Jennifer Dec 01, 2023 Interviews

America Ferrera hasn’t yet come face-to-face with any of the women who have memorized her stirring Barbie speech about the complexity of modern femininity—but she expects that such encounters are coming.

“I’ve seen lots of videos online of people learning the monologue and doing the monologue,” Ferrera told Vanity Fair at the Women in Film Honors gala on Thursday, where she received the Jane Fonda Humanitarian Award. “The only person I’ve heard do it verbatim was Ariana Greenblatt, the actress who played my daughter. She had heard it so many times by the end of filming it that she repeated it back to me—and it actually made me cry!”

Ferrera may not have expected that before the night was over she’d witness Fonda herself recite a few choice snippets from that zeitgeist-tapping monologue written by Greta Gerwig, as the icon presented Ferrera with her namesake award.

Alluding to Ferrera’s breakout role in Real Women Have Curves, Fonda also proclaimed that “real women stand up and speak for what’s right, even when it makes the powers that be—usually men—uncomfortable, maybe especially when it makes the powers that be uncomfortable. She’s there for climate change, for women’s rights, reproductive rights, democracy, voting rights, immigrant rights, and always human rights. I’ve never been happier to say the words on a stage: I love America!”

Female empowerment was downright palpable in Hollywood’s Ray Dolby Ballroom during WIF’s 50th annual celebration, a sensation Ferrera’s gotten increasingly used to.

“It has been amazing to sit back and watch Barbie land in the culture, not just here but globally. And to see what it means to women to be celebrated, and to talk about some hard realities but through joy and through the color pink, and intelligent storytelling that is about women and by women. But it’s for everybody,” she said. “The incredible success of Barbie and the genius of Greta and Margot [Robbie] is a win for all of us. It’s a win for the argument that we have to make all the time: that women storytellers should be empowered and given creative power to tell stories the way that they want to tell stories, and that it’s enough for women to tell stories about women for women the way that men have told stories about men for men.”

Flamin’ Hot director Eva Longoria, who shared the Crystal Award for Advocacy with screenwriter Linda Yvette Chávez, told Vanity Fair that she views her behind-the-camera success less as a victory lap and more as a way to tell more stories about the underrepresented Latino community.

“I think I’ve always had confidence and I’ve always believed in my talent. But to have the opportunity to aggregate the team that I did and the actors that I did for this story, that was the magic,” said Longoria. “We have a very important job in Hollywood: Hollywood defines what heroes look like. And they never look like us in the Latino community. So to be able to put a hero up on screen that looked like my dad and sounded like my uncle, that’s important for our culture.”

Throughout her directing career, Longoria has championed broader representation behind the camera. “America Ferrera started directing because I made her. Gina Rodriguez started directing because I made her. Kerry Washington started directing because I told her,” she said. “People who shadowed me while I was on set and going, ‘What is it about? Can I come learn?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ There’s so many women I mentor and I try to really uplift, and it’s so great to see them shine and to see them doing their work.”

Past Lives star Greta Lee—who received the Crystal Award for Advocacy alongside the film’s writer-director Celine Song—while dressed immaculately in a billowy black Max Mara gown, told Vanity Fair that despite her success in Russian Doll and this film, she’s still wrapping her head around the uber-glam awards circuit.

“It’s totally, totally weird!” she said. “I live on a farm, essentially. I have chickens. We have a feral pig problem. There are many hard pivots into different universes.” She added that she’s relieved this sort of attention has come to her “at this point in my life, at this point in my career, and [as] the woman that I am now. I am so firmly myself, for better or for worse, and I just trying to honor the same person that I am in all of these different arenas that I’m thrown in. And that helps.”

Conversely, despite having worked in Hollywood since the age of three, Yara Shahidi—honored at the event as Max Mara’s Face of the Future—told Vanity Fair that as her series Grown-ish approaches its conclusion, she feels on the threshold of a new era of self-discovery.

“Logistically, this is the first time in my career that I haven’t had school and/or a television show obligation,” she said. “This has been the first time where I’ve been able to entertain a lot of things in terms of figuring out what excites me, what are my sensibilities in film. I’ve played the same character for 10 years and she’s taught me so much. But I think what makes the road ahead exciting is that it’s totally unpaved, and I could really go in any direction. I’m personally unsure of what direction I will be going in. So I’ll report back. Next time I see you, I’ll see how I’m doing, see what I’ve chosen.”

In a room filled with female power players, few entered the room with more hard-earned reverence—and low-key regal swagger—than SAG-AFTA president Fran Drescher. The former star of The Nanny is hot off a fiery, savvy, and ultimately victorious performance in her off-screen role of successfully leading negotiations in the guild’s months-long contract battle with Hollywood studios and streamers. Her leadership was so impressive that The Hollywood Reporter recently tapped a pair of anonymous political consultants to evaluate Drescher’s viability as a presidential candidate, perhaps following in the footsteps of another SAG leader-turned-chief executive: Ronald Reagan.

But don’t start printing “Drescher ’28” lawn signs just yet. Though the flashy girl from Queens has style and flair, when it comes to a presidential campaign, she’s not there. Yet.

“Oh, boy, oh, boy,” Drescher said with a burst of her trademark staccato laugh when asked about the THR piece. “It’s very flattering, but I feel like…I can coexist with people that don’t agree with me, but it’s very hard for me to be around a lot of aggressive energy and haters. I think that that job is not really suited for me for that reason.”

But don’t let her completely dash any dreams of an actual Nanny State. She says she plans to flex her newfound clout on various big-picture issues, political and otherwise. “I think that I could influence people to think about things in a different way, without having to go down Jacob’s Ladder.”

Drescher said she’s taking a beat to absorb the aftereffects of her highly visible union leadership after protracted and contentious negotiations, and is gratified that people—especially those across the table from her—learned to recognize her formidable mettle after initially underestimating her.

“All the people that know me very well are not surprised at all, and the people that didn’t know me are blown away. I think that the people in the negotiating room were in for a rude awakening—but awake they became,” she said. “They had to realize that there was no way out of this situation unless they leaned into me. And until that happened, nothing was going to change. We were not going to be intimidated. We were at an inflection point. It was historic. It was our moment, and fortunately for them, they woke up and met the moment.”

Much of Drescher’s post-strike moment has been dominated by an outpouring of admiration from her acting brethren, for so fiercely and vociferously championing their cause.

“I think that they felt like in their experience, they’ve never had anyone that spoke on their behalf with the zeal and passion that they have been wanting,” she said. “To define them as foundational contributors in this industry, and that we’re not peons but partners, and that you share the wealth, because you can’t do it without us—[that] gave them a sense of pride, a sense of empowerment, that was long overdue.”

Fittingly, it was Fonda who succinctly summed up the “we can do it” brio of the evening as she left the stage: “If we stick together, we win.”

So while she’s not specifically fantasizing about a future behind the Oval Office’s Resolute Desk, neither does Drescher think she can resume playing the kinds of frothy roles that have been her forte for most of her career.

“I don’t really know if I can go back to that at this point,” she said. “I do feel like something big is going to come from this, something that is going to tap into more of the whole that I am, that people now can appreciate are my strengths. And I’m looking forward to what that next chapter is. I think, once you’ve climbed a mountain, you’ve climbed it.”

Source: Vanity Fair