Nicole Kidman Says “Failure Isn’t Shameful, But Cowardice Is” In An Inspiring Speech

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We started GTHQ as a platform to get away from tabloid gossip and negative news about women that seems to flood headlines every. But lately it feels like we are part of an exciting movement that is taking a sharp 180 turn away from news that bring women down. We are seeing more and more stories, quotes and events where female celebrities are really stepping up to the plate, recognizing the power they have in encouraging young women to change the world, and becoming beacons of inspiration in a world that is already so celebrity-obsessed, we might as well have some positive role models to look up to.

At the recent Women in Film’s Crystal + Lucy Awards dinner, some incredible women shared words of wisdom worth repeating on a daily basis. These are the type of industry events that get quoted in all the big media outlet so when an award recipient gives a speech filled with feminist rally cries, it makes us giddy.

Actress and producer Nicole Kidman accepted the award for Excellence in Film gave an inspiring speech about the need for women not to apologize for who they are and to own their power – both attributes which took her a while to accept.

She describes herself as a “living metaphor for what always held women back” talking about how she always felt insecure being a tall girl, but now she stands tall and doesn’t care that she stands out.

“I was afraid of my own power, afraid that it would threaten people, intimidate people. And it’s a great sadness wishing to be less than you actually are. And it’s hard to take on the world when you’re constantly in a battle with yourself. I worked through it … I’m working through it,” she said, as reported by The Cut.

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She went on to describe how she turned down a role at 14 years old on a Jane Campion-directed film because the role required her to kiss a girl. At the time she only wanted to do work that was comfortable and non-threatening for her. During her speech she was joined on stage by fellow Australian actress Naomi Watts, the girl who she would’ve been acting opposite in that film, and kissed her on the lips (much to the audience’s and media’s delight) as a way of saying she refuses to adhere to the industry’s expectations of her as a woman and be willing to step outside her comfort zone.

Nicole compared that feeling to how men would react given the same situation.

“Women are too susceptible to the voice that tells us we need to be accepted … Men say, “I want this.” And then they set out to do it. Women say: “Do I want this? Don’t I want this? Do I deserve this? Can I get this? Hmm, what do you think?” And framing things this way leads women to second-guess our decisions, to ignore our own confidence, to revert to a place that we think is safe [and] acceptable. I don’t regret much. I try not to live that way, but the regrets that I do have, all go back to the decisions that I’ve made out of fear. Not a fear of my own weakness, but of my own power,” she said.

She shared that example as a rallying cry to all the women in the room to be examples to young women out in the world who look up to them as role models and mentors.

“I stand here today well-aware that somewhere out there a girl of 13 or 14 years old will hear these words. Let’s pledge again today to be there for that girl, to support her, artistically, emotionally, financially. Let us create opportunities for her and teach her to imagine her voices trying so hard every day to call her back. Show her that she is strong and smart and talented. That she deserves a shot at every part that might interested her and at equal pay, too. Let us prove to her that she should go forth without shame,” she decreed.

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The speech ended with Nicole urging every woman not to apologize for who they are, not to shy away from taking on a challenge, and to keep telling important, diverse and complex stories about women.

“To hide behind our own fears, to shrink, to listen to that little carping voice on our shoulder, instead of the truth, which is pounding the fence. My friends, failure isn’t shameful, but cowardice is. So let’s take risks. Let’s raise our voices, honor the fire within, ignore our fears. In short, let’s stand tall and never, ever apologize for it.”

Also accepting awards on the night were Oscar-nominated director Ava DuVerney and Golden Globe award-winning filmmaker Jill Soloway who both had some powerful stories to share.

Jill talked about how Ava inspired her to keep going despite being in an industry that favors men over women and has for a long time. She spoke about how Ava’s pioneering work inspired her to keep going, and why we need more female protagonists in film and TV.

“Protagonism is privileged and women deserve the privilege of protagonism. That means writing, directing, acting, telling our own stories, getting behind the camera and expressing how it feels to be ourselves. Women speaking the truth is a revolutionary act, and it’ll change the world,” she said to the audience after being honored with an award for working to expand the role of women in television.

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Ava was recognized for her directorial achievements, becoming the first black woman to be nominated for a ‘Best Director’ Academy Award, and only a handful of women in total in that category. For the record, only 1 woman has ever won Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow in 2009 for ‘The Hurt Locker’.

In a world where male names dominate the ticket, it is easy to forget the pioneer women who do make it through, and this is something Ava talked about in her Dorothy Arzner Directors Award speech, named after the first female member of the Directors Guild of America (DGA).

“[Dorothy] made films that starred Lucille Ball, and Katherine Hepburn and Rosalind Russell…. She became a film professor and she taught the likes of Francis Ford Coppola and, yet, I had no idea who she was. That is a ‘forgetting us’ that is just unacceptable. Even as we ask the industry to remember us and include us, we have to remember ourselves,” she said.

“So few people knew who she was. She was the first black woman to have a film produced by a studio. In 1989. You thought I was going to say 1943. No, 1989. She was the first black woman to direct an actor to an Oscar nomination… yet no one had a clue who she was. So this forgetting, this community that we’re neglecting… a whole cadre of women filmmakers… that’s on us to remember. We have to overcome this erasure, this invisibility and forgetting us,” she concluded.

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During the event it was announced that the Women in Film organization will team up with Turner Classic Movies for a three-year initiative to address sexism in Hollywood. This comes off the back of a huge investigation launched by the ACLU to assess Hollywood Studio’s alleged discriminatory hiring practices toward female directors.

“The issue of gender inequality in the film industry is both timely and immensely important to shine a light on, and through this programming effort TCM is proactively taking a deeper look at the role of women in our industry as well as providing insight and resources to inspire more women filmmakers,” said Jennifer Dorian, g.m. of TCM in a statement.

During the month of October for the next 3 years the network will highlight the important and pioneering work of women done behind the scenes in Hollywood.

Women in Film president Cathy Schulman expressed how excited she is to be able to team up with a major network to challenge the sexist standards in the industry.

“For years, I have dreamed of having a network reach out to our organization with a true interest in our advocacy and the ability to collaborate on programming that will reach audiences everywhere. Now, thanks to TCM, that dream is real,” she said.

We are always so encouraged to hear the daily steps being taken to break down the gender inequality and build an industry based on talent, merit and visibility for women away from barriers created due to their XX chromosomes. We can choose to become depressed while dwelling on the abysmal stats about women in Hollywood and many other industries for that matter, or you can choose to use these statistics as fuel to be part of a movement dedicated to change.

Watch Nicole, Ava and Jill talk more about the cause of women in Hollywood in the red carpet video below:

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