17 Quotes That Gave Us Life on the ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Red Carpet

A-listers were swarming the ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood red carpet this afternoon, where they spouted their timeless, brilliant wisdom. Take a look at some of our favorite quotes from their interviews, and be sure to catch the ceremony in its entirety on Saturday, Feb. 21 at 10 p.m. ET on OWN.

Ava DuVernay on prepping for the Oscars: My sister’s coming out from Montgomery, Ala. We’re going to eat like crazy the night before, then try to fit into the dress. 

Shonda Rhimes on her Black leading ladies: These are the roles that Black women should’ve been playing all along. We all know that Black women are complex, talented women, so it’s nice to see that everybody else is seeing it, too.

Niecy Nash on being au natural on HBO’s “Getting On”: When the producers come around and give you a hug, you think they’re being endearing… But it’s a Spanx check.

Sharon Leal on filming sex scenes: It’s very technical. My boyfriend is happy about that, as is my dad and my mother.

John Legend on his musical inspiration: It started with my grandmother, who played at my church when I was growing up and taught me how to play gospel music. 

Jeanette Jenkins on the importance of exercising: I really do think that it’s so important that everyone, all generations, whether you’re in front of the camera or behind, to be strong in mind, body and spirit. 

Tika Sumpter on why she doesn’t buy expensive shoes: I can put that money in an IRA account.

David Oyelowo on his mentors: I have been the beneficiary of some incredible Black women in Hollywood, some of them being Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay.

Tracee Ellis Ross on her size 7 shoes: I have the teeniest little feet. I don’t know how I can stand up.

Tia Mowry on her professional revelation: You think that [these honorees] got here quickly or it was extremely easy, but no, that’s not always the case. It’s really nice to know that these women have amazing stories, they’ve gone through trials, tribulations, they’ve needed to hold onto their faith and believe in themselves.

Regina King on the importance of learning: I hope that I’m learning until the day I die. I hope that with my last breath, a lesson was learned right before.

Mara Brock Akil on scoring an invite to ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood: The men are a little jealous that they don’t get to come!

Lorraine Toussaint on the next generation: When I see young women like Gugu [Mbatha-Raw], Uzo [Aduba], Danielle [Brooks]—it’s the future.

Jurnee Smollett-Bell on tear-jerking moments: When I cry, I cry ugly.

Kelly Rowland on motherhood: I absolutely am in love with my son. He is God’s greatest gift to my life.

ESSENCE short film contest winner Iman N. Milner on being a young filmmaker: There’s nobody to fall back on but yourself.

Uzo Aduba on sharing the stage with fellow BWIH honorees: I feel like I’ve been matriculated into this sorority, which I love.

Carmen Ejogo on her formalwear: This was literally in the back of my closet. It’s one of those special dresses that you keep for a special occasion, and this was a special occasion.