For thirteen years, Black women in Hollywood have gathered in Los Angeles to not only celebrate each other’s achievements in cinema, but to also provide a safe space for women of color in an industry that continues to lack diversity.

And now for the first time ever, ESSENCE is pulling back the curtain on how our team creates the magical event, set for Thursday afternoon inside the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Beverly Hills, California.

This year, ESSENCE is honoring Emmy Award-winning actress Niecy Nash; Queen & Slim director Melina Matsoukas; actress Lashana Lynch; and the trailblazing cast of Pose along with its co-executive producer, Janet Mock. The event will be hosted by The Talk co-host, Eve.

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In episode one of Inside Black Women in Hollywood, we see the team behind the event, sitting at a boardroom table last September. They’ve gathered to brainstorm how to make this year’s luncheon special, and also to formalize the 2020 nominees.

“We’d like to have our nominees secured,” Jovanca Maitland, ESSENCE’s Director of Live Events and Experiential, said to start the meeting. “We don’t want to look like we’re following behind. We always want to look like we’re leading.”

Rich Polk/Getty Images for Essence

ESSENCE’s Entertainment Director Cori Murray explained how the event came to be in the first place.

“At the time when we started, there was a magazine called Premiere, and Premiere had an issue called the Women in Hollywood issue,” she detailed. “And it was our former editor-in-chief Vanessa DeLuca who said one day, ‘Hey, we should do this as a luncheon. We should really look at our audience…and really start to celebrate them.”

Leon Bennett/Getty Images for Essence

Murray added that after the “outpouring of love that came out of that first event, [it] really let us know that Black women were starving for this recognition.”

Check out episode two of Inside Black Women in Hollywood when it premieres Wednesday, February 12 on


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