Ahead of Oscar Sunday, with reports of award show boycotts in response to President Trump’s controversial new policies towards the transgender community, naturally, the conversation turned to politics almost immediately on Thursday evening inside Beverly Hills’ Beverly Wilshire hotel, where Essence celebrated its 10th annual Black Women in Hollywood Awards.
“In this political time, I think it’s important to seek out those that are like us and going through similar experiences so that we don’t have to feel alone,” said How to Get Away with Murder and The Birth of a Nation actress Aja Naomi King. “Events like this, nights like this, where we get to celebrate one another and hold on to each other, it reminds you that this is not the end.”
King, visibly emotional, was being honored with the Lincoln Shining Star Award at the event, which also recognized the work of actress and musician Janelle Monáe (Breakthrough Award), Insecure creator and actress Issa Rae (Vanguard Award) and Yara Shahidi (Generation Next Award), known for her role as Zoey Johnson, the teenage daughter in ABC’s Black-ish.
“I came to take a picture with you,” grinned her TV mother and recent Golden Globe winner Tracee Ellis Ross. After dashing past reporters, Ross had made her way back to the event’s red carpet to pose with the young actress. They hugged and exchanged murmurs.
“Did I have lipstick on my teeth that whole time?” Shahidi asked, addressing her publicist after the photo op. She raised her eyebrows then shrugged. “Because Tracee said I had lipstick in my teeth.” Nothing like a television-induced maternal instinct.
If she did, few had noticed. “This is really surreal!” she exclaimed of the night’s recognition before being pulled away for more photos.
Oscar Nominations 2017: Ladies and Gentlemen, Meet the Beautiful People of This Year’s Academy Awards
Emma Stone, Best Actress, La La Land
Isabelle Huppert, Best Actress, Elle
Ruth Negga, Best Actress, Loving
Natalie Portman, Best Actress, Jackie
Meryl Streep, Best Actress, Florence Foster Jenkins
Andrew Garfield, Best Actor, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, Best Actor, La La Land
Casey Affleck, Best Actor, Manchester by the Sea
Viggo Mortensen, Best Actor, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Best Actor, Fences
Michelle Williams, Best Supporting Actress, Manchester by the Sea
Nicole Kidman, Best Supporting Actress, Lion
Naomi Harris, Best Supporting Actress, Moonlight
Viola Davis, Best Supporting Actress, Fences
Mahershala Ali, Best Supporting Actor, Moonlight
Lucas Hedges, Best Supporting Actor, Manchester by the Sea
Jeff Bridges, Best Supporting Actor, Hell or High Water
Dev Patel, Best Supporting Actor, Lion
Michael Shannon, Best Supporting Actor, Nocturnal Animals
Damien Chazelle, Best Director and Best Screenplay, La La Land
But back to politics.
“Trans rights are women’s rights,” Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox could be heard saying further down the carpet.
Later, when asked about her boldness to speak out on transgender issues, she said, quoting Oprah: “I don’t think I’m special, I’ve just answered the call of the dream. I understand that this is way bigger than me.”
It’s important for everybody to have a voice, chimed in Insecure‘s Yvonne Orji. “And not just because we have someone who’s trying to keep immigrants out of the country,” she added. “It only makes stories more rich. It’s a melting pot, that’s what the world looks like, not just what America looks like. It’s important for those stories to be reflected on the big screen, small scene, in art all around.
“We have Hidden Figures, we have Moonlight, Fences,” she continued, listing off Best Picture nominations. “I saw Loving and that was really good. I don’t envy the voters.”
The event’s host, Gabrielle Union, made note of last year’s #OscarsSoWhite backlash. “There’s a billion of brown people and each person has a story to tell. The stories that make it to Hollywood should be reflective of the billions of people that are on this planet not just, you know, a few.”
The award ceremony, presented by The Lincoln Motor Company and set to air on OWN, also brought out Viola Davis, up for Best Supporting Actress for Fences, as well as Common, Tyrese Gibson, and Pharrell Williams, who’s up for an Oscar as a producer of Hidden Figures, the highest-grossing Best Picture nominee of the year with $140 million to date.
“It’s breaking records,” added Union before heading inside. “These are stories people want to see.”
The 26 Best Oscar Beauty Moments of All Time, from Grace Kelly to Emma Stone
Grace Kelly celebrates her Oscar for her role in The Country Girl in a soft wavy up do with flowers and a pink lip at the 1955 Academy Awards.
At the 41st Annual Academy Awards, Barbra Streisand wore a voluminous bob with simple black eyeliner as she accepts her Oscar for her role in Funny Girl in 1969.
In 1970, Elizabeth Taylor wore her soft curls swept back with a blue ribboned headband and a shimmery eye at the 42nd Annual Academy Awards.
Cher glowed at the 46th Annual Academy Awards in 1974 with full lashes, dewy skin and a sleek top bun with embellished flowers.
Audrey Hepburn wore a pixie cut with full bangs at the 47th Annual Academy Awards in 1975.
Lauren Hutton wore her shoulder-length locks in soft waves at the 47th Annual Academy Awards in 1975.
Farrah Fawcett rocked her iconic blonde waves with a grey smokey eye at the 50th Annual Academy Awards in 1978.
At the 51st Annual Academy Awards in 1979, Meryl Streep wore her long blonde hair swept over in tousled curls.
Nicole Kidman attended 69th Annual Academy Awards in 1997 with her hair in a simple up do with rosy cheeks and a berry lip.
Gywneth Paltrow looked simply chic with a sleek bun and luminous skin when she accepted her Oscar for her role Shakespeare in Love at the 71st Annual Academy Awards in 1999.
Accepting her Oscar for her role in Erin Brockovich at the 73rd Annual Academy Awards in 2001, Julia Roberts wore her hair in a sleek and twisted up do.
In 2002, Halle Berry celebrates her Monster’s Ball Oscar win at the 74th Annual Academy Awards with her iconic pixie cut.
Charlize Theron glowed with sun-kissed luminous skin as she accepted her Oscar for Monster at the 76th Annual Academy Awards in 2004.
Natalie Portman looked soft and romantic with light pink lips and an embellished up do at the 77th Annual Academy Awards in 2005.
Cate Blanchett was radiant as she accepted her Oscar for The Aviator at the 77th Annual Academy Awards in 2005.
Wearing her hair in a wavy tousled up do and a glossy red lip, Michelle Williams attended the 78th Annual Academy Awards in 2006.
At the 80th Annual Academy Awards in 2008, French beauty Marion Cotillard wore a shimmery eye and swept over curls to accept her Oscar for La Vie En Rose.
Freida Pinto attended the 81st Annual Academy Awards in 2009 with her hair in a twisted up do, and bronze shadow on her eyes.
Radiating elegance at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards in 2010, Kate Winslet wore her hair in loose curls, with soft, shimmery makeup.
Penelope Cruz wore a glamorous, wavy up do at the 84th Annual Academy Awards in 2012.
Mara Rooney rocked sleek blunt bangs with porcelain skin and a red lip at the 84th Annual Academy Awards in 2012.
Anne Hathaway wore a tousled pixie cut and a matte pink lip at the 85th Annual Academy Awards to accept her Oscar for Les Miserables.
Jennifer Lawrence stunned at the 85th Annual Academy Awards in 2013–where she won an Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook–with a blonde tousled up-do.
At the 86th Annual Academy Awards in 2014, Lupita Nyong’O wore an embellished headband to accept her Oscar.
At the 2016 Academy Awards, actress Julianne Moore took a minimalist approach with subtle smokey eyes and relaxed waves.
The La La Land actress Emma Stone radiated with her auburn red locks in polished curls with a crimson red berry lip.
Emma Stone, Natalie Portman, Amy Adams, and More Stars of the Year’s Best Films Get Really, Really Into “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor