More than 300 guests—including actors, scientists, advocates, and directors—gathered for the 2023 TIME100 Gala at New York City’s Lincoln Center Wednesday night. Next to the star-studded red carpet and near the elevators, Natasha Lyonne chatted with Aubrey Plaza, who was decked out in TIME red. Cameras flashed as other celebrities streamed into the cocktail hour, which buzzed with conversations from people changing the world.
The TIME100 Gala is TIME’s annual celebration of the TIME100, a list of the world’s most influential people, which was released this year on April 13. Wednesday’s event brought together many of them, including Salma Hayek Pinault. “It feels like a dream; it feels surreal,” the actress said as she walked the red carpet, just a few feet away from fellow honorees Padma Lakshmi and Lea Michele.
Kicking off a night of toasts, Jennifer Coolidge, the event’s host, celebrated the diversity of the TIME100. “We have Ed Reynolds here tonight,” Coolidge said. “He’s literally deflecting asteroids to protect our planet. I just think that’s so sexy. We have MrBeast, who helped 1,000 blind people to see for the first time. And then there’s me, who drowned on TV,” she said, referring to her star turn on the HBO show White Lotus. “But we’re all being honored tonight for our influence, and we all earned that honor.”
In addition to speeches, the night included energetic performances from two honorees. Michele was the first musician to take the stage, singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from the Broadway musical Funny Girl, which Michele currently stars in. Later in the evening, Grammy-nominated Steve Lacy introduced Doja Cat, a TIME100 cover star who sang her empowering hit “Woman” before closing out the night with her chart-topping “Say So.” Said Lacy, another TIME100 honoree: “There are those who make art. And there are those who are art, who exude it in everything they do.”
These are some of the other highlights of the night.
Steven Spielberg accepts the TIME100 Impact Award
Steven Spielberg was honored at the TIME100 Gala with the first-ever TIME100 Impact Award given in the United States. The TIME100 Impact Award honors innovative pioneers who are pushing the boundaries of their industries.
The award was presented to him by two actors whose careers began with his work: Drew Barrymore, who starred in the director’s 1982 film E.T the Extra Terrestrial, and Ke Huy Quan, whose first acting role was in Spielberg’s 1984 blockbuster Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The Oscar-winning director received a standing ovation, and said in his acceptance speech that he was most proud of launching Barrymore and Huy Quan on the Hollywood scene.
Don Lemon comments on his split with CNN
On his way into the TIME100 Gala as an attendee, TV host Don Lemon addressed his departure from the cable news network CNN earlier in the week. Asked by TIME on the red carpet what impact he thinks he had on his employer of 17 years, Lemon suggested, “Why don’t you ask my colleagues about that? I think they’ll probably have a good answer for you.”
Lemon didn’t announce any imminent plans to return to primetime, instead musing about spending more time on the beach. “I’m going to have the summer of a 12-year-old,” he joked.
Natasha Lyonne sounds the alarm on AI
Natasha Lyonne began her toast with an anecdote. When she received the call from TIME that she was on the TIME100 list, she said, she was so excited that she accidentally hung up the phone. She then rattled off platitudes about how attendees could make an impact, before revealing: “That whole cutie-pie toast was written by none other than your friend ChatGPT with a directive to write a funny speech for TIME100 in the tone of Natasha Lyonne.”
The real Lyonne emphasized the potential dangers of artificial intelligence and the urgent need for its regulation. She then slammed ChatGPT for lacking the creativity to make obscure references in the speeches it writes and being unable to get onstage in a strapless dress or quit smoking (all things Lyonne did do).
“Here’s a toast to the preservation of digression and non sequiturs and everything from vulnerability to vices—i.e., our humanity—and to all the people in this room that are smart enough to get it,” she said.
Tracie D. Hall defends access to books
Tracie D. Hall, the first African-American woman to lead the American Library Association, spoke about the importance of keeping books and ideas open to the public.
“I am here as a librarian,” she said, “standing with thousands of librarians—warriors across this country, who despite bomb threats and threats of jail time, who despite those things are fighting, fighting to ensure that these words that stand as a vision of the American Library Association will always ring true: free people read freely.”
Those four words, she said, are the pillars on which democracy rests.
Angela Bassett speaks about true success and impact
Angela Bassett, who won a Golden Globe for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, shared a toast at the gala on legacy and impact. “When we wake up each day, no matter who or where in the world, I like to think that we all want to know that our existence, our presence, our thoughts, our actions have contributed to the planet,” she said.
Bassett told TIME100 honorees that they should feel proud of their accomplishments, but that impact is less about the doer and more about how it’s felt “on the receiving end.”
When the formal program ended, the event’s attendees chatted and danced in an atrium decorated with iconic TIME covers.
The TIME100 special airs Sunday at 7/6c on ABC and streams on Hulu and Disney+.
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