NEW YORK — The power of a woman is defined in the word “no.”
At least, that was the consensus from Kim Cattrall and Queen Latifah at Variety’s Power of Women event at The Glasshouse in New York City Thursday. The entertainment news outlet honored several other stars including Camila Cabello, Amanda Seyfried, Venus Williams and Drew Barrymore as the trailblazing women highlighted moments in their careers and life when they were either denied opportunities, stood in their truth, or leaned on other women for support.
“Pose” star Billy Porter and “The Equalizer” actress Lorraine Toussaint, who both vibrantly walked the event’s white carpet, presented awards for Cabello and Latifah, respectively. Porter considered “Cinderella” co-star Cabello a person “poised to change the world” and Toussaint described Latifah as “kind, generous, surprisingly shy and easy to love.”
The world’s reality loomed over the evening of celebratory speeches and fashionable moments: the US Supreme Court’s leaked opinion draft that would overturn Roe v. Wade — a preceding case that constitutionally established the right to abortion. (“What a week for women it’s been,” comedian Sarah Silverman quipped during the ceremony before introducing Seyfried.)
“It is a very strange time for us. There are a group of people who are trying to steal our power. Our power to decide what we want for our bodies,” Latifah said on stage while accepting her award.
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Family, friends and colleagues celebrated the honorees in-person, minus Williams, who wasn’t in attendance but tapped “King Richard” actress Saniyya Sidney to introduce her accomplishments in person as the tennis player’s sister Isha Price was present to accept the honor on her behalf.
The honorees reflected, over dinner and wine, on moments that defined them as powerful.
For “Sex and the City” alum Cattrall, who celebrated being a “now-proclaimed woman of power,” her fortitude and steadfastness lie in a two-letter word.
“The word is ‘no,’ ” Cattrall said before listing a number of no phrases she’s used in her career including saying no to bullying, no to unacceptable salaries and no to professional meetings in a hotel room.
“One of my favorites in particular: ‘No, I don’t want to be in a situation for a moment that is not enjoyable,'” Cattrall said alluding to her 2019 interview with the Guardian, in which she discussed never wanting to return to the “Sex and the City” franchise to reprise her role as Samantha Jones after 2010’s “Sex and the City 2” movie because of “bullying.” (She was not in the recent HBO Max reboot, “And Just Like That”)
“‘No’ helps define yourself, your boundaries and your goals,” Cattrall said. “It keeps you creative and embraces change.”
On the carpet ahead of the ceremony, Cattrall told USA TODAY that “the odds are against you” when pursuing an acting career, but what kept her going despite walking away from her cornerstone role was staying “focused and also following what I felt was right for me.”
Latifah could identify with Cattrall’s resilience, as she discussed during her acceptance speech how “no” also propelled her career, even though she was once on the receiving end of the word as people denied her future career in music and acting.
“I started out as a rapper, a woman rapper at that,” Latifah said. “I was already different, apparently. But to me, it was just an expression.”
Latifah said it was women who fought for her success, including her first agent who was low-ranking at the time and was assigned to Latifah under the pretense the actor wasn’t worthy of a more senior representative.
“She believed in me and we rocked together and we made Queen Latifah an A-list actor,” she added. “There are women in my life who have stepped in and fought for me.”
Whether the “no” came from them or against them, Latifah, Cattrall, and the rest of Thursday’s honorees remained the course, leading dinner guests to praise them with claps and affirmations of “yes,” confirming their power has the ability to galvanize those around them.