Seattle Culture

Star Power in Seattle

Boys in the Boat, The NHL Winter Classic, celebrities and the greater good

By Linda Lowry January 11, 2024

Vivian Phillips talks with Trevor Noah at the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle’s 22nd annual fundraising breakfast.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

Trevor Noah brought some star power to the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle’s 22nd annual fundraising breakfast.

The theme of “Era of Essential Service” paid homage to the programs and services the League provides in areas such as health, housing, entrepreneurship, advocacy, education, and workforce development.

Noah, a globally recognized comedian and former host of the Emmy Award-winning The Daily Show on Comedy Central for seven years, participated in a Q&A moderated by Arte Noir’s Vivian Phillips, one of Seattle magazine’s Most Influential People of 2024.

“We can talk about ideas, but leadership is what casts itself over an organization,” Noah said. “It goes back to the role model versus the teacher. A lot of companies will teach about diversity and inclusion, but they are not being a role model in DEI. It is especially important to elevate people who are role models into positions of leadership, because even if they are not saying anything, there are elements of their essence that will fundamentally go into the business and shape it.”

The annual breakfast also served as an opportunity for the Urban League to award and honor community trailblazers for their service. Awardees featured several well-known Black women in the Seattle region, including Phillips, a local philanthropic arts activist who received the organization’s Legacy award; and Andrea Caupain, co-founder and co-executive director of BIPOC ED Coalition, who received the President’s award.

Seattle took center stage for the advance screening of George Clooney’s film, The Boys in the Boat. Clooney, accompanied by his wife, Amal, attended the event along with the books’ author, Daniel James Brown, and the late Joe Rantz’ daughter, Judy Rantz Willman. The film, which recounts the inspiring story of the eight University of Washington rowers triumphing against all odds in the 1936 Olympics, aimed to resonate with audiences. It conveyed a powerful message of unity, emphasizing the importance of coming together as a team in today’s polarized world. The advance release of the film served as the unofficial inaugural event at the newly reopened SIFF Cinema Downtown and also paved the way for the official reopening of the theater.

The University of Washington organized several previews, and the Seattle Rotary Mariners Group hosted a screening as well.

Transitioning to Seattle’s arts scene, both Seattle and Edmonds extended a warm welcome to international guests through the arrival of the Grand Kyiv Ballet’s enchanting production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the Paramount Theatre and the Edmonds Center for the Arts. Kateryna Kukhar and Oleksandr Stoianov, esteemed stars of the Grand Kyiv Ballet, portrayed the leading roles of Snow White and the Prince, respectively, having received recognition as People’s Artists of Ukraine. The cast, consisting of approximately 30 professional dancers (predominately Grand Kyiv Ballet members, most of whom originated from Ukraine), alongside several children from local ballet schools, contributed to the overall enchantment of the production.

Last month Seattle said goodbye to City Council Member Deborah Juarez. An American lawyer and judge for both King County Superior Court and Seattle Municipal Court, Juarez also served as president of the Seattle City Council. Elected in 2015, she made history as the first Native American  elected to the council. Juarez, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, grew up on the Puyallup Reservation in Tacoma with her five siblings. Throughout her career, Jaurez has been a tireless advocate for tribal rights, both in her legal practice and government roles. Her farewell gathering featured distinguished guests, including legendary former Sonics player and coach, Lenny Wilkens, Seattle Municipal Court Judge Anita Crawford-Willis, and Seattle Councilmember Sara Nelson, among others.

Numerous local and national celebrities came together to support Rise Above, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering Native youth. A celebrity golf “drive-off” hosted at Topgolf Renton by Seattle Mariners broadcaster Bill Krueger drew the participation of notable celebrities, including actor Danny Glover, star of the original Color Purple and Lethal Weapon, and several sports icons, including former NBA Seattle Supersonics player and coach Lenny Wilkens; and former Sonic Dale Ellis; former Seahawks Jordan Babineaux, Marcus Trufant, and Alonzo Metzo; and former and retired Seattle Mariners pitcher Charlie Furbush.

Jaci McCormack, a prominent presence in the Native community as a basketball star, is the visionary behind Rise Above. By uniting sports and entertainment, the drive-off sought to raise awareness and funds for several initiatives, including education, prevention skills, and mentorship programs.

The NHL Winter Classic at T-Mobile Park in Seattle kicked off 2024 with the Seattle Kraken securing a 3-0 victory over the Las Vegas Golden Knights. The Winter Classic spanned two days, including an event called “Cheers! To the Winter Classic” presented by the Medea Charitable Foundation and hosted by the NHL Alumni Association. The funds raised supported the association’s efforts to enhance the lives of its members, all former NHL players, through financial assistance, the commercialization of player rights, emotional support, physical care, post-playing career transition, and family aid, all aligned with its mission to ‘Honor the Past.’ Taking place at Emerald City Trapeze Arts in Seattle, the event featured a panel discussion with Wayne Gretzky, Paul Bissonette, and father-son hockey analysts Eddie and Nick Olczyk, moderated by TNT commentator Darren Pang. The evening was hosted by guest host and comedian Kelly Taylor, with entertainment provided by Kraig Neinhuis.

Happy New Year, Seattle!

About the Social in Seattle Column

Linda Lowry is the director of opportunity at Seattle magazine. She has a pulse on the greater Seattle region’s social landscape and provides insight on the people and personalities that make our city vibrant and unique.

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