PHOTOS: Essence Black Women in Hollywood

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To kick off OSCAR weekend, ESSENCE— the number one media, technology and commerce company dedicated to Black women globallycelebrated extraordinary Hollywood visionaries and culture shifters during its 13th annual Black Women in Hollywood Awards, held Thursday, February 6, 2020 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA. ESSENCE‘s Black Women in Hollywood Awards was presented by Ford and sponsored by AT&T Humanity of Connection, Coca-Cola, Geico, Hulu, L’Oréal Paris, McDonald’s and Netflix.

WHO:
This year’s theme, in honor of the brand’s 50th anniversary, was a celebration of women owning, expanding and transforming the art of storytelling. The luncheon celebrated actress Lashana Lynch (Black Women In Hollywood Award Recipient); DGA nominated director and two-time Grammy Award-winning music video director Melina Matsoukas (Black Women in Hollywood Award Recipient); actress, comedian, director and producer Niecy Nash (Ford Vanguard Award Recipient); and the trailblazing cast and co-executive producer/director/writer of POSE Janet Mock, MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, Angelica Ross and Hailie Sahar (Black Women In Hollywood Award Recipients)

Alfre Woodard, Ava DuVernay, Billy Porter, Issa Rae and Kerry Washington served as presenters and award-winning musician, actress and television personality, Eve, hosted the event. Brittany Howard, lead vocalist and guitarist for the chart-topping, GRAMMY Award-winning band Alabama Shakes, performed a medley of funk, soul ballads from her solo album, Jaime.

Woodard presented Lynch with the first ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Award of the afternoon. Lynch graciously thanked her mother for being a powerful force of inspiration in her life. Speaking directly to her mother, she closed her speech by saying, “If I can be half the woman you are, I know I have succeeded. [Maria Rambeau] was a love letter to you and the hundreds and thousands of mothers who go above and beyond to raise their kids.” Her speech was met with a standing ovation by the tearful audience.

Rae presented the next award to Matsoukas, who candidly spoke about reclaiming her joy in the midst of injustice. Melina acknowledged Daughters of the Dust director, Julie Dash, as the “Black mother of cinema.” Melina also thanked her mother, Beyoncé, Rae and Lena Waithe for their contributions, not only to her life, but also for her success. To each of them, she proclaimed, “It is my honor to thank you today.”

Washington presented a special honorary tribute to the late iconic actress Diahann Carroll, who passed away last fall.

Porter stood proudly as he announced: “And the category is: Stand in Your Truth! None of us are free until we are all free. On this day, the conversation changes.” He was overcome with emotion and thanked ESSENCE for making a space for the LGBTQ community to be remembered and recognized before presenting Mock and the cast of POSE with their award. Mock’s words of hope, gratitude and affirmation filled the room. She stated: “It’s an honor to be in a space that celebrates and centers our stories. ESSENCE remains a vital intervention, choosing to see us, how we see ourselves, in a culture that rarely ever does. Thank you for seeing us.”

“Being an actress is what I do, but my who is to be of service to the world,” said Nash as she accepted the Vanguard Award presented by Ford. She spoke openly about her recent divorce, dispelling the family myth she inherited of being “nothing without a man,” publicly reclaiming her happiness and providing steps for everyone to do the same.

The invitation-only pre-OSCAR event was abuzz with Hollywood movers and shakers—from actresses to musicians, industry executives and more. Among the elite talent present were:

Aisha Hinds | Actress, 9-1-1
Aja Naomi King | Actress, How to Get Away With Murder
Angela Rye | Political Commentator
Angelica Ross | Actress, POSE
Arica Himmel | Actress, Mixed-ish
Akilah Hughes | Co-Host, What A Day
Ava DuVernay | Director, When They See Us
Bianca Lawson | Actress, OWN’s Queen Sugar
Billy Porter | EMMY, GRAMMY and Tony award-winning Actor, Pose
Boris Kodjoe | Actor
Bresha Webb | Actress, A Fall From Grace
Carrie Ann Inaba | Co-Host, The Talk
CCH Pounder | Actress, Avatar
Cory Hardrict | Actor, All Eyez on Me
Cynthia Bailey |Real Housewives of Atlanta
Cynthia Erivo | Actress, Harriet
Damson Idris | Actor, Snowfall
Danielle Brooks | Past Honoree
Da’Vine Joy Randolph | Actress, Selfie
Debra Lee | Businesswoman
Demetria Lucas | Writer
DeWanda Wise | She’s Gotta Have It
Dondre Whitfield | Actor, Queen Sugar
Ella Balinska | Actress, Charlie’s Angels
Ethiopia Habtemariam | Motown Records
Euzhan Palcy | Director, Sugar Cane Alley
Eva Marcille | Real Housewives of Atlanta
Eve | Event Host, Co-Host, The Talk
Gabrielle Glore | Producer
Gabrielle Union | Actress
Garcelle Beauvais | Actress, Spider-Man: Homecoming
Genevieve Nnaji | Actress & Director, Nollywood
Gina Prince-Bythewood | Past Honoree
Gina Torres | Actress, Suits
Hailie Sahar | Actress, POSE
Issa Rae | Actress & Presenter
Janelle Monáe | Singer, Actress
Janet Mock | Co-Executive Producer/Director/Writer, POSE
Jenifer Lewis | Actress, Black-ish
Jeremy Pope | Actor, Ain’t Too Proud
Julie Dash | Director, Writer, Producer
June Ambrose | Celebrity Fashion Stylist
Kandi Burruss | Actress
Karin Gist | Screenwriter, Camp Rock
Kasi Lemmons | Director, Harriet
Kerry Washington | Past Honoree – Presenter
Kiki Layne | Past Honoree
Kirby Howell Baptiste | Actress, Barry
Kym Whitley | Comedian & Actress
Lashana Lynch | Actress & Honoree
Laura Harrier | Actress, Spider-Man
Lena Waithe | Past Honoree
Lexi Underwood | Actress, Little Fires Everywhere
Logan Browning | Actress, Dear White People
Loni Love | Comedian
Loretta Devine | Past Honoree
Luvvie Ajayi | Author
Malinda Williams | Actress
Marie Osmond | Co-Host, The Talk
Marsai Martin | Actress, Black-ish
Melina Matsoukas | Director & Honoree
Melody Ehsani | Designer
Mikki Taylor | Editor-at-Large, ESSENCE Magazine
MJ Rodriguez | Actress, POSE
Nafessa Williams | Actress, Black Lightning
Natalie Emmanuel | Actress, Game of Thrones
Natasha Rothwell | Actress, Insecure
Naturi Naughton | Actress, Power
Niecy Nash | Actress & Honoree
Nina Shaw | Past Honoree
Numa Perrier | Actress
Phoebe Robinson | Actress & Host
Phyllis Yvonne Stickney | Actress
Quinta Brunson | Actress, A Black Lady Sketch Show
Robin Thede | TV Host, Comedian, Writer
Shahadi Wright Joseph | Actress, Us
Sharon Osbourne | Co-Host, The Talk
Sheryl Underwood | Co-Host, The Talk
Sidra Smith | Casting Director
Simone Missick | Actress, Luke Cage
Sir John Barnett | Makeup & Color Artist
Stella Meghie | Director, The Photograph
Storm Reid | Actress, Euphoria
Sylvia Rhone | President, Epic Records
Taylor Russell | Actress, Escape Room
Tia Mowry-Hardrict | Actress, Indivisible
Tika Sumpter | Actress
Tomi Adeyemi | American Novelist
Vanessa Williams | Actress
Victoria Mahoney | Director, Legally Blonde
Yvonne Orji | Actress, Insecure