As posted about previously, Reese is one of Glamour magazine’s Women Of The Year for 2015, and last night she attended the awards ceremony in New York to receive her honour. Reese was presented with her statue by Goldie Hawn – one of her acting heroes – and Reese gave an impassioned speech about female empowerment in Hollywood. She wore a pretty blue floral embroidered dress by Erdem for the event; I really love this look on her, and it’s great to see her wearing something new! Reese’s husband accompanied her to the event and they posed together backstage.
Check out our first HQ photos from the night in the Gallery, and scroll on down this post to read Reese’s full speech, articles from the event, and some video footage from the red carpet.
Reese Witherspoon’s Moving Speech at Glamour’s Women of the Year Awards: “Like Elle Woods, I Do Not Like to be Underestimated.”
At tonight’s Glamour Women of the Year Awards, Goldie Hawn presented Reese Witherspoon with an award for her work creating stronger roles for women in film. Witherspoon’s speech was so inspiring and powerful, you’ll want to read every bit of it in its entirety. Here it is, below.
Reese Witherspoon: “I can’t thank Glamour magazine enough and Conde Nast and Cindi for asking me to be here. You just made this night so amazing. These incredible, inspiring women are doing so many things to change how we perceive women, and I hope Amy Schumer and all the other nominees that when you consider making your biopic, you’ll give me the rights first, which would be great. Although Amy, I’ll have to play your grandmother in the movie (by Hollywood standards), and you’ll probably have to play your own mother.
I’m so excited that so many young women are here tonight.This all started for me when I was a little girl. I was 14 years old when I learned that I love acting, and I still do. Acting allows me to slip into the skin of all kinds of different women, and not in a creepy Silence of the Lambs way…but in a way that lets me explore the full spectrum of humanity. Every woman I’ve ever played is passionate and strong and flawed, except for Tracy Flick. She’s 100% perfect, but she made me say that. But I also learned at 14 years old that I was ambitious. Really ambitious. Did I say that out loud? Let’s talk about ambition.
I want everybody to close their eyes and think of a dirty word, like a really dirty word. Now open your eyes. Was any of your words ambition? I didn’t think so. See, I just kind of started wondering lately why female ambition is a trait that people are so afraid of. Why do people have prejudiced opinions about women who accomplish things? Why is that perceived as a negative? In a study by Georgetown University in 2005, a group of professors asked candidates to evaluate male efficient versus female efficient in politicians. Respondents were less likely to vote for power-seeking women than power-seeking men. They also perceived ambitious women as looking out for themselves. They even reported ambitious women as provoking feelings of disgust.
Now, in my life I have always found more comfort in being the underdog. Whether people thought I couldn’t do something or they said it was impossible, I always rose to the challenge. I enjoyed reaching for the impossible. I remember when I was 18 years old and applying to colleges, I had this male college counselor, and he said, “Don’t even bother applying to Stanford, sweetie. Your SAT scores aren’t good enough.” But I did it anyway, and I got in. (But it wasn’t because of my SAT scores!)
When I got into the film business, I was doing dramas, and casting directors didn’t know if I could be funny. So I did a comedy, Legally Blonde, and then my entire career I was pigeonholed. I did comedies, they didn’t think I was serious. I did dramas, they didn’t think I was funny. And I got older and they didn’t think I could still be viable. So about three years ago, I found myself very curious about the state of the movie business. I really wondered how the digital evolution was affecting the landscape of filmmaking and specifically why studios were making fewer and fewer movies. So I started asking questions, and I decided to meet with the heads of each of the different movie studios that I had been friends with for years and I had made many movies with them. Each of the meetings started with something very casual like, “How are your kids?” and “Wow, has it really been that long since Walk the Line?” At the end of the meeting, I sort of casually brought up, “So, how many movies are in development with a female lead?” And by lead, I don’t mean wife of the lead or the girlfriend of the lead. The lead, the hero of the story. I was met with nothing, blank stares, excessive blinking, uncomfortable shifting. No one wanted to answer the question because the fact was the studios weren’t developing anything starring a woman. The only studio that was was turning a man’s role into a woman’s role. And the studio heads didn’t apologize. They don’t have to apologize. They are interested in profits—and after all, they run subsidiary companies of giant corporations.
But I was flabbergasted. This was 2012, and it made no sense to me. Where was our Sally Field in Norma Rae or Sigourney Weaver in Alien or Goldie Hawn in, you name it, any Goldie Hawn movie: Overboard, Wildcats, Private Benjamin? These women shaped my idea of what it meant to be a woman of strength and character and humor in this world. And my beautiful, intelligent daughter, who is 16 years old now, would not grow up idolizing that same group of women. Instead, she’d be forced to watch a chorus of talented, accomplished women Saran wrapped into tight leather pants, tottering along on very cute, but completely impractical, shoes turn to a male lead and ask breathlessly, “What do we do now?!” Seriously, I’m not kidding. Go back and watch any movie, and you’ll see this line over and over. I love to ask questions, but it’s my most hated question.
I dread reading scripts that have no women involved in their creation because inevitably I get to that part where the girl turns to the guy, and she says, “What do we do now?!” Do you know any woman in any crisis situation who has absolutely no idea what to do? I mean, don’t they tell people in crisis, even children, “If you’re in trouble, talk to a woman.” It’s ridiculous that a woman wouldn’t know what to do.
So, anyway, after going to these studios and telling people about how there’s barely any female leads in films and the industry’s in crisis, people were aghast. “That’s horrible,” they said. And then they changed the subject and moved on with their dinner and moved on with their lives. But I could not change the subject. I couldn’t turn to some man and say, “What do we do now?” This is my life.
I’ve made movies all my life, for 25 years, since I was 14 years old. It was time to turn to myself and say, “OK, Reese, what are we going to do now?” The answer was very clear. My mother, who is here tonight, a very strong, smart Southern woman, said to me, “If you want something done, honey, do it yourself.”
So, I started my own production company, Pacific Standard Films, with the mission to tell stories about women. And I was nervous, y’all. I was spending my own money, which everyone in the movie business always tells you, “Don’t spend your own money on anything.” I was warned that on the crazy chance Pacific Standard would acquire any good scripts we would never make it past our first few years in business because there just wasn’t a market for buying female-driven material. But like Elle Woods, I do not like to be underestimated.
I’m a very avid reader. In fact, I’m a complete book nerd. So is my producing partner, so we tore through tons of manuscripts and read so many things before they were published, but we could only find two pieces of material that we thought were right. We optioned them with our own money, and we prayed that they would work. Both had strong, complicated, fascinating women at the center and both were written by women. And lo and behold, both books hit number one on the New York Times bestsellers list. One is called Gone Girl, and the second is called Wild. So we made those two films last year, and those two films rose to over half a billion dollars world wide and we got three Academy Award nominations for women in acting performances. So that is year one. Against the odds, Pacific Standard has had a year two and year three. We bought five more bestselling books. Next year, we’re going to make two of those, Big Little Lies and Luckiest Girl Alive, into films. We have over 25 films in development and three television shows, and they all have female leads of different ages and different races and different jobs. Some are astronauts, some are soldiers, some are scientists, one is even a Supreme Court justice. They’re not just good or bad; they’re bold and hunted and dangerous and triumphant like the real women we meet every single day of our lives. But our company isn’t just thriving because it feels like a good thing to do. It’s thriving because female-driven films work. This year alone, Trainwreck with Amy Schumer, Melissa McCarthy’s Spy, Pitch Perfect 2, Cinderella, the Hunger Games franchise, those made over $2.2 billion worldwide. Films with women at the center are not a public service project, they are a big-time, bottom-line-enhancing, money-making commodity.
I think we are in a culture crisis in every field. In every industry, women are underrepresented and underpaid in leadership positions. Under 5 percent of CEOs of fortune 500 companies are women. Only 19 percent of Congress is women. No wonder we don’t have the health care we deserve or paid family leave or public access to early childhood education. That really worries me. How can we expect legislation or our needs to be served if we don’t have equal representation? So here’s my hope: If you’re in politics, media, the tech industry, or working as an entrepreneur or a teacher or a construction worker or a caregiver, you know the problems we are all facing. I urge each one of you to ask yourselves: What do we do now? That’s a big question. What is it in life that you think you can’t accomplish? Or what is it that people have said that you cannot do? Wouldn’t it feel really good to prove them all wrong? Because I believe ambition is not a dirty word. It’s just believing in yourself and your abilities. Imagine this: What would happen if we were all brave enough to be a little bit more ambitious? I think the world would change.”
Guess Who Helped Reese Witherspoon Write Her Speech for Glamour’s Women of the Year Awards
While Reese Witherspoon has accepted her fair share of honors—including an Oscar and a Golden Globe—she asked for a little help when it came time to prepare for Glamour’s 25th annual Women of the Year Awards.
On the red carpet at the black-tie event yesterday, the 39-year-old mom of three told E! News that 16-year-old daughter Ava Phillippe provided some feedback while Witherspoon was repeatedly reviewing her remarks for the evening.
“They’ve had to listen to my speech over and over and over again because I practice through my audience and my daughter helped me tweak my speech,” the actress divulged. “She’s a very beautiful writer, so she was like ‘Mom, I don’t like how it ends.’ She was very helpful.”
While the mother and daughter are so much alike in the looks department, there are certain things they still can’t agree on. Ava may have offered constructive criticism on Witherspoon’s speech, but there’s one activity of mom’s she simply can’t get behind.
“She doesn’t like my hash-tagging,” Witherspoon revealed. (So it turns out celebs can embarrass their kids as much as any parent can.)
And when the spotlight beckoned, Witherspoon confidently took the podium Monday night to discuss the evolution of her new production company, Pacific Standard, and what inspired her to develop it after decades in front of the camera. Hint: her focus involved empowering women.
“I dread reading scripts that have no women involved in their creation because inevitably I get to that part where the girl turns to the guy, and she says, ‘What do we do now?!’ Do you know any woman in any crisis situation who has absolutely no idea what to do? I mean, don’t they tell people in crisis, even children, ‘If you’re in trouble, talk to a woman,'” she said during her speech. “It’s ridiculous that a woman wouldn’t know what to do.”
So, she sought out to transform the industry, knowing full well that female-driven films were an untapped value in more ways than one.
“Films with women at the center are not a public service project,” she declared.”They are a big-time, bottom-line-enhancing, money-making commodity.”
Witherspoon proved herself right. For its first two projects alone, Gone Girl and Wild, the new company garnered three Oscar nominations and a half-a-billion dollar profit. The Oscar winner and her business partner are now in the process of developing more films and television shows featuring women from virtually every walk of life.
“Like Elle Woods, I do not like to be underestimated,” she invoked the Legally Blonde heroine that turned her into a household name.
Thanks to Witherspoon’s ambitious spirit, she followed through with a business venture some wouldn’t even consider.
“I believe ambition is not a dirty word. It’s just believing in yourself and your abilities,” she continued. “Imagine this: What would happen if we were all brave enough to be a little bit more ambitious? I think the world would change.”
We don’t know what Ava changed about her mom’s speech ending, but it came to a perfect conclusion. Now, we just have to sit and patiently wait for her to produce Amy Schumer’s biopic.
“Amy, I’ll have to play your grandmother in the movie (by Hollywood standards), and you’ll probably have to play your own mother,” Witherspoon joked.
With the producer-actress-businesswoman at the helm of Hollywood’s female-driven film world, we doubt those ancient standards will be around for much longer.
Reese Witherspoon Reveals Why Her Daughter Should Feel ‘Lucky’ to Be a Woman
When it comes to telling her teen daughter the best part about being a woman, Reese Witherspoon simply explains “there’s no bad stuff.”
ET caught up with the Wild actress at the Glamour Women of the Year Awards Monday night, where she shared why she feels so lucky to be a woman and how she tries to make sure her daughter Ava Phillippe, 16, knows how lucky she is too.
“I mean really we are so lucky to be women in this country, that we have freedoms that other women in other countries do not have,” Witherspoon, 39, told ET. “We have a right to education. We have a lot of rights about our healthcare. It’s really important that my daughter understands and other people’s daughters understand that it’s important how we pick our political candidates to preserve those rights and push ourselves further in the world by making sure we have representation.”
The star took home an award during the show for her work in creating stronger roles for women in film, which she has been able to do since spearheading her own production company, Pacific Standards, despite being told she shouldn’t.
“I was nervous, y’all,” Witherspoon admitted during her acceptance speech. “I was spending my own money, which everyone in the movie business always tells you, ‘Don’t spend your own money on anything.’ I was warned that on the crazy chance Pacific Standard would acquire any good scripts we would never make it past our first few years in business because there just wasn’t a market for buying female-driven material.”
“But like Elle Woods, I do not like to be underestimated,” she continued.
Witherspoon’s company went on to produce the massively successful films, Gone Girl and Wild, which the star says wouldn’t have been possible without the support from her husband.
“I could never start a company, I couldn’t climb a mountain, I couldn’t have three kids if I didn’t have a supportive husband,” she told ET. “He’s my biggest champion and my biggest fan.”
Witherspoon admits that her life isn’t as glamorous as it might appear on screen, but that’s okay.
“I mean I have a kid in diapers so there’s definitely some early mornings like I gotta go to the bathroom,” she joked. “There’s definitely parts of it where your like there’s nothing glamorous about any of this but that’s the wonderful part about life. You have all these wonderful experiences and I get to channel that through my art which is cool.”
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