“I challenge you not to deny yourselves ... we must survive because we love you.” Those were Aja Naomi King’s last words as she left the podium in a room filled with the glow of radiating love and #BlackGirlMagic, also known as the 10th Annual Essence Black Women in Hollywood event.
On Thursday evening, King, an MFA graduate of Yale, was in great company with fellow honorees including Insecure’s Issa Rae, music artist and Hidden Figures co-star Janelle Monáe, and Black-ish star and Teen Vogue writer Yara Shahidi.
Billed as one of Oscar week’s “must attend” star-studded events, the red-carpet event included appearances from celebrities such as event host Gabrielle Union and Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Keesha Sharp, Laverne Cox, Alfre Woodard, Holly Robinson Peete, Sherri Shepherd, Tyrese Gibson, Alfred Enoch, LeToya Luckett, Quvenzhané Wallis, Tina Knowles-Lawson, Loni Love and Margaret Avery.
Presenters during the program included Viola Davis, Shonda Rhimes, Pharrell Williams, Common, Tracee Ellis Ross, Debbie Allen and Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo, who offered a soul-stirring performance between honoree acceptance speeches.
Throughout the night, #BlackGirlMagic was the common theme, with a message of supporting others in the struggle for inequality and inclusion. If there was ever a time to come together in sisterhood, the program made it clear that the time is now.
In the words of Ellis Ross, “It’s easy to stay woke ... it’s what to do with your wokeness now.”
Take a behind-the-scenes look at the red-carpet activity that was posted on Facebook Live:
The show will air March 5 at 10 p.m. ET on OWN.