Whoopi Goldberg, Zendaya, Michaela Coel, Andra Day and Cynthia Erivo were honoured at Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood Awards on Thursday.
The magazine’s annual awards ceremony aired virtually on Thursday night and saw the five honourees share their stories of resiliency as Black women in Hollywood as part of this year’s theme of ‘Mastering Our Stories’.
Whoopi first thanked the publication for making it “a little bit easier and nicer” to be a Black women in Hollywood.
“I’ve been a Black woman my whole life. To be a Black woman in the world is not always the easiest thing. Essence has always made it clear that we don’t have to be anybody else’s idea of a Black woman,” she said. “Thank you for allowing me to be myself, even though it might have been a little strange sometimes.”
British star Michaela was presented with the honour for her series I May Destroy You by founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke.
The actress and writer used her own experience of sexual assault to tell the story of Arabella, who rebuilds her life after she is assaulted in London, in the acclaimed comedy-drama.
And Michaela recalled arriving in Los Angeles to meet executives to pitch I May Destroy You to them and being so jet-lagged that she ended up falling asleep in a truck outside the offices. Michaela also believes those she pitched to probably thought she was “unstable” because she didn’t present them with a treatment or pilot for the show.
Zendaya, who was presented with her award by her close friend, The Trial of the Chicago 7 star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, paid tribute to “every single honouree” and “every Black woman” involved in the pre-recorded ceremony.
“To be acknowledged by Essence ?and by so many people that I admire and I appreciate means the world to me. I wish that I could be in a room full of all of you and talk to you and see your faces and hug you and thank you,” she gushed. “Thank you for existing, thank you for being everything that you are.”
Laverne Cox hosted the event.