Alongside fellow honorees Drew Barrymore, Kim Cattrall, Queen Latifah and Amanda Seyfried, Cabello took to the white carpet ahead of the event and used the opportunity to talk about the ongoing debate over abortion rights — it was revealed earlier this week that the United States Supreme Court has privately voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, striking down the case that has guaranteed basic abortion rights in the U.S. since 1973.
“It’s atrocious,” said Cabello. “Obviously it’s going to affect poor women the most, because women that have resources — even like me — will be able to handle things if if they’re needed. The idea of having one moment transform the course of a woman’s life is tragic. And it’s tragic [that] the people affected are not having a say.”
Cabello encouraged women to “get involved … voting at the local level so that we have state and local legislators that are representing our interest is really important. Obviously, donating can make a difference. And also being loud and angry about it.”
Later in the evening, actor and artist Billy Porter, who co-starred alongside Cabello in “Cinderella,” took the stage to introduce the 25-year-old. He described Cabello as “luminous” and “filled with passion,” noting her diligence and conviction, despite being nervous about her first lead acting role in “Cinderella.” (Porter played the fairy godmother.) “She takes everything that she does very seriously, including the breaking down the stigma of mental health awareness and the activism,” he said. “I find myself so moved that someone so young is so present. It’s time to honor and embrace the ones who are behind us, who are poised to change the world.”
Wearing a dress by Maria Lucia Hohan, Cabello thanked Porter, recalling, “It’s true; I was shaking in my boots, and he’s got me. What a gigantic soul Billy has. I’m really grateful for him.”
She then used her remarks to espouse the benefits of therapy when it came to her own mental health, and to shine a light on the “grand mothers of the world,” she said as she recited poems by Alice Walker.
Read Cabello’s speech in its entirety below, and head here for her Variety Power of Women cover story.
Thank you, Variety, for bringing us here at a moment when women’s rights in America face greater threats than at any time in the last 50 years. We’re here together tonight not just to celebrate the power of women, but to strengthen it for the many fights ahead.
Venus, Kim, Queen Latifah, Amanda, Drew: It’s truly surreal to be here alongside you. I knew I would have the feeling I have right now. Listening to these incredible women makes me feel so fired up and with so much hope for the world. And it just makes feel like walking out of here, we can friggin’ change the world. We can’t all in one day, but we can a little bit at a time.
So many in my generation have been lucky to have you guys as role models who embody the generous, intelligent, powerful women we want to be.
And when I think about the “power of women,” I think about all of you guys, of course, all the compassion, creativity, and possibility just in this room — yeah! — but I also think about the women in my family who have been a huge inspiration to me my whole life:
My Mom who started from scratch in her life so many times. From leaving her architectural degree and her life in Cuba, to moving to Mexico, and then moving to the United States and starting from scratch — yet again. She has always had this unwavering sense of courage, in people and in life. Despite everything she has gone through, she lived by the rule of generosity. Not just literally sharing food or money when she barely had her own, but generosity of time, energy, and kindness. This quality goes back generations in my family. My mom was always saying my great grandma, Yeya, taught her that same generosity of spirit. … That same compassion and care for others. I am so fortunate to have been surrounded by generations of women who taught me so much and who went through so much to bring us where we are today.
When I think about the power of women, I also think about the way women care for the world and everyone in it.
I think about the poet, Alice Walker, who wrote in one of my favorite poems:
I call on all the Grand Mothers of Earth & every person
the Grand Mother spirit of respect for life
& protection of the young to rise & lead.
I see the spirit of Grand Mothers — that’s grand, space, mothers, as Walker put it so well — in so many of my friends’ faces and so many of yours.
I see it in everyone fighting for equality, and opportunity, and justice — and, yes, reproductive justice — on the front lines.
I see it in our history: in countless women, remembered and forgotten, who fought for their families, their communities, and our world.
When Alice Walker wrote “Calling All Grand Mothers,” I was only 13 years-old. At the time, I couldn’t imagine singing on a stage in front of people — or talking in front of people — let alone the world.
I was super shy about singing in front of people back then. In my teens and early twenties, I struggled with anxiety that at points felt crippling. My mental health was at an all time low. I don’t know how I would’ve made it through if it weren’t for my Mom. She helped find me the therapist and the treatment that changed my life, and my manager too, who’s here (hey Roger [Gold]).
Through all of that, it was difficult for me to socialize and just be a human. I didn’t have space for anything else because my own struggle to just be okay was consuming it all. I needed all the tools I could get and because of the resources available to me, I was able to not just survive, but now thrive.Throughout my treatment, a lot of which happened during the pandemic and after, I discovered I suddenly had space for creativity again, for intimate friendships, for new hobbies, for activism. And those things made me feel more connected, grounded, and more myself than ever.
I realized I can’t pour from an empty cup — I can’t be present for my career or my family or my community if I don’t find the space to heal myself. It was a difficult lesson to learn, because as women, we’re often expected to be everything, for everyone, all the time.
That’s one of the reasons I started working with Movement Voter Fund to create the Healing Justice Project.
Just like women often feel the weight of the world on their shoulders, every day, organizers on the frontlines — especially women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and others with marginalized identities — are out there giving everything they have to make our world better.
It’s often unrecognized, thankless work, and it comes with long hours, too few resources, and tons of emotional — and often traumatic — experiences. The cost of caring for these organizers is too high. We cannot afford to keep losing passionate, experienced, effective leaders at the forefront of our nation’s justice movements — and they shouldn’t be forced to lose themselves because we aren’t creating the space, time, or resources for them to also thrive.
Through the Healing Justice Project, we empower organizers to focus on their own healing while also addressing the generational systemic violence and oppression that is felt by so many communities. They’re constantly giving all of themselves but rarely have the support to fill their own cup.
My mental health journey showed me that no matter who you are, no matter how much you love what you do, you can’t keep going if you don’t have the resources, time, space and tools to heal.
I realized the importance of taking care of myself, but even more so, I realized that I need to help others do the same, to ensure that the grassroots organizers who carry our world on their shoulders and move us forward, have access to the resources that helped change everything for me.
Ultimately, the idea is both simple and powerful:
In order to heal the world, we have to be able to heal ourselves, together. And vice versa, in order to heal ourselves, we have to help heal the trauma, oppression, and heartbreak that is ever present in our world.
To my mom. To all of the women who help me heal — who help to heal the world;
To all of the women who supported me, loved me, and got me here;
To everyone pouring that same “Grand Mother spirit” into the next generation: Thank you.
As Alice Walker wrote:
Step forward & assume the role
for which you were created:
To lead humanity
to health, happiness & sanity.
Let us all embrace this responsibility — for the communities we serve and the future we share. Thank you so much. What a beautiful event.