Barbra Streisand wowed her fellow honorees and an audience of Hollywood insiders Monday night at the 18th annual celebration of the industry's leading ladies. Actresses such as Michelle Pfeiffer, Viola Davis, Evan Rachel Wood, Freida Pinto and Naomi Watts said before the ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel that Streisand has inspired them, and the love fest continued throughout the private dinner.
Jennifer Aniston told the 69-year-old entertainer that she loved her, and Pinto said on stage that "sharing the same oxygen" as Streisand was an incredible birthday gift. The actress turns 27 Tuesday.
"You're a legend not only in Hollywood but literally all over the world," the "Slumdog Millionaire" star told Streisand. "I can say that because I come from India."
She said Streisand's song "Putting it Together" is "like a reality check that every girl that wants to get into this big entertainment industry needs to listen to."
"That was a truly inspirational song, so thank you so much for that," Pinto said.
Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow introduced Streisand as "a world icon" and "somebody who has mastered virtually every art form imaginable: directing, acting, composing, singing, producing, writing."
Streisand returned the love in kind, congratulating her fellow honorees, which included Pfeiffer, Davis, Wood, Pinto, Watts, Aniston, actress Elizabeth Olsen and DreamWorks Studios chief Stacey Snider.
"They're all so charming, so well spoken, and so thin," Streisand said, adding, "I ate the chocolate cake."
(Also on the menu: Alaskan halibut and a roasted peach salad.)
Streisand said that only seven percent of the top 250 films were directed by women and she urged her colleagues to be fearless about moving forward in the entertainment industry.
"Let's be bold and don't wait for the phone to ring," she said. "Create your own material. Tell me a story."
The love didn't stop with Streisand. Olsen said Pfeiffer inspired her to become an actress, and Reese Witherspoon said Aniston had "sex appeal and complete lovability."
"You just want to get your nails done with her and you want to make out with her at the same time. At least I do," Witherspoon said. "And that's what we do sometimes on Saturdays."
"The Help" co-star Octavia Spencer traded "I love yous" with Davis, whom she said recently became a new mom. (Davis said her baby's name is Genesis, but offered no other details.)
The Oscar nominee said it isn't love that drives her to keep working in Hollywood.
"What keeps me in the business is hope, and that's the hope that women of color are also part of the narrative," Davis said. "(I'm) sending a telepathic message to you: Every time some young actress of color comes in a room with a character they're auditioning for that's not ethnically specific, that you have a space in your brain that can open up and embrace them and allow them in, because I'm telling you, their lives are just as fascinating and multifaceted."
The audience gave her a standing ovation, and welcomed Streisand the same way.
The Women in Hollywood honorees are featured in Elle's November issue.