It was quite an afternoon at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Thursday, Feb. 19, as Hollywood stars gathered to celebrate the achievements of Black women in front of and behind the camera at Essence magazine’s highly touted and coveted Oscar week celebration, the eighth annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon.
A ticket to this affair was much like gold, cherished. As this year’s guest of Colgate Optic White, this writer marked this date on her social calendar as a must attend. I am so glad I didn’t miss it. There were so many tears and cheers, hugs and kisses, I walked away feeling enriched and ready to conquer the world. Entertainers from film, TV and music attended to support the impressive list of honorees, including the 2015 Vanguard Award winners: Adrienne C. Moore, Danielle Brooks, Laverne Cox, Lorraine Toussaint, Samira Wiley, Uzo Aduba and Vicky Jeudy of the Emmy Award-winning series “Orange Is the New Black”; powerhouse actress/director Regina King, who captured the Fierce & Fearless Award; breakout British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who was bestowed the Lincoln Breakthrough of the Year Award; and Academy Award-nominated costume designer Ruth E. Carter, who accepted the Visionary Award.
Lupita Nyong’o couldn’t hide she’s a “Orange Is the New Black” fanatic as she presented their award. The personal touch was quite charming and she looked stunning in a brightly-colored graphic printed dress.
Brooks, who spoke on behalf of the honored cast, was very transparent and authentic, “We’ve all been told we’re too tall, too fat, too black, not woman enough. The one thing that I feel like I’ve learned by being on ‘Orange’ is that we are enough just the way that we are. We’re stripped of the makeup and the hair and we can’t hide behind the outfits, and people are having to connect with the core of these characters. … We hope that we continue to inspire people to bring to life all that we are, all of the essence of who we are.”
King was so adorable at the podium following the tribute video that mentioned she has enjoyed a 30-year career that started as a child actress on “227,” with Marla Gibbs. “I’m only 32,” she quipped and went on to share, “It is such an amazing feeling to be in a room that’s filled with so much talent, strength and, above all, grace. You guys, from the moment I stepped on that carpet — oh my God — I’ve worked with d— near half the room! And those that I haven’t, you’ve been my friends, and I’ve always felt your energy.”
But it was David Oyelowo who stole the show while onstage by sharing with Mbatha-Raw the things they have in common, like both attending Oxford and then he introduced his adorable daughter, Zoe, who co-presented the award, in front of an audience that included Oprah Winfrey, Shonda Rhimes, Tracee Ellis Ross, Gina Prince Blythewood, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Garcelle Beauvais, Niecy Nash, Sharon Leal and a host of Hollywood execs.
“I want to thank you Gugu because I have a 3-year-old daughter and images are going to affect her. You are presenting her with images that I love. Three-dimensional, layered; what it is to be both black and white at the same time,” he praised. At this point, I was too mushy and emotional to give a standing ovation.
John Legend and Common gave a phenomenal performance of their Golden Globe winning single, “Glory.” Legend also performed his love ballad, “All of Me,” and followed it with a shout-out to Winfrey saying, “Oprah said ‘All of Me’ was going to be a huge hit and everyone would have it in their weddings — nd of course, Oprah was right.”
OWN will air a prime-time special on Saturday, Feb. 21, at 10 p.m. EST, featuring highlights and exclusive interviews. The special will be hosted by Tracey Edmonds and Shemar Moore.
Keep up with our conversation and coverage on social media using #BrilliantSmile and #BlackWomenInHollywood.
(Photos by Mike Melendy for Steed Media Service)