Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon 2014

2014 ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood Luncheon - Arrivals
Lupita Nyong’o, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Ava DuVernay, Civil Rights Leaders Honored at Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon


One was well-advised to bring a hanky to the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon. At this annual affair, presented Feb. 27 by the Lincoln Motor Company, both the honorees and presenters spoke from the heart with an honesty not often seen at social events.

By clicking here, readers can find my story in the online edition of Los Angeles Times, which also appeared in the Sunday Image section of the Mar. 9 print edition with additional photos. Yet there was so much to say that a few more pictures and quotes are included on this page.

For the basics… this year’s honorees included Academy Award-nominated actress Lupita Nyong’o of “12 Years a Slave;” Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Academy; Sundance Film Festival winner Ava DuVernay for directing “Middle of Nowhere;” Stefani Saintonge, winner of the magazine’s short film competition; and leaders in the civil rights movement Diahann Carroll of “Julia,” Nichelle Nichols of “Star Trek,” Clarence Williams III of “The Mod Squad,” Denise Nicholas of “Room 222,” sports legend Jim Brown, and author/ poet Maya Angelou.

In keeping with the festive mood, bright cocktail dresses ruled, and in a tent set up for the reception at the Beverly Hills Hotel, L’Oreal passed out lipsticks for an added dash of glamour. Not that party-goers didn’t look gorgeous already.

From where I sat – between the glamorous Kerry Washington, stunning Jessica Oyelowo and her handsome husband David Oyelowo – it was hard to imagine a more attractive crowd. 

Nyong’o gave a remarkable speech, talking about a time she felt “unbeautiful” and prayed for lighter skin. She said she hoped her presence on screen and in magazines would help a young letter-writer who wrote to her, not only to feel the validation of her external beauty, “but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside.”

Taking the stage, the legendary Sidney Poitier said he had six adult children, all girls, and that he wished that they might cross paths with the women he’d witnessed that day. “I cannot begin to tell you how inspired I was, how inspired I am indeed, by what was said here – what is probably not said anywhere else in our country,” he said.

In recognition of the changing landscape for black women in Hollywood, Boone Isaacs noted that Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar in 1939 for her portrayal Mammy in “Gone With the Wind,” and yet, “During that ceremony Miss Hattie had to sit in the back on the auditorium. But on Sunday night,” Boone Isaacs said, “I’m going to be sitting front and center.”

Truly a star-studded affair, there to make presentations were – in addition to Poitier – Danai Gurira, Oprah Winfrey, Kerry Washington, Alfre Woodard, David Oyelowo, Spike Lee, Tonya Lewis Lee and from Essence: president Michelle Ebanks, managing editor Vanessa K. Bush and editor-at-large Mikki Taylor.

Alice Smith performed to an audience, which also included Angela Bassett, Naomie Harris, Gayle King, Garcelle Beauvais, Chaka Khan, Brandy Norwood, Laila Ali, Holly Robinson Peete, Niecy Nash, Jessica Oyelowo, Common, Michael Ealy, Regina King, Margaret Avery, Lynn Whitfield, Sharon Leal, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Yvette Nicole Brown, Tracee Ellis Ross, Shaun Robinson, producer Debra Martin Chase, casting director Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd, ABC Entertainment’s Channing Dungey, and many others.


Top photo: Honorees from left, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, Lupita Nyong’o and Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs at the Essence Black Women In Hollywood Luncheon 2014 (photo by Scott Kirkland/ PictureGroup)

Second photo: From left, producer Debra Martin Chase, Common and Shaun Robinson at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon 2014 (photo,

Third photo: ABC Entertainment’s Channing Dungey, left, and Kerry Washington of “Scandal” at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon 2014 (photo,

Fourth photo: Essence president Michelle Ebanks welcomes the distinguished audience to the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon 2014 (photo,

Fifth photo: Sidney Poitier, saying he was inspired by the speakers at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon 2014 (photo,



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Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon 2014

Published Mar. 5, 2014 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA