Reel Life: ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Honorees on Screen

A few things are evident about ESSENCE's Black Women in Hollywood class of 2013: they're driven with purpose, have incredible presence onscreen, and you can always count on them to steal the show. Between them we've counted three Oscar nominations, 11 Emmys and 11 NAACP Image Awards. This year's honorees—Oprah Winfrey, Alfre Woodard, Mara Brock Akil, Gabrielle Union, Naomie Harris and Quvenzhane Wallis—have given us plenty to be proud of onscreen and behind the scenes. Here's some of our favorite moments of these honorees from the big and small screen.

Yolanda Sangweni Feb, 13, 2013

1 of 15

The TV host put in a tremendous performance in her acting debut as the fiesty Miss Sofia in Steven Spielberg's adaptation of the Alice Walker novel. For her breakout performance, Winfrey was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

2 of 15

Winfrey played a former slave named Sethe in the film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Toni Morrison novel. She would later refer to the movie's failure at the box office as the worst moment of her career.

3 of 15 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks

Woodard played Carolyn Carmichael in the beloved 1994 film classic based on Spike Lee's life. Tough, yet loving, Carolyn was the kind of no-nonsense matriach we could all relate to.

4 of 15 Annette Brown/ Lifetime

In 2012, the four-time Emmy Award winner earned a Golden Globe nomination (Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film) for her role in Lifetime's remake of the film classic Steel Magnolias. In it, Woodard played the famously fiery Ouiser Bourdreaux.

5 of 15

Woodard earned an Emmy Award (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie) and a Golden Globe (Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film) for playing Nurse Eunice Evers in the 1997 HBO TV movie (co-starring Laurence Fishburne) about the Tuskegee experiment.  

6 of 15

A seasoned writer and producer, Brock Akil is one of the most successful Black women on television. She was the creator and executive producer of Girlfriends, which ran for eight seasons. 

7 of 15

While enjoying the success of Girlfriends, Brock Akil developed the spinoff series The Game in 2006. A moderate success, it was canceled after three seasons on The CW. When it returned for a fourth season on BET in 2011, it drew a whopping 7.7 million viewers—a record by cable standards.

8 of 15

In 2012, Brock Akil and her husband, director Salim Akil, became the first African-American couple to write, direct and produce a major studio film when they remade the 1976 classic Sparkle, starring Jordin Sparks and Whitney Houston in her final acting role.

9 of 15

Union's breakout role was playing cheeky cheerleader Isis in the cult film, Bring it On, opposite the late Natina Reed (left) and Kirsten Dunst.

10 of 15 Screen Gems

Conny Spalding (Union) is just the woman to come between Keith (Morris Chestnut) and Shante (Vivica A. Fox) in the 2001 romantic comedy Two Can Play That Game.

11 of 15 Screen Gems

Union played Kirsten, a woman determined to give her relationship a makeover, in the box office hit Think Like a Man.

12 of 15

Though already well known in England, Naomie Harris' star shined brighter in the U.S. after her role as Tia Dalma in the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean films in 2006 and 2007.

13 of 15 Francois Duhamel/ United Artists Corporation

Following in the footsteps of Halle Berry and Grace Jones, Harris became the fourth Black Bond girl when she played M16 agent Eve in the wildly successful Skyfall, which has grossed over US$1 billion to date.

14 of 15

For her next role after Pirates of the Caribbean, the Cambridge University-educated actress played tough-as-nails detective Trudy Joplin in the 2006 remake of the 80s hit television show Miami Vice.

15 of 15

Wallis was just five years old when she auditoned to play Hushpuppy in the indie film Beasts of the Southern Wild. Now 9, Wallis is the youngest person to ever be nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award.