'Empire' star Taraji P. Henson honored for Excellence in Television at Women In Film's Crystal + Lucy Awards

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Taraji P. Henson, Golden Globe-winning actress known to millions as Cookie Lyon on the hit FOX drama Empire, was honored with the Lucy Award for Excellence in Television on June 15 for her contributions to women's role in the entertainment industry. The recognition came as part of the annual Crystal + Lucy Awards hosted by the nonprofit Women In Film (WIF), an organization advocating for gender parity in Hollywood. Fox Television Group Co-Chairman and CEO Dana Walden presented the award to Henson, who spoke about the pay gap between male and female actors and reflected on the importance of representing women on screen and behind the camera.

"Art is powerful," Henson told the crowded ballroom at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. "If we don't have an example for humanity on the screen, what are we doing? That is how we change the world."

For nearly 40 years, the Crystal + Lucy Awards have honored women and men who have helped expand the role of women within entertainment, and it allows Women In Film to highlight its many ongoing initiatives to further support women in Hollywood, such as its Finishing Fund program giving grants to female filmmakers. WIF is also active in academia, working with the UCLA Film & Television Archive to document the personal and creative worlds of exceptional women in Hollywood as part of its Legacy Series, and funding research analyzing the gender composition of content creators in the independent film sector.

In addition to Henson, this year's ceremony recognized actress Natalie Dormer, talent agent Hylda Queally, and director Lesli Linka Glatter, as well as eight female producers. Cate Blanchett, Homeland's Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale, Lake Bell, Blythe Danner, Maria Bello, Rosanna Arquette, Frances Fisher and more also attended.

"We are on a mission to change the gender imbalance that is endemic to the entertainment industry [and] to design a more inclusive business for all women in the film, television and digital creative arenas," said Cathy Schulman, president of WIF in Los Angeles. "The women we honor this year are all catalysts for that change and exemplars in their fields."

Learn more about Women In Film's advocacy work, and visit Variety for a full recap of the evening.

Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP