As Essence celebrated the 10th anniversary of its annual Black Women in Hollywood event Thursday evening, Viola Davis, Gabrielle Union, Yara Shahidi, Aja Naomi King, and more stars flocked to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., to help kick off the festivities.
Union, who served as host of the night, stunned in a black beaded Prada dress that she “fell in love” with at first sight. “I love Mrs. Prada, so anytime I have a chance to wear Prada, I’m going to jump at that chance,” she told InStyle. It was one of two dresses the actress tried on and fell for. The other, a Rodarte dress, she planned to make a quick change into during the event.
The night also marked the debut of her chic new haircut coiffed by hairstylist Larry Sims. “He just did it, so I’m still getting used to it, but I’m gagging. I love it,” she said. Union drew further attention to the new cut with Tiffany & Co. diamond bow earrings.
King, Shahidi, Issa Rae, and Janelle Monae, who were the honorees of the evening, all slayed the red carpet as well. Hidden Figures star Monae, who nabbed the Breakthrough award, rocked a sleek white suit with black lapels and yellow detailing and rings by L Frank. She took a moment to embrace Shahidi, who wore a whimsical black Chanel dress complete with sheer sleeves. The Blackish star paired the look with Chanel drop earrings she joked “cost more than my life.”
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Shahidi took home the Generation Next award at the event, and told us, “It’s pretty surreal. To be presented by my TV mother Tracee [Ellis Ross], and to be surrounded by people that I love and admire and look up to and just want to hug and fangirl over, is pretty crazy and cool.”
King, meanwhile, stunned in a body-hugging, white lace Michael Costello gown paired with gold heels and a white Amanda Wakeley clutch. “I feel a little bit like Diana Ross and Beyoncé,” the How to Get Away with Murder star, who received the Lincoln Shining Star award told us. “Like, gorgeous—everyone is so beautiful, and I love this dress. I feel magical.”
“Being honored here ... it’s really incredible,” she continued. “I genuinely feel Essence has taken me in, in a really special way, because since the first time they invited me here two years ago, they allowed me to speak on stage with Oprah. Each time they brought me back, it just feels like coming home, getting to see family.”
Rae, who was honored with the Vanguard award, rocked a Francesca Miranda dress she said was “the most comfortable dress I’ve worn all awards season.” She added, “I came here for the first time five years ago, and I had just finished the first series of Awkward Black Girl, my web series. I remember just being in awe of being here, being like, ‘One day. Who knows? I’m going to get some TV shows and movies under my belt and maybe they’ll recognize me.’ To be recognized now, five years later, it is just a blessing.”
The Insecure creator’s co-star Yvonne Orji was on hand to support her in a green and blue Delpozo dress paired with strappy blue Stuart Weitzman heels and Atelier Swarovski jewelry, and couldn’t help but sing Rae’s praises. “I’m so excited for her,” she told us. “She’s been killing it. 2016 and ’17 has definitely been her year, and she deserves every good thing coming her way. She's amazing.”
Scroll down to see the glamorous looks from the red carpet.