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Why Chelsea Handler Quit: ‘I Needed to Exercise My Brain a Little More’

Chelsea Handler, Gloria Steinem==Ms. Foundation for Women Gloria Awards==Cipriani's, 110 East 42nd St., NYC==May 01, 2014==? Patrick McMullan==Photo - Ilir Bajraktari /
Chelsea Handler and Gloria Steinem. Photo: Ilir Bajraktari/Patrick McMullan

You’ve already read those amazing speeches from Gabourey Sidibe and Amy Schumer at last night’s Gloria Awards and Gala, but they weren’t the only ones who had something important to say at the ceremony, which doubled as an 80th birthday party for feminist icon Gloria Steinem. Departing late-night host Chelsea Handler was on hand, too, and she spoke in-depth for the first time over her decision to quit her E! chat show Chelsea Lately. “I said I’m leaving, and everyone said, ‘What’s your plan?’” recalled Handler, who replied, “‘I don’t have a plan. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m just done with this show. I want to move on. I want to exercise my brain a little bit more.’ And people said, ‘You can’t do that. You can’t leave a job in Hollywood when you have nothing lined up.’ I said, ‘Yes, I can. Watch me. I’m going to do that.’ And I did it. I mean, I’m not gone yet, I got a contract, but I’m gonna be gone. And it’s because of Gloria that women like us have those kinds of options.”

Handler was full of praise for Steinem, saying, “I think it took an elegant woman like Gloria to knock down so many stereotypes and so many doors, so that some other not-so-elegant women could walk through or barrel through those doorways and then knock them down a little bit more.” That’s the reason why Handler could become one of the very few women ever to host a late-night show, she said, and the reason why she employs a staff of 150 people that is more than half comprised of women: “I don’t hire women because they’re women, I hire women because that’s the natural thing for another woman to do. You hang around with other women. If you’re a normal woman, you hang around with other women. Or you’re up to something.”

Handler closed with her most direct Steinem shout-out: “My favorite Gloria quote ever is, ‘A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and the full humanity of women and men.’ So it’s not just about women helping women, because they’re women. It’s about women helping women, and women helping men, and men helping women. And there’s room for all of us, if you just slide over a little and don’t hog all the spotlight … I hope we’re all sitting here in ten years, and celebrating Gloria’s 90th birthday, so I can come back in ten years and say, ‘Oh my God, I had to hire men. They wouldn’t stop bitching, ‘It was getting so unfair!’”

Chelsea Handler Quit Show to ‘Exercise My Brain’