Black Hollywood was out in full-force recently for Essence’s annual Black Women in Hollywood Awards Gala, which celebrated its 10th anniversary. Held at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, this year’s awards honored Hollywood’s “Next Generation” – all young entertainers with bright futures on the small and big screens.
This year’s awards honored writer/actress Issa Rae of HBO’s “Insecure”; musician and “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight” actress Janelle Monaé; Aja Naomi King of ABC’s “How To Get Away With Murder” and Yara Shahidi from ABC’s “Black-ish.”
Actress Gabrielle Union hosted this year’s ceremony, which will air on the Oprah Winfrey Network March 5.
The Black Women in Hollywood Awards each year highlights “ground-breaking” and “superbly talented” black women in Hollywood. Past award recipients include Viola Davis, Debbie Allen, Tracee Ellis Ross, Oprah Winfrey, Halle Berry, Cicely Tyson and Ava DuVernay, who covers Essence’s March issue.
In what has become one of the biggest pre-Oscar events in Hollywood, Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood Awards was attended by a host of movie and television actors, writers and publicists from several generations, including Diahann Carroll, Shonda Rhimes, Angela Basset, Courtney B. Vance, Alfre Woodard, Jurnee Smollet-Bell, Laverne Cox, Holly Robinson Pete, Sherri Shepard, Tyrese Gibson, Wale, Letoya Luckett, Quvenzhane Wallis, Debbie Allen, Tina Knowles-Lawson, Loni Love, Margaret Avery, and Kofi Siriboe and Common, who both delivered opening remarks for the program.
The award presentations were one of the highlights of the evening, as each presenter shared intimate, heartfelt stories about the honorees.
Academy-award nominee Viola Davis and actor Alfred Enoch presented their on-screen partner Aja Naomi King with the Lincoln “Shining Star” Award. Davis got emotional when introducing her castmate, saying“Aja, I love you, I can’t wait to see what you become.”
Issa Rae was presented with the Vanguard Award by director/actress Debbie Allen, who said Rae was an “OBG: original black girl.” During her acceptance speech, Rae spoke humorously about surviving her first trip on the red carpet at the Black Women in Hollywood Awards. “As soon as I walked inside, I was floored by the number of beautiful black women showing love to one another, black queens hugging, complimenting one another, doing that magic thing that black women do,” Rae told the audience.
Janelle Monaé received the “Breakthrough Award,” which was presented by artist/songwriter/producer Pharrell Williams, who is a producer for Hidden Figures. “She plays by her own rules and wins every time,” he told the audience. “She’s seamlessly transitioned from an incredible musician, into an incredible actress.”
Actress Tracee Ellis Ross introduced and presented the “Generation Next” Award to her “Black-ish” co-star Yara Shahidi, who at 17, runs a mentoring group called Yara’s Club, and recently participated in the Women’s March. “May you find acceptance, safety, joy and beauty in your own body,” Ross said as she introduced Shahidi. “May you stay curious, teachable, as an artist, as a girl with a platform, the invitation is set for you to continue to seek truth and to use your creative expression to deepen our understanding of humanity and to further social progress, and you will do so — brilliantly.”
The Black Women in Hollywood Awards also featured a performance from actress/singer Cynthia Erivo, who delivered a deep performance between honoree acceptances.
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