Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards Gala
Aja Naomi King, Issa Rae, Janelle Monae and Yara Shahidi honored at Essence Black Women in Hollywood Gala
If you missed the Sunday Image section of the Los Angeles Times on Mar. 12, here’s my story about Essence Magazine’s fabulous 10th anniversary gala…
As he and Kofi Siriboe of “Queen Sugar” kicked off the 10th anniversary Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards, the rapper Common said, “Being in this room is much more than awards. Being in this room is about being acknowledged by your peers. It’s about looking in the mirror and loving the reflection.”
The Feb. 23 black-tie affair, presented by the Lincoln Motor Co. at the Beverly Wilshire, honored entertainment’s next generation including Aja Naomi King (“How to Get Away with Murder”); Issa Rae (“Insecure”); Janelle Monáe (“Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight”); and Yara Shahidi (“black-ish”).
“Just as these four talented young ladies have followed in the footsteps of those who came before them,” said the evening’s host Gabrielle Union (“Being Mary Jane”), “they are lighting up the path for those who are coming up behind them.”
An annual gathering that always blazes with star power, presenters included Viola Davis, Alfred Enoch, Debbie Allen, Pharrell Williams and Tracee Ellis Ross. Among guests were Shonda Rhimes, Laverne Cox, Alfre Woodard, Diahann Carroll, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Holly Robinson Peete, Cynthia Addai-Robinson and Quvenzhané Wallis. And for entertainment, there was Cynthia Erivo, the 2016 Tony Award-winning lead musical actress for “The Color Purple.”
In a night filled with great moments, here are six other highlights:
1. Essence editor in chief Van- essa De Luca and the magazine’s president Michelle Ebanks welcomed the crowd and acknowledged sponsors, resulting in a huge ovation for Planned Parenthood.
2. In presenting King her award, Enoch noted that she has “50% more names than anyone else” among her costars, before adding, “Aja is special.”
3. For her part, King talked about the importance of silencing inner critics and believing in yourself. “The thing is, it can be scary to get everything you’ve ever dreamed of because now I have something to lose,” she said.
4. “This is a huge full circle moment for me …” said Rae, explaining that the yearly event is her favorite. She called the event “the only one my publicist doesn’t have to force me to go to,” and the first one where she walked the red carpet and “got to breathe the same air as Oprah.”
5. Monáe spoke of letting the world know about black women as “subjects to study until the end of time,” saying, “It was black women like Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson that took you to space …” Then going off script, she added, “That it was black women, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe, three female protagonists, that have earned over $140 million gross right here in America.”
6. Shahidi, the final speaker, said she was “fortunate because you all have taught me by example what the role of the artist is — to disrupt, to remold and to create — to disrupt this faulty system, to remold the foundation of this country into one in which we are all given equal opportunities, and to create a space in which our underlying humanity is recognized and our differences are celebrated.”
Top photo: Tracee Ellis Ross, center, of “black-ish” with honorees Janelle Monae, left, of “Hidden Figures” and Yara Shahidi of “black-ish” at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards Gala (Photo by Earl Gibson III/ Getty Images for Essence)
Second photo: Honoree Aja Naomi King of “How to Get Away with Murder” at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards Gala (Photo by Leon Bennett/ Getty Images for Essence)
Third photo: Honoree Issa Rae of “Insecure” with Louis Diame at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards Gala (Photo by Leon Bennett/ Getty Images for Essence)
Fourth photo: Oscar and Emmy winner Viola Davis presented an award at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards Gala (Photo by Leon Bennett/ Getty Images for Essence)
Fifth photo: Gabrielle Union of “Being Mary Jane” hosted the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards Gala (Photo by Leon Bennett/ Getty Images for Essence)
Sixth photo: Kofi Siriboe, left, of “Queen Sugar” and the rapper Common kicked off ceremonies at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards Gala (Photo by Randy Shropshire/ Getty Images for Essence)
Seventh photo: Actor/choreographer Debbie Allen and singer/songwriter Pharrell Williams presented awards at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards Gala (Photo by Randy Shropshire/ Getty Images for Essence)
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Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards Gala
Published Mar. 13, 2017 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA