I’m not sure what I expected from the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon.  Pomp and circumstance, I suppose. Just another star-studded event with lots of hobnobbing, photo taking and elbowing rubbing.  You know, the usual.  What I got was something entirely different. There is absolutely nothing “usual” about this event.  Well, maybe the red carpet and pre-show festivities were about what I was expecting, but the event itself? It’s in a class by itself. When Gabrielle Union took the stage to accept her award, she was wearing her trademark million dollar smile but her speech was surprisingly revealing. I’m not going to repeat what she said– yes, it was that personal– but I will say that she was remarkably brave to speak her very personal truth to a room full of her famous peers.  “We live in a world that rewards us for pretending,” she said. And instead of pretending, instead of saying only the appropriate things, Gabrielle opened herself up and, in so doing, set the tone for the entire day. And the rest of the day was nothing less than extraordinary, from Alfre Woodard telling us about how she first met Blair Underwood to Common rocking an impromptu freestyle to cover for some technical difficulties. Of course, the person that even the other celebrities were excited to see was Oprah Winfrey herself.  “Mama Oprah,” as she was referred to by many in the room, got the equivalent of two awards: An award from Essence as well as the honor of being thanked by the young women graduating from her South African school– both touching moments. Perhaps Tatyana Ali summed it up best: “This is the most important event during Oscar season.” Indeed, it is. Not just because it’s a way for Essence and Lincoln Motor Company to honor the brightest Black women in Hollywood but also because it allows those same women to fellowship with each other without having to hide behind the “pretend” glitz and glamor of Tinseltown. –SékouWrites

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