The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Kerry Washington, Cate Blanchett accept Women in Film awards, urge women to take more risks

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LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Kerry Washington stepped back into the spotlight for the first time since becoming a mom last month to accept an award from Women in Film.

The "Scandal" star, along with fellow actresses Cate Blanchett, Eva Longoria, Rose Byrne and "Frozen" writer-director Jennifer Lee were honoured by the non-profit group Wednesday for their career achievements.

Actress Tracee Ellis Ross hosted the dinner ceremony at the Century Plaza Hotel.

"Last year, Women in Film turned 40," she said, "so that makes us 34 on IMDB."

Washington and Blanchett each said women must be willing to take risks and reveal imperfections to tell authentic stories about their experiences.

"When we step up for ourselves, we create opportunity, whether it's because we inspire other people or we employ other people," said Washington, who gave birth to a daughter in May. She thanked past winner and "Scandal" creator Shonda Rhimes, who presented Washington with the Lucy Award, for developing dynamic and diverse female characters and giving women a chance to soar on both sides of the camera.

Blanchett said women need to overcome the fear that they can't fail.

"A creative career is only as good as the risks you take with it," she said. The two-time Oscar received the Crystal Award, which recognizes those who've helped to expand women's role in entertainment, from actress Laura Dern.

Longoria accepted the Norma Zarky Humanitarian Award from actress-writer-director Lake Bell, who described her as "a truly huge-hearted, great lady in a very small, sexy and sassy package."

Longoria said she learned about compassion from her older sister, Lisa, who has special needs. Longoria recalled that when Lisa was in high school, someone stole her letterman's jacket. Fuming, Longoria wondered who would do such a thing. "Someone who must have been cold," Lisa suggested.

"I am the woman I am today because she is the woman she is," Longoria said.

Byrne was recognized as the Max Mara Face of the Future. The 34-year-old star of "Neighbours" and "Bridesmaids" said she was humbled to be recognized, noting women's ongoing underrepresentation in Hollywood.

"It's a powerful business we're in, with a loud voice," she said. "It's imperative we realize women are consumers just as much as men, and have our stories told and audiences embraced."

"Frozen" star Kristen Bell presented Lee with the Dorothy Arzner Directors Award. Lee wrote and co-directed the Oscar-winning musical that has become the fifth-highest grossing film of all time. She thanked Walt Disney Animation chief John Lasseter for making her the first woman to direct a feature for the studio.

"Female characters," she said, "if done with authenticity... can get a whole world to come see them."

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .

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