Singer Kelly Rowland works the camera.(Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for ESSENCE)
Actress Meagan Good works the camera.(Vince Bucci/Invision/AP)
Actor-comedian Chris Rock serves up a dose of dapper.(Vince Bucci/Invision/AP)
Singer Estelle graced the affiar.(Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for ESSENCE)
Channing Dungey, entertainment president of ABC, left, and actress/singer Zendaya shine at the event.(Jesse Grant / Getty Images for ESSENCE)
Actress Keke Palmer graced the affair.(Earl Gibson III / Getty Images for ESSENCE)
Actress LeToya Luckett works the camera.(Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for ESSENCE)
Actor Nate Parker pauses on the red carpet.(Earl Gibson III / Getty Images for ESSENCE)
Producer/writer Shonda Rhimes was among the A-listers at the event.(Vince Bucci/Invision/AP)
Actress Thandie Newton attends the party.(Vince Bucci/Invision/AP)
Actress Serayah McNeill attends the event.(Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for ESSENCE)
Actress Tia Mowry works the camera.(Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for ESSENCE)
Actress Wendy Raquel Robinson joins the festivities.(Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for ESSENCE)
From left, ABC President Channing Dungey, honoree Nina Shaw and recording artist Nick Cannon join the festivities.(Jesse Grant / Getty Images for ESSENCE)
Actress Garcelle Beauvais was among the A-listers at the event.(Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for ESSENCE)
Actress Amber Riley offers a mega-watt smile.(Earl Gibson III / Getty Images for ESSENCE)
Singer Erica Campbell arrives at the party.(Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for ESSENCE)
Actress Lorraine Toussaint was among the A-listers at the event.(Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for ESSENCE)
Actress, dancer and honoree Debbie Allen, second left, and family Norman Nixon Jr., from left, Norm Nixon Sr., and Vivian Nixon join the party.(Vince Bucci/Invision/AP)
“When black women are together, a sacred space can be conjured.”
These words, spoken by Ava DuVernay by way of Oprah Winfrey, opened the ninth Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon hosted by Essence magazine. Held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in the week leading up to the Academy Awards, the Thursday afternoon event gathered some of the industry’s biggest names together to honor and embrace, as Winfrey said, “the magic of our sisterhood.”
“The idea that we gather in this space to speak each other’s name in praise and raise each other up in celebration, that’s a divine moment,” she said. “We all represent what’s possible when we come together and realize ... we are the wisdom source for each other.”
Each honoree used his or her speech to highlight the peculiar experiences of black women in Hollywood. Many of their statements also touched on the current #OscarsSoWhite conversation the industry is having about diversity on screens large and small.
Shaw, whose clients have included Cannon, Nyong’o and Misty Copeland, implored celebrities to use their voices to question the men and women who represent them professionally.
“Your representatives work for you. You don’t work for them,” she said. “You have every right to demand more of us.”
She suggested that celebrities pose “those uncomfortable questions” about the lack of diversity among the studio leadership, for example.
“And don’t settle for ‘we need to do better’ as the answer,” Shaw continued. “There must be real dialogue on how we intend to do better.”
She went on to encourage women to hire other women and white men to hire people of color.
“Not having a voice has been a very spiritual experience for me,” the 43-year-old said. “I learned a lot and got clear in a way that I’ve never been clear before, but the thing that came to me was I am not the sound of my voice. I am me and I can be the same me without a voice.”
But she said she mustered herself, got dressed in the car and made her way to the event because of how important she believes it is for women of color to come together.
“This room is filled with women that do not always get to recognize or feel how great and important we are,” she said. “Joining each other here today reminds us that we must see our own strength, depth, beauty, joy, texture and importance so that others can see it too.”
“I was born into a physical world that had closed doors, brick ceilings, [and] white-only restaurants, dance studios, movie theaters, but the real world I was born into was a world of ideas, thoughts, love and dreams and prayers,” she said. “That’s the real world. That’s the world that changes everything.”
She left the stage encouraging everyone in the room to make lasting connections with “something in your heart and in your mind,” as a way to move forward as black women in the industry.
Check out the event Saturday at 10 p.m. EST/PST on OWN.
Get your life! Follow me on Twitter: @TrevellAnderson