The ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon Was Magic!
If I could have written this in glitter font, I would have. And you know how I feel about glitter (it reminds me of MySpace and BlackPlanet days of yore where our text shouted out at everyone). But I just feel all glittery and shiny about the ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon that I attended last Thursday in LA. This time last week, I was getting glammed up (details on that in my “What I Wore to the Luncheon” post)! *sings* Memoriessss from the corners of my mind…
I think it’s taken me a while to write about it because I couldn’t find the right words to capture the magic in the room. I’m still not sure I have them but I need to at least try.
There’s something truly special about being in a moment where you FULLY realize that what you’re experiencing is charmed. Being hyper-aware that one day you’ll look back at that very second and say “wow!” That’s what it was like for me, for FOUR HOURS. It was like winning a golden ticket.
I was especially thrilled to be experiencing it with my ace boon goon, Afrobella. She was working the Red Carpet as a Target Correspondent, and I was excited to be a part of Target’s coverage of the event, with the #CelebrateSisterhood conversation. That hashtag was perfect because it was certainly the point of the day. We NEED to celebrate Black women because our work is oft ignored and we don’t get the high fives we deserve enough. This is why this event was even more special. Celebrate sisterhood indeed.
Oh the awesome that was there. I couldn’t take pictures fast enough because everywhere I looked was someone whose work I’ve admired and loved for most of my life. I had just taken a picture of (and with) Margaret Avery from the Color Purple when Angela Bassett walked past me and told me “Wow your dress is beautiful!” I coulda DAHD on the spot! To my right, Bethann Hardison and Tai Beauchamp were having their own kiki. And I captured Nichelle Nichols living long and prospering and showing that GOOD Black don’t even wrinkle, let alone crack.
I reconnected with my girl Issa Rae, my writing shero Mara Brock Akil (who is one of the sweetest people), Adepero Oduye (who is so underrated and I’ve been a fan of since Pariah) and the gorgeous Tanika Ray. Adepero said she reads my blog. I was like “YOU SHUT YOUR FACE! FOR REAL???” This is why you can’t take me anywhere.
During the red carpet, I met/saw Regina King, Tracee Ellis Ross, Tichina Arnold, Loretta Divine, Tamera Mowry, Laila Ali, Common, Yvette Nicole Brown, Spike Lee, Holly Robinson Peete, Iyanla Vanzant, Tasha Smith, Michael Ealy (HE’S SO FAHN IN PERSON). Inside the luncheon, I was sitting at a table with Tatyana Ali and Garcelle Beauvais. Laz Alonzo was in the next table over. Kerry Washington (hey girl hey) sashayed past our table to head to hers 10 feet away while looking amazing. And Alice Smith performed and brought the house DOWN!
As my assistant interviewed Samira Wiley of Orange is the New Black, Brandy walks past and fangirls for a moment. Then she comes back just to tell Samira how much she loves her as Poussey. Samira starts tearing up because Brandy has been one of her favorite singers forever! And they hug and squeal and the mutual admiration has me grinning like a Cheshire cat. And I’m standing 2 feet away from the whole thing.
So much beautiful stuff happening! So much love was flowing in the space.
Do you see why I kept thinking “what is my life??” The Who’s Who of Chocolate Hollywood was in one room and I was amongst them.
But the real gems came when the honorees of the day spoke. So much grace was in that room and I tried to soak in their words (as I tweeted them).
First up was Lupita Nyong’o, who was presented with the Best Breakthrough Performance Award by Alfre Woodard. By now, you’ve probably seen the clip of her amazing speech, but in case you haven’t, watch it, absorb it and get your LIFE from it below.
Pssst. You see a glimpse of me behind Regina King for a hot second? MMHMM! 😀
If you can’t watch it, just read this excerpt:
“What my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul… And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade to that beauty.
*bites my fists* I’m not crying. My eyes are just allergic to these feels I feel! GOSH! There’s just no way not to love and respect this woman. Lupita, why must you ALWAYS slay us so effortlessly, with style, with talent and with such openness?
No, I didn’t get to meet Lupita because afterwards people surrounded her. She was a bit overwhelmed too, understandably. One woman thrust her phone in my hand and asked me to take a picture of her next to Lupita so I was 2 feet from her at one point. But there’ll be other opportunities for me to meet her. I chilled.
Kerry Washington and David Oyelowo presented incredible filmmaker and storyteller Ava DuVernay with the Visionary Award. Ava got up there and spoke about the importance of telling our stories, as complex beings. I just love her. She left us with this pearl:
“As a Black woman filmmaker I feel that’s my job: visibility. And my preference within that job is Black subjectivity. Meaning I’m interested in the lives of Black folk as the subject. Not the predicate, not the tangent. These stories deserve to be told. Not as sociology, not as spectacle, not as a singular event that happens every so often, but regularly and purposefully as truth and as art on an ongoing basis, as do the stories of all the women you love.”
COME ON AND SAY DAT!!!
By the way, this picture of me and Ava might be my favorite from the entire day.
Then, Oprah Winfrey and Sidney Poitier presented Cheryl Boone Isaacs (the first person of color to become the president of the Academy of Motion Pictures in its 86th years and the first woman since 1941) with the Trailblazer Award.
Cheryl placed this jewel in our laps to walk away with: “In 1939, Miss Hattie McDaniel was the first Black recipient of an Oscar. During that ceremony, she had to sit in the back of the auditorium. But on Sunday night, I am going to be sitting front and center.”
AMEN AMEN AMEN! LOOK AT GAWD!
I was honored to meet Cheryl afterwards and thank her for her work. Progress is slow but it’s happening and her presence on that stage is proof that we can make some leaps.
Plus, I think she’s a big reason why the 2014 Academy Awards was the best I’ve ever watched.
I still lack the words to adequately express what I walked away with. Everyone spoke truth to power and empowered me to keep on trucking.
Thank you to Vanessa K. Bush (ESSENCE’s Editor-in-Chief) for the vote of confidence she gives me every time we meet. Thanks to Target for having me #CelebrateSisterhood with one of my sisters, Afrobella. And shoutout to them for donating $50,000 to the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the luncheon, presented by Laysha Ward, Target’s President of Community Relations.
Mostly, thank you to everyone in that room for being so doggone epic and awesome that I just wanna say YAAAAASSSSSSSSSS every time I think about that luncheon.
And thank you ESSENCE Magazine for continuing a legacy of Black women doing dope things and getting props for it. Black women are EVERYTHING!
Check out the album on Facebook with more pics I took at the event!
Which of these quotes made you go “YESSSSS” the most?