Essence Black Women in Hollywood Event Honors Trailblazers and Rising Stars

It’s Unlike Any Other Event, a Bunch of Black Women Recharging Each Other.

The annual brunch, now in its 15th year, honored Aunjanue Ellis, Quinta Brunson, Chanté Adams, and Nia Long on Thursday.

Essence Magazine‘s Black Women in Hollywood event, now in its 15th year, is known for eliciting plenty of emotion from its honorees, and Thursday’s event — heralding Oscar nominee Aunjanue Ellis, Quinta Brunson, Chanté Adams, and Nia Long — was no exception.

The luncheon, which drew stars including Will Smith, Serena Williams, Lena Waithe, MJ Rodriguez, Robin Thede, Donald Glover and past honoree Lashanna Lynch, featured a sermon-like speech from Ellis, who celebrated working in what she described as “darkness.”

So much about darkness is derided: it’s horrific, we’re trained to fear it, we’re trained to think that it’s ugly, it’s used as the basis for colorism, for racism. But there is this thing that’s called ‘dark matter’ and it makes up 80 percent of the entire universe. It’s called dark matter because people can’t see it but they know that it exists because, without it, the behavior of the stars, the planets, and the galaxies would make no sense.

Much of my 27-year professional life has been in the dark…this moment of shine, of luminosity, is going to pass…but I will continue to work in the dark anyway.

~ Aunjanue Ellis

Ellis received a standing ovation from the audience, one of several during the afternoon’s event at the Beverly Wilshire hotel, which also included guests Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Niecy Nash, Natasha Rothwell, stylist Law Roach, Tank (whose performance closed out the afternoon), Tristan Wilds, costume designer Ruth E. Carter, Warner Bros. TV Group chairman Channing Dungey, Universal Studio Group chairman Pearlena Igbokwe, lawyer Nina Shaw and director Gina Prince-Bythewood.

Snowfall star Damson Idris served as the afternoon’s master of ceremonies. The Brit told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet, “It’s a blessing and privilege to be seen by the community and I can’t wait to use my platform today to give life and light to so many of these remarkable women.”

Honoree Adams, who won the special jury prize for breakthrough performance at Sundance in 2017 for her role as rapper Roxanne Shanté in Roxanne, Roxanne, told THR she hopes “to continue to take up space and make space in places where we usually don’t see ourselves — and provide representation for women coming up after us.”

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