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• At this stage of her life, Natalie Merchant says she's more proud of getting an honor named for John Lennon because of what it says about her activism rather than her music. The singer is the sixth recipient of the John Lennon Real Love Award, and will headline a tribute concert to the former Beatle in New York on Dec. 6. "It's gratifying," Merchant said in an interview. "To have any connection to John Lennon, especially with activism, is quite prestigious and meaningful to me because he was one of the main artists who inspired me when I was growing up to think about the wider world and my impact on it." Merchant, 55, records and performs sporadically now and, aside from guiding her teenage daughter through high school and into college, said her activism takes up most of her time. Merchant volunteers three times a week for a Head Start program near where she lives in New York's Hudson Valley, helping disadvantaged children. She often performs free concerts for children. She got to know Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, when they worked on the anti-fracking movement in upstate New York. "These projects, for a good reason, they suck your life blood," she said. "I began to see these projects as much more important than making another Natalie Merchant record." Joan Osborne, Rachael Yamagata and Sam Amidon are among the other artists who will perform at the annual Lennon tribute, now in its 39th year.

Jennifer Aniston was honored at the 11th annual Variety Power of Women luncheon along with Awkwafina, Chaka Khan, Mariah Carey, Brie Larson and Disney Television Studios chairman Dana Walden. The luncheon boasted a roster of A-list guests who charmed and inspired the crowd of entertainers and industry insiders with speeches about their charitable causes and their commitment to empowering women in the industry. Aniston wiped tears away as she recalled meeting a young girl fighting cancer at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. "Every child deserves to know that they are seen and heard," she said, remembering a time when an adult told her, at 11, that she didn't have anything interesting to say. She said she carried that sentence with her into adulthood and often finds herself feeling like that 11-year-old at dinners. The Morning Show star said her Friends mom Marlo Thomas introduced her to the hospital, which she has been working with for 25 years. And she said the past two years in the industry, after the rise of #MeToo, has made her think a lot about the messages "we send" young kids and girls. "The things we say and do can either build them up or tear them down and make them feel like maybe their voices don't matter," Aniston said.

Photo by Invision
Jennifer Aniston

A Section on 10/13/2019

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