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Thursday 26 May 2016

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Oscars team honours Hollywood's black women at Essence awards

Published 26/02/2016

Actor-comedian and Oscars host Chris Rock at the Essence Annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon (Invision/AP)
Actor-comedian and Oscars host Chris Rock at the Essence Annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon (Invision/AP)

Oscars host Chris Rock, producer Reginald Hudlin and film academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs have taken time off from their Academy Awards preparations to celebrate black women in Hollywood.

Rock, Hudlin and Ms Boone Isaacs were among the guests at Essence Magazine's ninth Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and Hudlin took to the stage to present an award to legendary entertainer Debbie Allen.

The annual Essence event celebrates the achievements of black women in entertainment. Actress Tracee Ellis Ross and entertainment lawyer Nina Shaw were also recognised.

Shonda Rhimes announced that Allen has agreed to serve as producing director of Grey's Anatomy and called the writer-director-choreographer-performer "a force of nature".

"Debbie blows through an environment and changes the landscape forever," she said.

Ross, accompanied by her father and older sister Rhonda, accepted the Fierce and Fearless award.

She said she had been sick for the past week and worried she would not be able to attend the lunch.

"I got dressed in the car," she said. "I'm unclear if what I'm wearing is see-through. If it is, I'm sorry."

Oprah Winfrey opened the event, which will be shown on Saturday on OWN.

In a year when Hollywood's lack of inclusion has overwhelmed the Oscar race, Winfrey said: "It's a beautiful thing that we have the good sense to do this for ourselves."

Film-maker Thais Francis, who was also recognised, thanked the magazine "for creating a platform of visibility".

"A lot of us in this audience know the importance of visibility, especially during a time, in a society, in a world, in an industry that's telling us that we're invisible," she said.

As Allen accepted the Legend award, she said she felt like she was in church, preaching to her sisters.

"The only plate I'm going to pass is the plate of purpose," she said, urging the women in the audience to make real connections with each other, not just to meet up for drinks, but to work on ways of changing the world.

Ms Shaw gave similar advice as she accepted the Power award. The lawyer for entertainers including Laurence Fishburne, Lupita Nyong'o and Ava DuVernay was introduced by Nick Cannon and Channing Dungey, who became the first African-American to head a broadcast network when she was named president of ABC Entertainment last week.

"If you are a woman who wants to be empowered, then empower other women," Shaw said.

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