“Every actor and actress is possessed of the absorbing passion to create something distinctive and unique.“–Hattie McDaniel Hattie McDaniel was the first African American to win an Oscar in 1939 for her portrayal of Mammy in “Gone With the Wind.” Since that time, there have only been five Black women to win an Academy Award for acting in its 82-year history. Hattie McDaniel for Best Supporting Actress in “Gone With the Wind” (1939) Halle Berry for Best Actress in “Monster’s Ball” (2001) Whoopi Goldberg for Best Supporting Actress in “Ghost” (1990) Jennifer Hudson for Best Supporting Actress in “Dreamgirls” (2006) Mo’Nique for Best Supporting Actress in “Precious” (2010) Those numbers seem small to me in comparison to the wealth of African American actresses and talent in the marketplace. As I sat in the Crystal Ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel at The 3rd Annual ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood luncheon, those numbers seem even more staggering. This was a celebration of sisters who can act, perform, direct, write and produce. It was a room filled with some of the most incredible, creative, dramatic and powerful women in the entertainment industry: Angela Bassett, Suzanne de Passe, Alfre Woodard, Viola Davis, Jada Pinkett Smith, Robi Reed-Humes, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Tracey Edmonds, Vivica A. Fox, Tracee Ellis Ross, Keke Palmer, Taraji P. Henson, Nia Long, Victoria Rowell and many, many more. This year ESSENCE honored Cicely Tyson, Queen Latifah, Zoe Saldana, Gabourey Sidibe and Mary J. Blige. I had the great fortune to do one-on-on interviews with some of the honorees for a video that will be posted on the site on ESSENCE TV this week. When I tell you, these ladies were all real, humble and present… It was a pleasure to talk with them about the power of this luncheon and their favorite movies of all time. A room full of strong Black women whom you’ve seen on TV, cable, DVD and film your whole life is a very moving and surreal experience. The overwhelming sense at this intimate affair was about self-realization–sisterhood. You could feel the love. These Black women had a shared experience and bond because of their craft, careers and creative aspirations. Of course their race, skin color and cultural backgrounds give them a deep and emotional connection in Tinseltown and the City of Angels. They are sisters in the cinematic struggle and they were celebrating their successes. Here are some of my own images from behind-the-scenes at ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood. Thank you ladies for being you and inspiring our world. Keep up the great work. We need to see more of you. Encore!!!
- Special shout out to our ESSENCE.com celebrity bloggers who were in the house: Tichina Arnold, Malinda Williams and Joy Bryant.