Janelle Monae, Issa Rae and others honored at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards


Janelle Monae, Issa Rae, Aja Naomi King and Yara Shahidi were honored at Essence magazine’s 10th annual Black Women in Hollywood Awards, in Beverly Hills, Thursday (23 FEB. 2017).
They join an alumni of past honorees including Oprah Winfrey, Viola Davis, Halle Berry, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer.
Gabrielle Union hosted the night, delighted the 10-year anniverary comes as the Oscars honor true diversity among its nominees.
“I mean this year there are so many of my friends that are being honored and rightfully so,” said Union. “I think we are all sort of excited about the inclusion. To quote Hamilton, ‘You want a seat at the table’ and this year we got a seat, but it’s a big ass table and we should have more seats. So this is the beginning and we’ll see in the years that come up how many more projects centered in blackness, centered in womaness, centered around people of color are going to be continued to be told.”
Singer-actress Janelle Monae was given the Breakthrough award by the magazine. She stars in two films up for best picture Oscars, “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight.”
“I’m so excited, I mean I’ve always wanted to go to the Oscars,” she said.
Monae greeted fellow honoree Aja Naomi King on the arrivals line. “I am so happy to be honored on the night that she is being honored. I love her man,” Monae said, as she complimented King with, “You look so beautiful.”
King received the Lincoln Shining Star Award. She is featured on television’s “How to Get Away With Murder” and starred in “The Birth of a Nation” earlier last year.
“Seriously – see this is what this is about. Being able to just uplift and celebrate one another and let people know that we are more united than we are divided,” continued Monae.
“We are all women at the top of our game. We are here for Oscar weekend and I’m so thankful to be a part of two films that mean so much, not just to me, but the rest of the world. To have people go in and make ‘Hidden Figures’ number one, to be critically acclaiming ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Hidden Figures’ and just celebrating those who are oftentimes uncelebrated means the world, and I don’t take a moment of it for granted and I’m so happy that I’m a part of it.”
As Monae celebrates her acting achievements, she is keeping an eye on attitudes in the U.S.
“Since my eyes opened out of my mother’s womb, I’ve always been aware,” said Monae. “My mom used to tell me I would sit and just stare at people before I could talk. I was very observant and I feel a responsibility to making sure that I’m using art to speak up and speak out against injustices and people who seek to defame, delegitimize our existence because of race, because of religious beliefs, because of sexual orientation and because of gender and so on and so on. So I absolutely have to keep all eyes open these days.”
The 10th anniversary of Essence’s “Black Women in Hollywood Awards” will air as a primetime television event on Sunday, March 5 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on OWN.

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