By Sandy Cohen, AP
BEVERLY HILLS, California–Viola Davis told a crowd of Hollywood luminaries that her drive to end childhood hunger is fueled by memories of growing up in “abject poverty,” stealing and crawling through maggot-filled garbage bins to get food.
“I sacrificed a childhood for food,” she said, “and grew up in immense shame.”
Davis shared the personal story Friday as she accepted accolades at the Variety Power of Women luncheon, where Jane Fonda, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Lopez were also recognized for humanitarian efforts.
Davis said her work with the Hunger Is campaign to raise awareness about hunger in the United States has been “the joy of my life.” She thanked her colleagues and supporters for the chance to “stand up in front of so many people, at the age of 49, and share my testimony and begin the process of healing.”
Witherspoon was recognized for her involvement with the Malala Fund, the educational advocacy organization established by Malala Yousafzai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. Witherspoon said she was inspired by her daughter, Ava, to explore the state of girls’ education around the world and learn about Malala’s efforts.
Lopez said her namesake foundation was also inspired by her children. Lopez said she and her sister, Lynda, started the Lopez Family Foundation when they were pregnant together in hopes of helping needy families receive high-quality health care.
Fonda is involved with various philanthropic programs, but she was honored Friday for creating the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential, which works to prevent teen pregnancy and inspire healthy lifestyles in that state.
“I grew up believing that service is the rent you pay for life,” Fonda said.
Other honorees included Universal Pictures chair Donna Langley, who works with Vital Voices, an international campaign that supports female community leaders; and Jessica Matthews, creator of the Soccket, a soccer ball that harnesses energy with play and becomes an off-grid power source.
Guests at the Lifetime-sponsored luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel included Ryan Seacrest, Maria Bello, Allison Janney and “Wild” author Cheryl Strayed.