Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon: Oprah Honored, Quvenzhané Wallis Thanks God

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Pictured: Oprah Winfrey, Quvenzhané Wallis, Gabrielle Union and Megan Good
 
The 'Essence' Sixth Annual Black Women in Hollywood luncheon pushed the Oscars to the background to shine the spotlight on that other O - Oprah Winfrey.
Tears. Tributes. Bonding.
Not to mention lots of amazing shoes, hair, smiles, hugs and laughter. And a performance by singer Miguel.
The Essence Sixth Annual Black Women in Hollywood luncheon pushed the Oscars to the background Thursday in Beverly Hills to shine the spotlight on that other O --- Oprah Winfrey.
"This is the most authentic Hollywood event that will happen all Oscar week. This is a room like none other," said Holly Robinson Peete. "A lot of emotion. There's a collective sense of empowerment."
It was even felt by the men who were there, Mehcad Brooks and Blair Underwood among them.
"I have to say the solidarity in the room here today is a huge example to us men," said David Oyelowo, who plays Oprah's son in the upcoming film The Butler and helped present the Power Award to her. He was joined by girls from her South Africa school, who referred to her as "Mom Oprah."
"And I never wanted to be a mother!" said Oprah, taking the stage. "I am humbled by this day." She noted that she grew up with Essence. "What a thrill and a delight to see yourself reflected on the pages when you are a young, growing woman. ... Essence was my bible."
She said it was the first national magazine to offer her a cover. "When it came out, it said I was a self-made millionaire and it said how much money I was going to make that year and I said, 'Whoa.' " And then, she said, that "came true."
She added, "There's nothing better than being honored by your own."
Recalling her TV show days, she said that no matter what the subject matter of the day, "at the end of every interview, the person always in some way said, "Was that OK? Was that all right? What I learned over the years is that really is what we're all looking for -- is to know that we are seen, we are heard, that what we say means something." And, "Everybody wants to know that they matter."
As she accepted the Power Award, she closed with "I'm grateful that you have seen me and you have heard me and that what I have said has mattered."
Other awards went to the littlest biggest star in the room: Quvenzhané Wallis, Oscar-nominated star of Beasts of the Southern Wild. Said Jurnee Smollett to her: "Wherever you go, whatever you do, know that you have all of us who are going to be there to have your back, OK? We lift you up, we're cheering you on, because you are one of us."
Wallis, who left fairly soon after picking up her Breakthrough Award, said, "First I would like to thank God." She went on to thank Essence, the filmmakers, family and friends.
Gabrielle Union, who was given a Fierce and Fearless award, also brought many women in the house to tears as she opened up about trying to fit in, rather than stand out.
"We live in a town that rewards pretending, and I have been pretending to be fierce and fearless for a very long time. I was a victim, masquerading as a survivor. I stayed when I should have run. I was quiet when I should have spoken up and I turned a blind eye to injustice instead of having the courage to stand up for what''s right."
She recalled being a freshman in honors English class and having to read a paragraph from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn out loud and never spoke up about objecting to it. She remember pulling in her lips "to minimize my blackness." She recalled that she "used to revel in gossip and rumors and I lived for the negativity inflicted on my sister actresses or anyone whose shine, I felt, diminished my own. ... I chased and accepted a love and marriage that wasn't worthy of a date. ... It's easy to pretend to be fierce and fearless because living your truth takes real courage.... I realized pretending wasn't really working for me."
She continued, "I decided I wanted more and deserved more from the inside out. I realized real fierce and fearless women are truth seekers. We stand up and use our voices for things other than self-promotion. ... We don't stand by and let racism and sexism and homophobia run rampant on our watch." She was met with cheers and applause.
Click here to read more.
 
SOURCE: USA Today
Ann Oldenburg

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