ESSENCE is ushering in a new decade of award seasons and continuing our 50-year tradition of putting Black women first with our 2020 Black Women In Hollywood awards, presented by Ford and sponsored by AT&T Humanity of Connection, Geico, L’Oréal Paris and Netflix
Returning to the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, CA on February 6, our highly-anticipated annual celebration will shine a deserving spotlight on several Black women in Hollywood who are owning their narratives and transforming the art of storytelling.
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The coveted Oscar-week event is set to honor: Emmy Award-winning actress, comedian, director and producer Niecy Nash; DGA nominated director and two-time Grammy Award winning music video director Melina Matsoukas ; actress Lashana Lynch; and trailblazing cast and co-executive producer/director/writer of Pose (Janet Mock, Mj Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, Angelica Ross and Hailie Sahar).
Niecy Nash as written by Regina Robertson for ESSENCE
Years before embarking on the role of the ever-enterprising boss Desna Simms on Claws, Nash was the one who brought the laughs. But even as she was cutting up on Reno 911!, sashaying on Dancing With the Stars and hosting Clean House (for which she won a Daytime Emmy), Nash knew she had more to offer. Convincing Hollywood gatekeepers she could bring the drama required some patience. “For a long time, the industry was polite, but they were like, ‘Dear, you have a lane. You do broad comedy. Stay over there,’ ” she says. “I had to be a lady-in-waiting and bide my time until they started to recognize.” Last fall, she tugged on our heartstrings with her portrayal of the mother of Central Park 5’s Korey Wise in the Netflix series When They See Us. She helped paint a vivid portrait of a community fractured by the legal system and shined a national spotlight on the men we now know and celebrate as the Exonerated Five. For Nash, who at age 5 set out to be “Black, fabulous and on TV” after seeing Lola Falana on-screen, art is about entertainment and upliftment. “My ‘job’ is what I do, but my ‘who’ is to be of service in the world,” she says. “You have to find those places where you are called to serve.”
Melina Matsoukas as written by Joi-Marie McKenzie for ESSENCE
For Matsoukas, a first-time feature director, the audience she’s aiming to reach with Queen & Slim is clear: While it’s for general consumption, it’s particularly for Black people to remember who they are. “I’m just trying to speak to us—from us, by us,” she says. “I’m a Black woman, and I just speak my truth.” Born and bred in the Bronx, the daughter of a Jamaican and Afro-Cuban mom and a Greek and Jewish father, Matsoukas developed an artistic clarity that prepared the director for her earlier work, shaping music videos for music’s biggest stars: Beyoncé, Whitney Houston, Rihanna, J. Lo and more. That work garnered her Grammy Awards for music direction for Rihanna’s “We Found Love” and Beyoncé’s “Formation.” However, in 2017, a career-shifting stint directing Lena Waithe’s award-winning “Thanksgiving” episode on Master of None solidified their collaboration and led Matsoukas and Waithe to team up again for Queen & Slim. Waithe pens the script from a story by author James Trey, while Matsoukas makes her big-screen debut with the assurance of a born storyteller. “This film really taught me to trust my instincts and to know that we matter.”
Lashana Lynch as written by Cori Murray for ESSENCE
Last April, the filmmakers behind James Bond’s twenty-fifth movie hosted a global press conference at the GoldenEye resort in Jamaica. For rising actress Lynch, standing on the land that birthed her family—who would later migrate to Britain, where she was born—was surreal. Rumors had been swirling that she would inherit the role of 007; at this press event, Lynch’s part in such a huge plot twist was crystallized as those reports were confirmed. Weeks earlier, her Captain Marvel had scorched the box office, raking in more than $150 million on opening weekend. Her Bond film, No Time To Die, co-written Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge (along with Neal Purvis & Robert Wade, Scott Z. Burns with Cary Joji Fukunaga), arrives in April. “It’s going to be history-making,” Lynch says of the flick. “And that makes me feel very grateful for the kinds of -people who are making moves and waves in this industry.”
Janet Mock and the cast of ‘Pose‘ as written by Sydney Scott for ESSENCE
Setting a prime-time drama in the Black and Latinx New York City ballroom scene of the eighties and early nineties immediately caught our attention, but it’s the women at the helm of the groundbreaking series who make Pose what it is. As part of the first TV show in history to feature a large number of transgender actors—as well as trans activist Mock, who co-produces, writes and directs—these ladies are outspoken about trans rights and visibility, calling attention to women who often go ignored. “I’m waiting for our Black community to recognize our stories, because our stories are not just about us. They are about you too,” series star Angelica Ross said from the Emmys red -carpet. “They’re about our sisters, our mothers, our cousins and everyone else, and how they’re affected. Not only their missteps but how they learn to love us.”
The lunechon will also welcome a star-studded list of presenters to include EMMY, GRAMMY and Tony award-winning actor Billy Porter, with additional presenters will be announced at a later date.
“For fifty years, ESSENCE has remained committed to portraying and highlighting the triumphs, aspirations and dynamic lives of Black women,” said Michelle Ebanks, CEO of ESSENCE Communications, Inc. “The ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood luncheon has become an amazing platform to recognize and honor the unparalleled talents of Black women in an industry that often hasn’t. We celebrate all of our honorees this year for their fearlessness and strength as they boldly continue to own their narratives and share our stories.”
“ESSENCE is thrilled to commemorate the creative and critical achievements of Black women as originators, nurturers, makers and creators during our 13th Black Women in Hollywood awards luncheon,” said MoAna Luu, ESSENCE Chief Content & Creative Officer. “Whether they’re reclaiming our culture or dismantling traditional gender ideas, each of our honorees uplift us as they present their unique gifts on the screen and behind the camera. As ESSENCE celebrates 50 years of the power of our presence, we are proud to salute them all.”
ESSENCE’s January/February 2020 issue (on newsstands now) features its annual Black Women in Hollywood package highlighting each honoree. For more on all things Black Women In Hollywood, including highlights, behind-the-scenes access and more, visit Essence.com and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @essence.Share :