Gene Siskel Summer Soirée with Gwyneth Paltrow

Lights, Camera, Action! On Saturday night, the Ritz-Carlton Chicago was all that and more. Academy Award-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow flew in to the Windy City to receive the Gene Siskel Film Center Renaissance Award. Over two decades of acting, Ms. Paltrow has appeared in more than 40 films.

The Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) celebrated its 41st year with its annual gala on June 15. Hosted by Eda Davidman and Melissa Sage Fadim, the co-chairs welcomed a sold-out crowd of 445 guests, raising over $410,000. Proceeds benefit the film programming and educational initiatives of the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Adorned in a striking, white Alexander McQueen dress and Pomellato jewelry, Ms. Paltrow is a pulchritudinous women – stunning, elegant and gracious. Aside from a successful acting career, Ms. Paltrow has modeled for Calvin Klein, Estée Lauder, Tod’s, Coach, Hugo Boss’s new scent “Boss Jour Pour Femme,” and was voted People magazine’s ‘Most Beautiful Woman” this year. There’s no question she deserves it all. Not just another beautiful face, Ms. Paltrow recently published her third cookbook and manages her lifestyle website Yes, some women have it all

During the evening, Ellen Sandor, an alumna of the SAIC and 10-year member of the Gene Siskel Film Center’s Advisory Board, was honored for her leadership and major contributions to the film center. An honorable mention was also bestowed upon the late Roger Ebert and his legacy.

“It’s a privilege to honor Ms. Paltrow, one of the most versatile actresses working today, with the Gene Siskel Film Center’s award,” says Gene Siskel Film Center of the SAIC Executive Director Jean de St. Aubin. “The diversity of characters she has portrayed on the screen, from the deft romance and comedy of Shakespeare in Love and Sliding Doors, to her heart-rending performances in Proof and Contagion, is truly impressive. Audiences have come to know Ms. Paltrow from the honesty and intelligence she exudes, and we look forward to hearing about her inspirations and favorite memories when we celebrate her many accomplishments.”

Prior to the dinner, I chatted with Ms. Paltrow. On discussing what’s more challenging, her acting career or role as a mom, Ms. Paltrow shares, “They have different challenges. I think being a mother is challenging in a different way than doing ‘work work.’ I feel more personally challenged being a mother. It has offered me incredible opportunities to look at my own stuff and my own damage and to really try to parent consciously. Being a mom is exhausting; it’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I adore my children [Apple, 9, and Moses, 7].”

Ms. Paltrow wasn’t the only star on hand. Guests were also graced with the presence of Amanda de Cadenet, British host and co-producer of The Conversation on Lifetime television, and acclaimed photographer. Ms. Paltrow and Ms. de Cadenet are friends in London with a lot in common. Both women have two children each around the same age, and each woman married a rock star.

On her TV show, Ms. de Cadenet has conducted interviews with Chelsea Handler, Jane Fonda, Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Diane von Furstenberg, among others. On who’d be the ultimate female interview for The Conversation, Ms. de Cadenet shares, “Hillary Clinton. I love Hillary. I want to introduce her to a generation of women that aren’t so familiar with her – other than being Bill Clinton’s wife.”

How does Ms. de Cadenet balance her career with being a mom? “Being a mom to twins is really hard. I always ask people who have twins if they are either crazy or insane? Having two children at once is difficult, however, they always have each other for playdates.” On having a career and being a mom, “The combination is what’s hard. If I was just raising children, that is a really tough job. But raising children and having a career is a juggling act. It’s always a question of someone suffering and it is generally me. Not many breaks in between.”

Before dinner, a congratulatory video was shown from Ms. Paltrow’s Iron Man series co-star, Robert Downey Jr., appearing with his wife Susan Downey, advisory board member of the Gene Siskel Film Center. The delectable dinner was inspired by Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbooks My Father’s Daughter and It’s All Good. A creative combination of items from the cookbooks were tagged with movie titles from films that Ms. Paltrow has appeared in, including the main entree: “The Talented Mr. Ripley and Marge Sherwood Duo,” which consisted of seared beef tenderloin, chimichuri sauce and slow cooked wild halibut with tomato fondue, accompanied by roasted tri-colour carrots and lentil du puy.

Following dinner, Ms. de Cadenet conducted a Q&A with Ms. Paltrow while viewing clips from her extensive acting career. Ms. Paltrow discussed why how she chose film roles throughout the years, while turning down others. At the end of the evening, SAIC President Walter E. Massey presented Ms. Paltrow with the Renaissance Award while praising her as an accomplished actress, cookbook author and founder of lifestyle website

What a memorable night!

Bob Carl Photograph


About Cindy Burns

Currently writing for TCW's 'Woman About Town' column, Cindy Burns covers Chicago's social scene, events, fashion, and interviews women and men who are making a difference in the world. With an M.A. in American History from DePaul University, Ms. Burns is an author, freelance writer, avid reader and researcher. Ms. Burns has spent over 20 years serving on charitable boards and organizations, and currently serves as a member of the Women's Board of the Joffrey Ballet and the Women's Auxiliary Board of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicago. She is also an Honorary Member of the Children's Service Board of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital. When Ms. Burns isn't running around Chicago covering current events, you can find her biking, on the tennis courts, or hiking in a mountainous region of her choice.