Exclusive Recap: Day One of The 2017 MAKERS Conference

The 2017 MAKERS Conference got underway on Monday at Terranea Resort in Ranchos Palos Verdes, Calif.

The event began with a surprise video message from Secretary Hillary Clinton. In her exclusive announcement, the MAKER boldly declared that despite many challenges, she remains convinced that "the future is female." Clinton remarked on the energy and momentum of January's Women's March. She urged the audience and future leaders everywhere that, "Now more than ever we need to stay focused on the theme of this year's conference #BEBOLD. We need strong women to step up and speak out. We need you to dare greatly and lead boldly."

Dyllan McGee, MAKERS' Founder and Executive Producer, and Samantha Leibovitz DeChiaro, MAKERS' VP and Creative Director, took to the stage following Clinton's message, welcoming everyone and unofficially dubbing the event "the meeting after the march." Underscoring the timeliness of the moment, their opening statement began, "What passed as bold in 2016, is not going to get us through 2017." The 2017 MAKERS Conference will be a time to roll up our sleeves and collectively write a blueprint for the future, they told the audience.

The first session continued with Feminist Writer, Activist, and Organizer Gloria Steinem and Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer. Spencer opened up to Steinem about her journey as an actress, and the gradual progression of the roles she has played. For many years, prostitutes and nurses were the primary roles she was offered. But Spencer explained that she learned when the time was right to say 'no.' "No is the most powerful word that you have in your vocabulary," she told the audience. Spencer also revealed that when she first got the email about doing "Hidden Figures," a film about three African-American women who made vital STEM contributions to the early NASA space program, she assumed "it was historical fiction because otherwise we would have known about these women."

Both Spencer and Steinem spoke to the importance of films like "Hidden Figures" and platforms like MAKERS to bring awareness to untold women's stories so that in another 50 years, history will be different. Spencer added of the movement MAKERS has created: "We definitely have to keep the momentum because four years is a long time."

In the audience Q&A that followed, Spencer spoke about her new role as a producer and her mission to tell unknown and diverse stories. "I want the movies I produce to show a broader spectrum of people in the world — all shapes and sizes, all religions," she said.

Closing out Monday night's opening session, Ella Bell, Professor at Dartmouth's Tuck Business School, spoke to the power of sisterhood. Bell invoked the wisdom of Sojourner Truth: "If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together, ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again." Bell's bottom line: We each stand on the shoulders of sisters who kicked the doors open for us, and we will never advance until the majority of women come together to work for gender equity and justice in a united front. Raising her arms, hand in hand with Steinem and Spencer, Bell declared, "Let the work begin!"

Monday evening concluded with a dinner that featured the exclusive live premiere of the MAKERS Podcast, available to download now on iTunes, with new episodes rolling out each week. Dinner guests got a preview of the first episode, featuring the emotional story of MAKER Maria Pepe, Little League's First Girl. The podcast will go deeper into the stories of the trailblazers like Pepe profiled on the site, with extended interview excerpts and commentary from host and MAKERS Senior Producer, Amanda McCall.

The dinner also premiered the MAKERS video for award-winning actress, activist, and feminist force-of-nature, Kathy Najimy. Najimy introduced the performances to follow, which she directed and curated exclusively for the conference. Najimy insisted that at this critical time, "Our voices must not be oppressed or shushed. Right now, our voices are the answer to our survival."

Actress, singer-songwriter, and columnist Zosia Mamet; award-winning actress and LGBT/HIV activist Debra Messing; actor and activist Rosie Perez; performed original monologues – each brutally candid, humorous, and poignant — about their lives.

See more highlights from the evening on social platforms below, and tune in for day two LIVE on Tuesday at 8:30am PST/11:30am EST.

NEXT: All About The 2017 MAKERS Conference »

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Gallery

Feminist activist Gloria Steinem opens The 2017 #MAKERS Conference with actress Octavia Spencer.

Ella Bell, Professor of Business Administration of Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth speaks on opening night of The 2017 #MAKERS Conference.

Ella Bell, Professor of Business Administration of Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth joins feminist activist Gloria Steinem and actress Octavia Spencer on stage at The 2017 MAKERS Conference.

Feminist Gloria Steinem greets Diane Von Fürstenberg Iconic Fashion Designer at The 2017 #MAKERS Conference.

Zosia Mamet, Gloria Steinem, Kathy Najimy, Octavia Spencer, Debra Messing and Rosie Perez pose for a photograph at The 2017 #MAKERS Conference. 

Zosia Mamet, actress, singer-songwriter and columnist delivers a speech at The 2017 #MAKERS Conference welcome dinner.