall also made remarks, as did editorial director Matt Belloni and guest editor Olivia Wilde.
Also in attendance were notable names such as Niecy Nash, Sophia Bush, Janet Mock, Bonnie Arnold, Gigi Gorgeous, Ginnifer Goodwin, Connie Britton, Jennifer Salke, Bob Gersh, Anna Paquin, Channing Dungey, Chuck Lorre, Lori Greiner, Meg Whitman, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Nina Shaw, Donna Langley, Dawn Hudson and Kaitlyn Dever, among others.
The Power 100 Women in Entertainment Event Presented by Lifetime was sponsored by Cadillac, Fiji Water, Moroccan Oil, eOne, Gersh, SAG-AFTRA, Loyola Marymount University, in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles and Entertainment Industry Foundation.