Oh, What a Night
What happens when you gather 20 phenomenal women for a three-course meal at the historic Culver Hotel to discuss the images and ideas we have about aging in Hollywood and beyond?
You have an unforgettable evening that signals a new day for women. And not only for women at large, but especially for women of color and women “of a certain age” who have been kept out of the spotlight — and out of the cultural conversation — for far too long.
Over the years, I’ve enjoyed countless media dinners, most of which have been quite lovely and filled with a great deal of mixing, mingling and cursory conversation.
But this time it was different. Real different.
A Modern Day Salon
I quickly realized that this “Age of Influence” event was not only a means to feed our bodies, it was a convocation to nourish our souls. It took the concept of the salon and transformed it into something even deeper.
Now, when I say salon, I’m not talking about where you get your hair did. I’m talking about the salons that spanned the 17th century and continued through the early 20th century, where people gathered under the roof of an engaging host to talk, to listen, and to learn.
This time, we were leaning waaay in and and speaking waaay the eff out!
For this modern-day salon, April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite, along with Karen Chong from AARP, led our discussion around how we can use media and entertainment to disrupt the myths and stereotypes that we face as women — and how we can collaborate across age groups to create positive change in Hollywood, social media and our everyday lives.
The wine and food flowed throughout the three-hour experience, but the tastiest dish of all was the conversation we had at the table.
As I sat there among this group of extraordinary women who came from ordinary beginnings, I couldn’t help but think of Maya Angelou’s powerful poem “Phenomenal Woman” and the refrain:
“I’m a woman
These women — most of whom were over 40, some over 50, and a few in their 20s and 30s — had decided that they were going to pursue their passion against all odds and in the spirit of excellence.
Changing the Color, Age & Sex of Hollywood
On this night, I enjoyed dinner alongside so many impressive women.
There was the founder of a new women’s TV network who is “breaking glass ceilings for other women to soar.” An award-winning film producer whose work is her form of activism. A feminist author. An outspoken comedian. An entertainment lawyer. A research director whose data confirms that “diversity sells in TV and film.” A professor-turned-filmmaker. Oh, and more than a few high-powered studio execs from Netflix, Amazon Studios and CBS.
Every woman was a multi-hyphenate creator who proved — and continues to prove — that no dream is ever too big to realize no matter your age, your gender or the color of your skin.
The Best is Yet to Come
My faith and my parents always told me that I could achieve anything in this world. But the truth is, as a Latina growing up in the working-class suburbs of southeast LA, I didn’t see limitless possibilities around me.
I saw struggle and uncertainty. For some of us, until we see something different, it’s hard to believe it exists. But on this night, I witnessed the possibilities and saw the proof.
I am over 40 years old now and I am still learning how to walk by faith, not by sight. I’m still a work in progress who keeps pushing forward, who keeps hold of the vision, who keeps doing the work, knowing that I am pursuing my purpose of helping others with the words I speak and the stories I write.
In many ways, like these women, I have only just begun.
As the evening came to a close, April asked each of us what we are most excited about and looking forward to as women in our 40s and beyond.
Below are some of the responses, all of which I am now claiming as my own mottos and mantras. I hope you will do the same so that together we can disrupt and reshape the image of aging and create a world that supports, celebrates and rewards inclusivity.
Feast on These Words of Wisdom
- Embrace this as the best part of your life wherever you happen to be.
- If not now, when?
- Remain relentless.
- Pursue purpose.
- It always seems impossible until it’s done.
- Be bold and turn your mess into your message.
- Expect nothing and appreciate everything.
- Everything works out for my highest good.
- Stop making a meal out of crumbs.
- I won’t shrink myself to make someone else feel comfortable.
- Know your value, know your worth.
- W.A.I.T. – Why Am I Talking?
- Dreaming is a form of planning.
- At this age, I have no apologies about where I am — I belong here!
- This is my season.
- Fight the good fight and know when to walk away.
- Talk more openly and more proudly.
- No dream is too big that can’t be reality.
Join the conversation and be sure to check out DisruptAging.org
This post was made possible with support from AARP’s Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own.