If you didn’t keep up with the 2023 Essence Black Women In Hollywood Awards Luncheon, then you certainly fumbled the bag. Welcoming a constellation of stars to the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles Thursday (March 9) afternoon, the 16th annual event celebrated women working both in front of and behind the camera.
This year’s star-studded gathering honored Emmy winner Sheryl Lee Ralph, actresses Danielle Deadwyler and Dominique Thorne, director Gina Prince-Bythewood, and Freeform and Onyx Collective executive Tara Duncan.
Overall, the 2023 Essence Black Women In Hollywood Awards Luncheon was a chance to celebrate women who have paved the way. Prior to the show, REVOLT got the chance to speak with nine of the attendees on the red carpet about their favorite albums and films by women, and much more. Check out the exclusive conversations below.
1. Marsai Martin
Asked to name women who paved the way for other women in Hollywood, Marsai Martin told REVOLT, “Issa Rae – she is an amazing creator, Quinta Brunson and Jenifer Lewis. I feel like what all them have in common is breaking boundaries. And they didn’t accept ‘No.’ They kept pushing until they found their ‘Yes.’ I just think that’s very important for anyone.”
2. Teyana Taylor
Strutting down the carpet in dynamic blue and yellow plaid trousers, paired with a black blazer and a striking mullet, Teyana Taylor quickly stopped to chat with REVOLT before heading in. When asked about her three favorite albums created by women, Taylor mentioned The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Put on the spot and finding it difficult to narrow down, Taylor instead picked the women whose work has most influenced her, adding, “Lauryn Hill, Anita Baker, and Teena Marie.”
3. Lena Waithe
As a Black creative in Hollywood, Lena Waithe inherently reflects on the long line of Black women who have paved the way for her. When thinking about her three favorite films with Black women as lead characters, “The Chi” creator professed, “Oh my God. Eve’s Bayou, Love & Basketball, Just Another Girl on the I.R.T.”
4. Jason Lee
“Well, since we’re celebrating 50 years of hip hop, I’ll say my friend Queen Latifah,” Jason Lee easily picked when asked to choose a woman who has paved the way in Hollywood. “I believe that she’s paved the way for a lot of the women we know in hip hop today. She’s done it with grace. She’s been able to secure the Black audience, take them on a journey in the mainstream, and done it all with class, grace, self-respect, and she’s an icon. Queen Latifah is my selection.”
For his three favorite albums created by women, Lee selected, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. I want to do this right. Faith, Faith Evans’ first album, and Queen Latifah‘s Black Reign album with ‘U.N.I.T.Y.’ because of the song she had for her brother. [It] connected with me because I lost a brother, too.”
5. Kandi Burruss
Selecting her three favorite albums, Kandi Burruss claimed, “You got to give it up to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill definitely. Who is Jill Scott? [because] when Jill Scott came out with her first album, I played that over, and over, and over. And Anita Baker’s Rapture [because] that album had ‘No One in the World’. She had so many great albums. I remember when I was a young kid, I loved her voice, and I used to sit there, and play it over and over to try to mimic her.”
“I just feel like sometimes, you know, it’s all about listening to people and seeing what they like,” Burruss said when asked how to regularly celebrate women. “I’m not really a person that’s really flashy. All the little things are the things that I love. I love Kit Kats, that’s the only candy I eat. So, if somebody does something simple, where they put together a cute little thing with Kit Kats and a card, then I’m here for it. Paying attention to the things people say they enjoy and making room for that.”
6. Indya Moore
Choosing their three favorite films and TV shows with Black women as leads, Indya Moore told REVOLT, “The Woman King, Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever, [and] Pose.” The breakout Pose star — and one of TIME Magazine’s most influential people of 2019 — also gave a sincere shout out to her co-star and LGBTQ icon MJ Rodriguez for her work on the hit FX series.
7. Naturi Naughton
Picking her top three albums created by women, Naturi Naughton said without hesitation, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill [and] Beyoncé’s Lemonade.” As she made her final pick, Naughton refused to narrow it down to a single album and instead gave late legend Whitney Houston her flowers, saying, “And every Whitney Houston album because I love her, and she was my icon growing up.”
8. Karrueche Tran
When asked about her top three albums created by women, Karrueche Tran cited, “Beyoncé’s RENAISSANCE, but also I’m a throwback Beyoncé fan, so what’s the one with ‘Me, Myself and I’ and ‘Kitty Kat’? B’Day, that’s a classic.” And, despite her love for SZA’s record-breaking SOS album, Tran added the R&B star’s Ctrl to her list before finalizing it with, “Sade. Sade is Sade, so it doesn’t even matter [which].”
Getting emotional as she discussed the importance of celebrating women, Tran expressed, “Because we deserve it. We are powerful, we are strong, we can do anything in the world. We achieve so much, we take on so much, and that goes unrecognized. There’s events like this, and months like this that help women be seen and feel good about themselves. Girl, we be going through it, we be going through everything. You know, even when I think about [it] –every month, we have to have our period. We have to deal with that, we have to live our lives, [and] we have to go to work. If men had to do that, forget about it. But, we are strong, we can conquer, and literally do anything.”
9. Zainab Johnson
“I would definitely go with Whoopi Goldberg,” Zainab Johnson responded when asked to name a woman who has paved the way for other women in Hollywood. The rising comedian and actress continued, “I think that she was one of our first EGOT winners, right? She is so funny, so talented [and] so strong. And, she’s had a very long career. We’ve known Whoopi Goldberg for four decades at this point.”
When asked to name her top three films with women as leads, the “Upload” star chose, “Waiting To Exhale, What’s Love Got To Do With It, and Eve’s Bayou.”