Actress Nicole Ari Parker with Lala Anthony, host of the Essence Black Women in Hollywood event Feb. 25, 2016. 
Ciley Carrington for The Root

In a word, Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood event was magical.

#BlackGirlMagic was in full effect at the Beverly Wilshire to celebrate the day’s honorees: actress Tracee Ellis Ross (fierce and fearless award), entertainment lawyer Nina Shaw (power award), and actress, director, producer and choreographer Debbie Allen (legend award). On the heels of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, and leading up to Sunday’s Academy Awards hosted by comedian Chris Rock, the Thursday-afternoon luncheon in Beverly Hills, Calif., gathered some of Black Hollywood’s biggest names.

The event, sponsored by the Lincoln Motor Co., will air on OWN this Saturday at 10 p.m. EST. The event included appearances by Oprah, Shonda Rhimes, Meagan Good, Tia Mowry, Kelly Rowland, Mara Brock Akil, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Tina Knowles, ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey, Nate Parker, Thandie Newton, Lala Anthony and more.


“Actrivist” (actress plus activist) Zendaya and actor Nick Cannon presented entertainment attorney Nina Shaw with the first award of the afternoon. The legal powerhouse spoke about “never settling” and being a source of power to other women in the industry. “If you are a woman that wants to be empowered, then empower other women,” said Shaw.

Ross’ acceptance was an emotional one, since she arrived just minutes before the start of the program. She shared that she wasn’t supposed to be at the event because earlier in the week, she had completely lost her voice, which had delayed taping of her show, Black-ish.


But it was a moment she said she didn’t want to miss, even if that meant getting dressed in the car on the way to the luncheon. She continued, “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.”


ABC showrunner and The Root 100 honoree Rhimes was present to award her friend Debbie Allen with the final award (Allen has worked on all three ShondaLand properties: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder). Rhimes described Allen and her presence thusly: “She is a force of nature. She blows through an environment and changes the landscape forever.”

Allen, whose career has spanned over three decades, shared some of her personal experiences working within Hollywood, none of which weren’t met, at times, with challenges. “I was born into a physical world that had closed doors, brick ceilings, and white-only restaurants, dance studios, movie theaters,” she shared. “But the real world I was born into was a world of ideas, thoughts, love and dreams and prayers.”


Kimberly Wilson is the social media editor at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.