Adele thanked the women who came before her for paving the way for her success during her acceptance speech for The Hollywood Reporter’s Sherry Lansing Leadership Award at its Women in Entertainment breakfast gala, presented by Lifetime.
Helen Mirren presented the 16-time Grammy winner and THR cover star with the prestigious award that recognizes trailblazers and philanthropists in entertainment and media, which was established in honor of Sherry Lansing, the first woman to head a Hollywood studio.
The Golda star began her speech by praising Adele and listing off her many achievements. She also shared that the moment she heard Adele singing “Hometown Glory” was one she will never forget.
“This shiver went down my back,” Mirren said. “That chill that comes just a few times in your life, when you realize you are listening to a brilliant and game-changing new artist. And I thought, ‘Wow, a goddess walks amongst us.’”
The 1923 star explained that she feels Adele’s voice is not just one for her generation, but one for the ages. “It is truly timeless,” Mirren added. “Her voice is an instrument — as we all know, don’t we? — that mesmerizes music fans of every generation and makes others fall in love with music for the very first time.”
When accepting the award, Adele began her colorful speech (complete with several well-received F-bombs) speech by celebrating her fellow honorees — like Kerry Washington and the scholarship recipients — and shared her excitement over finally being able to meet Dua Lipa.
“Sherry [Lansing], you are the absolute epitome of what it is to open doors and, more importantly, to leave them open. Thank you for everything you’ve done,” Adele said, addressing the award’s namesake in the audience. “This all feels very big and grown up, and I feel a little bit out of my depth, considering I’m only 35.”
As she was preparing for her speech, the singer-songwriter shared that she was reflecting on her career and realized that she has been a signed artist for 17 years, wondering “if people think that I’m calculated when I disappear for years.” She explained that her album 21 blowing up the way it did was the “strangest, most surreal experience of my life,” and then she got pregnant, which to many may have been considered “career suicide.”
“However, always one to go against the grain, it was there and then that I chose to reject the scarcity of success and the idea that you have to be constantly relevant to be successful,” she said. “And that perhaps, just maybe, I could be a hit both on and off the stage — and you’ll never guess what — fucking got away with it.”
She continued, “All the sacrifices the women before me have made, it is because of them that I have every right to be the boss at home and the boss at work. So, thank you.”
Adele praised her mother, aunts, grandmothers and the women she was surrounded by as a child, noting that young people are sponges, and they tend to absorb the energy of the people around them. She said those women were strong, loud, boisterous, loyal and cutthroat, like she has grown up to be.
“They are a force to be reckoned with and quite frankly terrifying, like me, but that was because they had to be,” she said. “They had to learn the hard way what it is to be a woman, and so in turn, they hardened. Their character was their armour, but thanks to them, my character is my skin.”
Adele joked that she wasn’t sure if she could thank a man at an event celebrating women, before expressing her gratitude for her longtime manager Jonathan Dickins, who has represented her since 2006. Adele shared that he was always there to explain things to her and support her, never telling her to lose weight or gain weight, and being the happiest for her when she told him she was pregnant.
She concluded her speech by saying, “And so, I stand here today as a testament to all of you, all of the women before me and beside me who broke down doors and left them open for us. I don’t have stories of how success was hard, because it wasn’t, and I know that’s rare, and I know I’m lucky, but that’s because of you. A lot of you had to claim your power, and you’ve given me mine.”
THR’s Women in Entertainment gala was sponsored by Cadillac, Google, SAG-AFTRA, Best Buy, Gersh and Upneeq and in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles, Chapman University and Loyola Marymount University. It was held in conjunction with the publication of THR’s annual Women in Entertainment issue and Power 100 list.