Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards

Octavia Spencer, Paula Patton, Kerry Washington, Pam Grier and Shonda Rhimes receive Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards


On ascending the podium at the fifth annual Essence Black Women in Hollywood awards luncheon, Richard Roundtree gazed at the A-list of African-American stars in the audience, and confessed that the Feb. 23 event was the first he’d attended.

“What the hell have I been missing?” said Roundtree, the star of “Shaft,” there to present the magazine’s “Legend Award” to Pam Grier, of “Jackie Brown” among other classic films.

The festive luncheon, held at the Beverly Hills Hotel, also honored Octavia Spencer, Academy Award nominee for “The Help;” Paula Patton of “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol;” Kerry Washington of “Ray;” and Shonda Rhimes, creator of “Private Practice” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Exceptional stars also presented the awards to this group of exceptional women, and included Emma Stone and Viola Davis of “The Help;” Lee Daniels, director of “Precious;” Chandra Wilson of “Grey’s Anatomy;” Adepero Oduye of “Pariah;” and Anne Sweeney, co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney ABC Television Group.

And there was no shortage of prominent men either.  “I’m here to support these beautiful, talented ladies,” said Dennis Haysbert of “24.”

Nor was the tragic death of Whitney Houston forgotten.

“We will always love the legendary Whitney Houston,” said Mikki Taylor, Essence editor-at-large and the day’s host. “Today and every day we give thanks for the gift to our life that was Whitney.”

A video of Houston followed, after which Jordin Sparks, the “American Idol” winner said a few words and then debuted the song “Look Into Your Heart” from the soundtrack of “Sparkle.” Sparks and Houston star in the film, which is slated for release in August.

“I had the amazing, amazing gift and honor of being able to work opposite Whitney Houston,” said Sparks. “She went from being this unreachable supernova pop star to my co-star, to being a mentor and a friend and someone who was very much like a mother figure towards me.” Calling the film Houston’s “baby,” Sparks added, “When you see this film, you are going to be so happy to see the joy that is on her face.”

Others filling the crowd were Jennifer Beals of “The L Word,” Walter Mosely, author of “Devil in a Blue Dress” and other best-sellers; Nichelle Nichols of “Star Trek;” Kelly Rowland of “The X-Factor;” Ahna O’Reilly of “The Help;” Holly Robinson Peete of “21 Jump Street;” Debra Martin Chase, producer of “Sparkle;” Salim Akil, director of “Sparkle;” Laila Ali of “Dancing with the Stars;” Tatyana Ali of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air;” Suzanne De Passe, producer of “Lonesome Dove;” Siedah Garrett, Oscar nominee for best song from the animated film, “Rio;” Shaun Robinson of “Access Hollywood,” Sharon Leal of “Guiding Light;” Niecy Nash of “Clean House;” Yvette Nicole Brown of “Community;” Marianne Jean-Baptiste of “Secrets & Lies;” Annie Ilonzeh of “Charlie’s Angels;” Jurnee Smollett of “Eve’s Bayou;” Tasha Smith of “Jumping the Broom;” Anika Noni Rose of “For Colored Girls;” Nicole Ari Parker of “Soul Food;” Kim Wayans of “In Living Color;” and Jill Scott of “Block Party.”

For such an affair, cocktail dresses ruled, as readers can see from the photos.

As for make-up, Essence president Michelle Ebanks reminded at the program’s start. “This is truly a waterproof mascara time.” This prediction was later evidenced by Patton’s teary-eyed acceptance speech and audience reaction to the Whitney Houston tribute. Ebanks shared the stage with editor-in-chief Constance C.R. White.

Never mind that guests began arriving before noon and the affair stretched until 4:00 p.m. At the close of ceremonies, few people were eager to leave.

“I feel like I could conquer the world here,” said Tika Sumpter of “Sparkle,” even before ceremonies began. “It’s a celebration of talented, beautiful women I look up to, women who are mentors in every aspect of the film industry – producers, directors, writers, actors – so many capable amazing women.”

Presented by Lincoln, the luncheon was also sponsored by L’Oreal Paris cosmetics and beauty company, the financial institution ING and Glaceau Smartwater. Moet provided champagne.


Photos from top: Kerry Washington of “Ray” and the upcoming TV series, “Scandal,” one of the honorees at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood awards luncheon (photo: Alex J. Berliner/ ABImages); Emma Stone of “The Help,” one of the presenters at the awards luncheon (photo: Alex J. Berliner/ ABImages); “Sparkle” producer Debra Martin Chase, left, with cast member Tika Sumpter. 



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Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards

Published Feb. 24, 2012 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA