Reese Witherspoon is empowering women as this year’s recipient of The Sherry Lansing Leadership Award.

Witherspoon’s acceptance speech had a little of everything: heart, charm, humour and power. The actress touched on her status as a woman in Hollywood, expressed love for family and much more at The Hollywood Reporter‘s Women in Entertainment event.

Witherspoon received backlash over her sizeable paycheque for her work on “The Morning Show”. The actress tells The Hollywood Reporter that she is making what Apple TV+ believes she is worth.

“I guarantee these companies are real smart, and if they agree to pay us, they’re doing it for a reason,” Witherspoon says. “They probably had a lot of lawyers and a lot of business people decide on that number because they knew that they were going to make more than that back.”

“Does it bother people when Kobe Bryant or LeBron James make their contract?” she asks.

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Reese Witherspoon. Photo: Melodie McDaniel
Reese Witherspoon. Photo: Melodie McDaniel

Witherspoon is not bothered though. She has spent her entire career defying expectations and surpassing what people believe she is worth.

“I was in this position where I was making studios a lot of money, and I had for years and years, and they didn’t take me seriously as a filmmaker,” she shares. “They didn’t think that 25 years of experience could add up to some inherent knowledge of what movies work and how to keep them on budget.”

“You think about the kind of guys who come out of Sundance and get gigantic jobs off of one, like, ‘Oh, I see the potential,'” Witherspoon points out.

Witherspoon, 43, reveals she was almost typecast after her role in “Election” because at least one studio head couldn’t separate the character from the actress: “They thought I was a shrew.”

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Reese Witherspoon. Photo: Melodie McDaniel
Reese Witherspoon. Photo: Melodie McDaniel

“My manager finally called and said, ‘You’ve got to go meet with the studio head because he will not approve you,'” she says. “‘He thinks you really are your character from “Election” and that you’re repellent.’ And then I was told to dress sexy. And you’re 23, you have a baby at home.

“You need the money and you’re being told that by people who know what they’re doing,” she adds. “It’s funny to think of all the things we were told to do back then because now you’re thinking, ‘Oh God, if somebody told my daughter to do that, she’d be like, ‘I really hope you’re joking.

Witherspoon later touched on what it meant to receive the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award while on the red carpet.

“It’s such an honour to be here,” she shared. “To be standing here on the path that Sherry Lansing cut for all of us in Hollywood is truly extraordinary. She is such a culture-shifting, groundbreaking figure in our industry, who was leading the charge with female executives.”

“I’m so proud to be here in her honour and doing my small part to lift women up in this industry,” Witherspoon stated.