Kofi Siriboe, Common and Alfred Enoch were among the few men to walk the red carpet at Essence magazine’s 10th annual Black Women in Hollywood Awards, held Thursday night at the Beverly Hilton hotel. But they were far outnumbered by the likes of Janelle Monáe, Gabrielle Union, Viola Davis, Issa Rae and Tracee Ellis Ross, who poured in for the annual show to honor their female peers.
Before accepting her award for Generation Next, Yara Shahidi noted, “They’ve been my support network. It solidifies why I’m here and why I’m in this industry; because of the support and love I’ve received. It’s really made me understand the sisterhood that we’ve developed.”
Others picking up honors included Monáe, Rae and Aja Naomi King. Known for “Birth of a Nation” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” King gave an inspiring speech about overcoming doubt. “I don’t know why I’m so eager to undermine my own talents,” she said. “I have to stop thinking the root of my talent is a root growing in someone else’s yard. As if the fruit doesn’t belong to me. All of the evidence of my life proves this is no accident.”
When it was Monáe’s turn to accept her award, she went with the emotionally charged vibe of the room, telling the crowd, “We must provide a safe space for others to be who they are. We are not your objects, but yet subjects to study until the end of time.”
Rae then provoked some laughter with her trademark awkwardness as she recalled her first red carpet with Essence years prior: “I stepped on the carpet with my hand on my hip and no sooner than five seconds later I heard, ‘Oh, Laila Ali.’ They all turned to this gorgeous goddess and a kind photographer said, ‘Hey, can you move? I’m trying to get Laila.’ So you can understand why I’m grateful not only to have photographers actually want to take a picture of me, but to also celebrate women I love and respect.”
Apart from getting the 1,000-plus guests in the mood for Oscars this weekend, the show will air March 5 at 8 p.m. on the OWN Network.