Essence Black Women In Hollywood 2013

Oprah Winfrey, Alfre Woodard, Naomie Harris, Mara Brock Akil, Gabrielle Union and Quvenzhane Wallis Honored at the Essence Black Women In Hollywood 2013 Luncheon


Oprah Winfrey had tears in her eyes as she accepted the Essence Power Award at the magazine’s Black Women in Hollywood luncheon Feb. 21 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Calling Essence her bible growing up, she thanked the magazine for, among other things, being the first to approach her for a national cover story when she started her television show.  She said the magazine called her a self-made millionaire and listed how much money she would make that year. 

“I said, Whoa. If Essence says it, it must be true,” Winfrey said, “So I thank you for that great prophecy, Essence, that has come true.”

Continued Winfrey, “There’s nothing better than being honored by your own.” She then talked about how she learned – in her 4,651 shows –  that all people – no matter who they are or what their story – want to be seen, to be heard and to matter ”I’m grateful,” Winfrey concluded, “that you see me and that you heard me and that what I have said has mattered.”

The luncheon also honored Quvenzhane Wallis with the Breakthrough Performance Award; Naomie Harris with Lincoln Shining Star Award, named for the presenting sponsor; Alfre Woodard with the Vanguard Award; Mara Brock Akil with the Visionary Award; and Gabrielle Union with the Fierce & Fearless Award. 

(Check out the photo gallery below to see pictures from the luncheon.) 

This was truly a distinguished group…

– Wallis, star of “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” at 9 is the youngest-ever Oscar nominee for Best Actress. She thanked Essence, God and her babysitter, among others, on accepting her Essence Award.

– In “Skyfall,” Harris played more than just another Bond girl; the movie ended with her (spoiler alert!) as the new Miss Moneypenny.

– A message from Michelle Obama preceded the presentation to Woodard.

– Among other accomplishments, Akil has been executive  producer of the TV s”Girlfriends,” “The Game,”  and “Being Mary Jane;” and a producer and writer of “Sparkle.”

– Union’s speech about the importance of speaking truth was so moving that when Harris came to accept her award, the British actress disregarded her prepared remarks and instead said she felt she had flown thousands of miles to hear Union’s speech.

The afternoon also held other surprises, such as Miguel, who delivered a dynamic performance between the official presentations.  Then, too, Common filled in for a temporary glitch in the video system by brilliantly improvising a poem about the honorees.

So much emotion, combined with such a strong spirit of kinship, permeated the room that many tears were shed before the lunch ended well past 4:00 p.m. That said, no one seemed to be in a rush to skip the dessert course and leave. For the invitation-only crowd, there could be no better way to spend an afternoon. 

Presiding over the event were Michelle Ebanks, Essence communications president; Emil Wilbekin, Essence editor-at-large; and Mikki Taylor, Essence editor-at-large.

The star-studded list of presenters included Michael Ealy, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, David Oyelowo, Blair Underwood, Golden Brooks, Persia White, Tracee Ellis Ross, Jill Marie Jones and Mehcad Brooks.

As for me, I had the great pleasure of being seated with the very charming stylist J. Alexander of “America’s Next Top Model; and director Ava Duvernay, Emayatzy Corienaldi and Lorraine Toussaint of “Middle of Nowhere,” an independent film that has had 18 nominations and has already won the Best Director award at Sundance and  the Gotham Breakthrough Award. Oyelowo, who presented the Essence award to Oprah, stars in “Middle of Nowhere;” he will also appear with Oprah in the upcoming film, “The Butler.”

More guests were Holly Robinson Peete, Niecy Nash, Tatyana Ali, Shaun Robinson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Jill Scott, Garcelle Beauvais, Meagan Good, DeVon Franklin and Naomi Campbell.

Other sponsors were L’Oreal Paris, smartwater, Target and Geico.


Top Photo: Honoree Oprah Winfrey at the Essence Black Women In Hollywood 2013 Luncheon (photo:

Second Photo: Common brilliantly improvised a poem to fill in a temporary glitch in the video system at the Essence Black Women In Hollywood 2013 Luncheon (photo:

Third Photo: Gabrielle Union gave such a moving speech that virtually everyone who followed referred to her moving words at the Essence Black Women In Hollywood 2013 Luncheon (photo:

Fourth Photo: Miguel delivered a dynamic performance between the official presentations at the Essence Black Women In Hollywood 2013 Luncheon (photo:



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Essence Black Women In Hollywood 2013

Published Feb. 21 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA