There are some moments where the divide between black Hollywood and the rest of the entertainment world become glaring clear. The annual NAACP Image Awards are one of those moments. The award show recognises the contributions of people of colour in the arts and the individuals among them who promote social justice in the process. So while it was business as usual for the likes of the Kardashians and everyone that has ever been in Taylor Swift’s squad on Monday night, you may have noticed some of your favourite black celebrities getting glammed up in their award show’s best.
But what’s more impressive than the looks served on the Pasadena, CA, red carpet was the list of nominees and winners announced on stage at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on Monday night. It was a celebration of the best in film, television, music, and books — with a specific focus on the African-American perspective. Amidst calls for diversity in mainstream entertainment award shows that are starting to sound like a broken record spinning year after year, the Image Awards got it right. Many of the people and projects that brought different perspectives to our eyes and ears in the past year, but were snubbed during the mainstream award show nominations, got the credit they deserve.
Ava DuVernay snagged the award for Entertainer of the Year. Finally, Girls Trip was acknowledged when it won for Outstanding Motion Picture. Its breakout star Tiffany Haddish also took home awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Motion Picture for her role in the film in addition to Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance in Comedy Central’s Legends of Chamberlain Heights. The Starz original series in its fifth season, Power, was named Outstanding Drama series, while Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya won the award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture. Even our favourite fuckboy Lawrence got some love when Jay Ellis won Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series for playing the character on HBO’s Insecure. But the ABC comedy black-ish was one of the night’s biggest winners. Tracee Ellis Ross, Anthony Anderson, and Marsai Martin all won awards for their roles on the show, and the series took home the award for Outstanding Comedy Series.
Outside of the awards themselves, entertainers did it for the culture as they used their speeches to blast Donald Trump, demand diversity in entertainment, and bring more attention to sexual assault by promoting Time's Up, the legal defence fund to support women who have experienced sexual harassment. Laverne Cox, Kerry Washington, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Lena Waithe, Angela Robinson, and Tracee Ellis Ross urged viewers and audience members to vote in the upcoming primary election to make their voices heard. And host Anthony Anderson kept the woke jokes rolling in. It wasn’t perfect — still committed to respectability, musicians like Cardi B. and Migos were mysteriously absent from the music categories despite their Grammy nods — but it was for the culture, and we deserve it.
When Jada Pinkett-Smith shared in a viral video that she would boycotting the Oscars in 2016, she posed a question: “Is it time that people of colour recognise how much power and influence we have amassed that we no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere?” And the truth is that while institutions like Academy should be representing diverse communities and stories as they are reflected in our culture, there are spaces that exist to honour the people of colour who are actually making it happen. The Image Awards is one of those spaces, and the fact that they continue to get it right is worth celebrating.