In the weeks following the exposure of top Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct, dozens of actresses have stepped forward to share their own stories of sex abuse. The latest: Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Lawrence, who devoted their stage time to the topic at a female-focused event in Beverly Hills on Monday night.
Lawrence, Witherspoon and dozens of other A-listers attended Elle’s Women in Hollywood event, an annual ceremony organized by the magazine to honor female forces in the industry.
Before introducing honoree Laura Dern, Witherspoon, fresh off the success of HBO’s female-packed thriller miniseries “Big Little Lies,” delved into the “ugly truths” of Hollywood harassment. Witherspoon, 41, detailed the pure “disgust” she still feels for a director who assaulted her when she was 16 years old. Her husband, Ryan Phillippe, and 18-year-old daughter, Ava Phillippe, were in the audience.
“I wish I could tell you that was an isolated incident in my career, but sadly it wasn’t,” she said. “I’ve had multiple experiences of harassment and sexual assault and I don’t speak about them very often.”
The actress continued to explain that those who have stepped forward to share their stories via social media, several using the Alyssa Milano-encouraged #MeToo, helped her feel less isolated than she had “ever felt in my entire career.”
“Passengers” actress Jennifer Lawrence, one of the ceremony honorees, also opened up about an experience with a producer who she said left her feeling humiliated and objectified. Though she didn’t specify which producer she was working with or how old she was when it happened, J.Law said she was asked to do “nude lineups” and told to lose weight to land acting roles.
“During this time, a female producer had me do a nude lineup with about five women who were much, much thinner than me,” she said. “We are stood side-by-side with only tape on covering our privates. After that degrading and humiliating lineup, the female producer told me I should use the naked photos of myself as inspiration for my diet.”
The Oscar-winning actress said though she tried to speak up for herself during situations that left her uncomfortable, she feels she let herself be treated this way for the benefit of her career.
“I’m still learning that I don’t have to smile when a man makes me uncomfortable,” she added.
Weinstein, who wasn’t named directly at the ceremony, was ousted from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and fired from his co-chairman post at the Weinstein Co. this month after the New York Times published detailed eight sexual harassment settlements that he allegedly paid off within the last three decades. The exposure has prompted dozens of women — including celebrities like “Charmed” actress Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow — to come forward.