The singer-actress also surprised the high school students with gifts and announced scholarships related to the Fellowship, which will help “open doors for some of the best and brightest young women and men who might never imagine a career in Hollywood an
Selena Gomez sprinkled a little Wizards of Waverly Place magic on the 20 students selected as the inaugural class of the Young Executives Fellowship at The Hollywood Reporter’s Empowerment in Entertainment event on Tuesday at Milk Studios in Hollywood.
The singer-actress reflected on a question plaguing industry leaders: “Why isn’t there more diversity at the top?”
Inspired by a discussion among entertainment companies including WME and Amazon Studios, “that’s when The Hollywood Reporter decided to launch a new program to open doors for some of the best and brightest young women and men who might never imagine a career in Hollywood and help them reach the top,” Gomez explained on stage.
The Young Executives Fellowship program is a partnership between six top media companies, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles, Compton and Inglewood school districts and three universities: Emerson College, Howard University and USC.
Gomez went on to describe the program, which will grant high school juniors the opportunity to embark on a two-year program that begins with a three-week long summer course at USC film school. Over their junior and senior year, they will get individual mentors, SAT tutoring, a boot camp run by Emerson College and paid summer internships.
After an emotional video introducing the accepted students and highlighting the power of the program to “give access,” as Oprah Winfrey implored, Gomez announced that Howard University and Emerson College each agreed to fund full-ride scholarships for two of the fellows. Oprah was seen crying from the news after the audience sat down from a standing ovation.
Earlier at the event, THR editorial director Matthew Belloni announce that Skydance Media would provide a $100,000 scholarship fund as well, and that just Tuesday morning, WME and Ari Emanuel had committed $250,000 to the program.
Gomez also presented the students with “one last little gift to help you on this journey.”
Also at the event, Oprah received the first-ever Empowerment Award, which celebrates agents of change who are breaking down barriers for people of color, women, the LGBTQ community and other emerging voices in Hollywood. Kumail Nanjiani greeted the audience with an opening monologue and CNN’s Don Lemon gave the keynote speech of the gala.
Amazon’s Jennifer Salke, Jill Soloway, Caitlyn Jenner, Eva Longoria, Franklin Leonard, Lil Rel Howery, Sherry Lansing and Netflix’s Cindy Holland were also in attendance.
The Hollywood Reporter’s inaugural Empowerment in Entertainment event was presented by WME with platinum sponsor Amazon Prime Video and sponsored by Entertainment One, IMAX, OWN, Starz and Casamigos.
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.