WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was feted at a lavish state dinner held in his honour Thursday night, where a star-studded gathering of dignitaries, business leaders and entertainers converged on the White House for the historic celebration of Canada’s leader.
Trudeau’s visit marks the 11th state or official visit of Barack Obama’s presidency but the first for a Canadian in 19 years.
The event was the ultimate intersection of the capitals of North American legislative power – Ottawa and Washington, D.C. – and Hollywood celebrity, with high-profile figures from the political and business arenas joining notable homegrown names from the world of entertainment on the high-wattage guest list.
Michael J. Fox stopped briefly to speak with reporters before heading into the dinner and was asked to share his thoughts on Canada’s new leader.
“He’s cool,” said the award-winning actor, standing alongside his wife, Tracy Pollan.
“I was a fan of his dad,” he added, referring to the late former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. “When I was a kid, I used to say we had the coolest world leader going. His son is pretty cool, too.”
Comedian and actor Mike Myers was virtually unrecognizable from his days on “Saturday Night Live”, sporting snow white hair and thick-rimmed glasses as he arrived at his first state dinner.
“I’m just so proud to be Canadian and American, the pomp and the ceremony of it all,” said the Toronto native, star of hit films including “Wayne’s World” and “Austin Powers.”
“When I lived in Canada, Pierre Trudeau was my prime minister for 14 years and he was my hero. … Now, I’m thrilled to have his son as my prime minister. I think it’s going to be a great time for Canada and a great time for Canadian-U.S. relations.”
Vancouver-born actor and “Deadpool” star Ryan Reynolds donned white tie alongside his wife, American actress Blake Lively, who wore a slinky silver Ralph & Russo dress boasting a plunging neckline. Canadian actress Sandra Oh of “Grey’s Anatomy” fame and Toronto-born “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels were also among the attendees.
The prime minister and his wife, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, were warmly greeted by the president and his wife, Michelle, upon their arrival at the glitzy gala. Trudeau and Obama looked sleek in tuxedos alongside their elegantly attired wives.
Michelle Obama wore a strapless midnight blue floral jacquard gown with asymmetrical draping designed by Vancouver-raised designer Jason Wu. The New York-based Wu also dressed Michelle Obama for both of her husband’s inaugural balls.
Gregoire-Trudeau opted for a boldly hued choice wearing a cap-sleeved embroidered purple dress by Canadian designer Lucian Matis. Earlier in the day, Gregoire-Trudeau wore another Matis design, a striking red and pink dress at this morning’s welcoming ceremony.
“She could have played it a little safer, but she went for colour and she went for high glam,” said longtime fashion journalist and TV host Jeanne Beker of Gregoire-Trudeau’s state dinner gown.
“I can’t remember being this excited for Canadian fashion.”
Trudeau’s mother, Margaret, and his in-laws were also among the invited guests.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, retired NBA star Grant Hill and his Canadian singer-songwriter wife, Tamia Hill were also on the guest list.
A host of senior Obama administration officials and advisers, U.S. and Canadian ambassadors, U.S. senators and Canadian cabinet ministers were joined by philanthropists and CEOs from companies including Xerox, United Parcel Service and global security and aerospace company Lockheed Martin.
In a humourous toast to Trudeau, Obama joked that the prime minister “may be the most popular Canadian named Justin” – likely a reference to pop superstar and Stratford, Ont., native Justin Bieber.
Guests at the swanky dinner dined on Alaskan halibut “casseroles” with cepes, delicate angel hair asparagus, chanterelles, baby onions, and lardon and herbed butter; followed by roasted apricot galette with Appalachian cheese, heirloom lettuces and pine nut crisps.
The menu featured ingredients from the Pacific Northwest to the Atlantic coast, and a nod to Canada with duck poutine among the canapes set to be served.
IN PHOTOS: The Trudeaus’ day in Washington D.C.
A maple pecan cake with cocoa nib wafer and butterscotch swirl ice cream was on the menu for dessert. There will also be a handmade sugar sculpture called “A View from the Mountain Top,” which was “inspired by the splendour of the Rocky Mountains, which extend from New Mexico to Canada.”
Pastries are also slated to feature “American and Canadian influences.”
The state dinner is being held in the East Room of the White House, and will also feature a performance by American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles.