Honoring Our Muses, Celebrating Women, Accepting Our Challenges To Achieve Success – In a New York Minute
“The word Muse has a different meaning for a man then for a woman,” something along those lines were said by Emmy-award winning actress, Patricia Clarkson, during her speech at New York Women in Film & Televisions‘ 2015 Muse Awards in NYC last week. On Thursday, December 12, the grand ballroom at the NYC Hilton-midtown was packed with approximately 1200 anticipated guests at the annual luncheon honoring the year’s muses.
While the gender gap has always been a challenge for women in the industry, this past year has been a year of disappointments with a few uplifting breakthroughs. We started this year with record lows of women on both big and small screens with reports after reports showing even lower numbers of women behind the cameras including script writers, directors, editors and producers. There were shocking revelations of women continuing to be paid less then men in hollywood and even more astounding allegations, which led to the currently on-going case of the EEOC investigation into the gender discrimination.
However, Meryl Streep stepped in to show them women over 40 have a voice to be heard and fully funded The Writers Lab to back that notion. Rose McGowan stood up for women in a very bad-ass McGown way urging everyone to, “Put female writers and directors on the TOP of your lists.” Lena Dunham continues to push forward for younger generation women with the launch of Lenny, a newsletter on feminism, style, politics and more. Jennifer Lawrence addressed the pay gap in hollywood and New York Women in Film & Television continues to champion the voice of women with numerous grants, scholarships, programs and events honoring women such as their signature Muse Awards.
This year’s honorees included Gabourey Sidibe (Precious, Fox’s “Empire”), Blythe Danner (The Miser, Husbands and Wives, Meet The Parents, I’ll See You In My Dreams), Patricia Clarkson (HBO’s “Six Feet Under”; Pieces of April; Good Night, and Good Luck; Shutter Island; The Green Mile), Sarah Barnett (president and general manager of BBC America), Victoria Alonso (executive vice president of production, Marvel Studios) and Liz Winstead (co-creator of “The Daily Show” and Air America Radio and recent founder of Lady Parts Justice).
The grand ballroom was lit with inspiration and excitement. With all of the ups, downs, hurdles and in betweens, we needed a day like this to put everything into perspective. Patricia Clarkson thanked fellow honoree Blythe Danner; Liz Winstead gave a shout out to Lady Parts Justice who filled a table (and the room) with cheers; Gabourey Sidibe showcased her young triumphant career amongst challenges; Sarah Barnett shined after a package reel filled with praise from the likes of Robert Redford; and Victoria Alonso serenaded all of us with a beautiful song to motivate onward and upward.
Just being in the presence of this incredible league of extraordinary women made all the hurdles and challenges seem dismal for one afternoon. Attendees at the Muse Awards are there for one thing, to celebrate and recognize fellow women who continue to strive among sexism, ageism and devastating statistics. Amongst all the noise, for just one afternoon, we were filled with hope, inspiration, gratitude and celebration.
As for me, it was an even greater honor to meet my muse, Victoria Alonso who was recently appointed executive vice president of physical production at Marvel Studios. As one of very few women to ever hold this position, Alonso immigrated from Argentina at the age of 19 and worked her way up through the film industry. Today she holds producing credits for: Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers, Captain America and Guardians of the Galaxy, just to name a few.
Upon receiving her Muse award, Alonso thanked the muse in her life: her mom. Having a similar upbringing within a hard working latin family who sacrificed many things to reside in the U.S., her phenomenal achievements, her desire to succeed and to aspire without limitations, provides me with the spirit to proudly enter any room. As she said in her speech, “every work environment is better when we are in it” just before she sang the chorus to “I’m So Excited,” followed by a sweet serenade of a song from 1982’s Fame.
When I started working in the entertainment industry as a 20-something Latina, I felt the challenges in many meetings filled with 50-something white men who made sure my voice was never heard. In retrospect, I should actually thank those men who ignored my hard work, dismissed my intelligence, stifled my opinion and closed those few opportune doors in my face. Without those challenges, I might have never gained success.
I’m sure many can relate to similar challenges in any environment. It is both general and personal moments like these that make the Muse Awards so special. It is a glorious event to be felt, for and by every woman.
As the new year approaches, with more tackles and hurdles to be had, we can look back to our muses and remember that without challenges, we can not achieve success.