Danielle Brooks Is In Her Awards Era, But Stresses “They Don’t Make Us Who We Are.”

Photo: Courtesy of Lexus Gallegos for Campari.
Photo credit: Lexus Gallegos for Campari
Danielle Brooks is having a moment. Not only is she a first-time Academy Award nominee for her work in The Color Purple, she was one of the honorees at Thursday’s Essence Black Women In Hollywood luncheon where she accepted her award fittingly dressed like an Oscar in a glittering gold dress and brought the crowd to their feet with her acceptance speech. Before launching into a rendition of the gospel song “I Won’t Complain,” Brooks took a moment to acknowledge the energy in the room. “I feel the stirring in my spirit, I feel excitement, I feel rejuvenated, I feel inspired, and I know it’s because…the essence of Black women in this space that makes me feel that way…and the same feeling that I got, at a good church service,” Brooks said, according to Vanity Fair.
On the red carpet before the event, Brooks was also feeling the spirit. While wearing a literal halo (a thin floating gold crown fastened to a glamorously sleek low bun), Brooks credited her faith for not giving up during her long career before this moment of adulation. “If God is whispering something in your ear for your journey… don’t ever rush the fulfilment of that promise. It will come,” Brooks told Unbothered on the carpet. “It might not come in your time but it will be. So be patient and wait and trust the process and work while you’re in the process and hold your head up like Celie say,” Brooks ended with a smile. Brooks’ relationship with The Color Purple is a shining example of patience and trusting the process. She first played Sofia in the Broadway revival of Alice Walker’s seminal text in 2015. Even though she won a Tony for that role, Brooks had to audition for six months to play Sofia in the movie musical. And now, after years of grinding and giving (from Orange Is The New Black to Instant Dream Home, Brooks has done it all in Hollywood), Brooks is finally in her receiving flowers era. But she’s quick to clarify that while awards are nice, they aren’t necessary.
“Yes, we want [awards], but we have to understand that they don’t make us who we are. They can’t validate you. They cannot because what happens when you get it? Then what?” Brooks makes a face of bewilderment. “The biggest thing is just having the opportunities. That’s what we really long for – to have the opportunities. And so I feel like that’s what this moment has been for me. I have been able to get more opportunities through this, and working hard at the end of the day!” 
Danielle Brooks has definitely been working hard. Throughout awards season, she’s been flying back and forth from New Zealand where she’s been filming the new Minecraft movie with Jack Black and Jason Momoa, and this award season, she's been partnering with Campari to further the brand's mission to support and celebrate cinematic storytelling. She’ll no doubt be sipping on a few cocktails (The Campari Spritz is her go-to) come Sunday when she’s celebrating at the Oscars, but the work doesn’t stop this weekend. On the Essence red carpet, Brooks shared that the one thing she’d wish she’d known earlier is that “it ain’t gon’ be easy.” 

Yes, we want [awards], but we have to understand that they don’t make us who we are. They can’t validate you. They cannot because what happens when you get it? Then what?

danielle brooks
“I knew that, but even after accomplishing being an Oscar nominee I was like, ‘oh this is great. It’s gonna be smooth sailing.’ No, there’s been a lot of moments where I’ve been like ‘oh that hurt. That didn’t feel too good.’” Brooks said with a laugh. “I had to recalibrate what this all means.”
Photo: Courtesy of Kathleen Newman-Bremang.
It’s clear that Brooks understands the magnitude of the current moment she’s in. She’s one of five Black American Oscar nominees this year, and she and Da’Vine Joy Randolph are the only Black women. She cried speaking of the importance of her mother being alongside her for this journey and she lit up recounting spending breakfast with her husband and her daughter. But it was a special Oscars accessory that brought pure joy to Brooks’ face. “Look at these nails, honey!” she said flaunting sparkling long bejeweled French tips. “I have the number 26 [engraved on one of my nails] because I’m the 26th Black Oscar nominated woman in the category of Best Supporting Actress.” 
The 25 women nominated before Brooks (including The Color Purple alums Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah) laid the path she now walks in and her journey, as she puts it, has been one of patience and giving herself grace. “I think Black women need to be patient with ourselves during these journeys. I think we want a lot of things but more than that, we deserve a lot of things,” Brooks said, leaving us with some words of parting advice. “Along the way, just be patient with yourself on the journey.”

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