Reese Witherspoon Accepts WSJ. Magazine's Entertainment Innovator of the Year Award: "I Have a New Mission"

Oscar winner recognized for work on behalf of women in Hollywood

By Samantha Schnurr Nov 02, 2017 3:06 PMTags

Reese Witherspoon is a woman on a mission. 

The Oscar winner, well-known for her cinematic accomplishments, has been proudly forging a path for women in Hollywood from behind the scenes. While at the helm of her production company, Hello Sunshine, the actress has helped bring female-centered hit works like Gone Girl, Wild and Big Little Lies to the big and small screens to the delight of viewers all over the world. 

While she recently won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series for Big Little Lies, Witherspoon's ongoing efforts to balance Hollywood storytelling have been been recognized once again as WSJ. Magazine's Entertainment Innovator of the Year. 


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Craig Barritt/Getty Images for WSJ. Magazine 2017 Innovator Awards
Andrew Toth/Getty Images for WSJ. Magazine 2017 Innovator Awards

Appearing at New York City's Museum of Modern Art alongside her look-alike daughter, Ava Phillippe, Witherspoon made a sartorial splash in a Giorgio Armani statement dress embellished with green pendants. 

After a heartfelt introduction by renowned designer Diane Von Furstenberg, Witherspoon took the podium to accept her statue, outline the issues she sees in the industry today and share how she plans to enact change. 

"I know that movies are very powerful," she began. "I've witnessed that firsthand with women who I'm so humbled by—they come up to me on the street and they say, 'I went to law school because of Legally Blonde.'"

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It's because of the influence films have that Witherspoon wants them to reflect the full scope of humanity. "I don't really believe we've been seeing the full spectrum of the female experience," she said. 

"Women want real substance and premium, thought-provoking, well-made content and they want it now," she pointed out, noting that her production company aims to fulfill those desires. "Quite frankly we just can't see the same films from the same group of people over and over again and expect society to change."

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Andrew Toth/Getty Images for WSJ. Magazine 2017 Innovator Awards

As Witherspoon continued, the mother of three addressed the current Hollywood climate. "I don't know if you guys heard, but there's been a lot of stuff going on in Hollywood," she quipped. "I don't know if you guys have read the news or anything, but we've been dealing with some really ugly truth of sexism and sexual harassment and it has been rampant for far longer than I've been an actress, but it's brought back a lot of painful memories for people and it's been a real time of reckoning for us and there is definitely a growing realization that we need to take the time to really examine the biases that exist in our industry and make much needed change."

That change, according to Witherspoon, should include having more women at the decision-making table—and she plans to help make that happen. 

"I've been really fortunate in my life. I've had an incredible career as an actress and it is my first love. I love being an actor, but now it's become abundantly clear to me that I have a new mission and that's to do more for others in my industry," she said. That mission statement involves creating more opportunities for women and people of color to tell their stories, championing new female voices in film and encouraging CEOs to include more female executives. 

"Sometimes change is abut something small," the honoree said in conclusion. "Sometimes change starts in a room like this with people like all of you."