ESSENCE shares highlights from 6th annual ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon
ESSENCE honored six of the industry’s most inspiring African-American female talents in front of an audience of A-list celebrities and powerful executives from the film and television community, at what has come to be known as one of Oscar Week’s most moving and anticipated events. Boldfaced names such as Naomi Campbell, Jennifer Hudson and Kelly Rowland gathered to celebrate the achievements of Oprah Winfrey (Power Award), Alfre Woodard (Vanguard Award), Gabrielle Union (Fierce & Fearless Award), Mara Brock Akil (Visionary Award), Naomie Harris (Lincoln Shining Star Award), and 2013 Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis (Breakthrough Performance).
The ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood luncheon was created to honor exceptional women, who “despite having made extraordinary strides in film and television, are often unrecognized,” as stated Michelle Ebanks, President of ESSENCE Communications. “We laughed, we cried, and were inspired, as we proudly acknowledged six outstanding women who exemplify the ‘Power of Our Presence’.”
Ms. Winfrey was joined by nine very special guests, who included the second graduating class from her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa and actor David Oyelowo, who portrays the son of Oprah’s character in the upcoming film The Butler. Oyelowo presented Ms. Winfrey with the Power Award, and upon her acceptance she thanked ESSENCE for being an inspiration in her life as well as for all black women. Ms. Winfrey commented, “The truth is, I try not to let other people define for me whether I have power… I know who I am, and the thing about power for me is that it’s connected to a source that’s obviously greater than myself.”
Noted actors Blair Underwood and Mechad Brooks were on hand to present the Vanguard Award to Alfre Woodard. As an additional surprise, she was presented with a heartfelt letter from First Lady Michelle Obama honoring all her work.
Former Think Like A Man co-stars Michael Ealy and close friend Sanaa Lathan, bestowed upon Gabrielle Union an inspirational presentation. A tearful Ms. Union accepted her award reflecting on her career, stating, she is “now walking in her truth.”
The stellar cast of the beloved BET hit show, “Girlfriends” (Tracee Ellis Ross, Jill Marie Jones, Golden Brooks and Persia White) reunited to present their producer and show creator Mara Brock Akil with the Visionary Award. An emotional Mara thanked her peers for always supporting her as she continues to create and give a voice to the African American experience.
Naomie Harris was presented the Lincoln Shining Star Award by hip-hop icon and former co-star Common who gave an impromptu freestyle performance, which was a very welcome surprise.
In a true “coming full circle” moment, the talented Jurnee Smollett-Bell presented the Breakthrough Award to Quvenzhané Wallis. Jurnee herself was the recipient of the Award six years earlier at the Inaugural Essence Black Women in Hollywood event. Wise beyond her nine years, Miss Wallis thanked everyone who made this moment possible.
Essence Black Women in Hollywood attendees were serenaded by Grammy Award winning recording artist Miguel, who performed his hit single “Adorn.”
The yearly star-studded affair commemorated ESSENCE magazine’s annual Hollywood issue (March), which arrived to newsstands on February 8th.