It was not your normal Hollywood fluff party on October 29 at the Beverly Hills Hotel, despite the fact that people like Chelsea Handler and Olivia Munn turned out. Those two, who are normally focused on the funny side of life, got serious as they helped honor brave female journalists at the International Women's Media Foundation's annual Courage in Journalism Awards.
The group has been giving these awards since 1990, with the goal of "strengthening the role of women journalists worldwide" and "recognizing the bravery and determination" of the winners. Unfortunately, Glamour magazine editor-in-chief Cindy Leive, one of the key members and the planned event host, didn't make the party, as Hurricane Sandy stopped her from flying in from New York City.
But actress Aisha Tyler took over the duties, reminding the audience filled with both sexes that "tonight is about women who sacrifice their own safety to make the world safer for all of us."
"The Newsroom" star Olivia Munn honored Khadija Ismayilova of Azerbaijan, then Chelsea Handler took to the stage to present Palestinian blogger Asmaa al-Ghoul with her prize.
"This night has absolutely nothing to do with the bullshit I do every day," Handler admitted with a grimace. "Gaza, where Asmaa is from, is a place where speaking your mind as a woman is impossible. Imagine me living there?"
Acclaimed actress Annette Bening added her voice to the evening with an impassioned explanation of why Ethiopian honoree Reeyot Alemu could not be at the event.
"Reeyot is in jail right now. She refused to get out by revealing her colleagues' names."
Alemu sent a letter of thanks from her prison cell, reminding the world that "journalists are the voice of the voiceless."
Then "Friends with Kids" director-writer-star Jennifer Westfeldt gave voice to a much-missed American journalist, reading one of the late Molly Ivins' classic columns (while her longtime main squeeze, "Mad Men" hunk Jon Hamm, looked on from their table).
Finally, Emmy Award winning journalist Maria Shiver took the stage, to give the final Courage in Journalism honor to Pakistani editor and author Zubeida Mustafa. She took home the Lifetime Achievement Award, for being the first woman in that country to work in mainstream media.
"This event humbles me and leaves me in awe," Shriver said, definitely reflecting the opinion of everyone in the ballroom.
Also from this contributor:
- Arts & Entertainment
- Olivia Munn
- the Beverly Hills Hotel