Image Awards

Stars Praise the Unifying Power of Art Backstage at the NAACP Image Awards

‘Hidden Figures’ took home the top prize, but backstage celebrities spoke of the ability of TV and film to bring people together

by Mariel Turner, February 12, 2017

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Image Awards

Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, and Octavia Spencer at the 48th annual NAACP Image Awards at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

Black excellence was shining through at the 48th NAACP Image Awards on Saturday where Hidden Figures continued to dominate the award season.

The historic film centering on the lives of three dynamic Black women at NASA took home the award for Outstanding Motion Picture. Taraji P. Henson, who starred as Katherine Johnson in the film, told reporters that the movie has helped Black women fight for their dreams during a difficult time.

“A S.T.E.M genius, an astronaut. I didn’t know I could dream that,” Henson said after she took home the award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for Hidden Figures. “It’s so much bigger than the actor, the producer, the director. This was the story that was needed, that was poignant. We needed it right now.”

The political undertone of the evening continued with some deep reflections from Sterling K Brown, winner of Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for This is Us.

The 40-year-old actor hit the pressroom where he told reporters that the arts have the ability to bring people together in light of the Presidential election.

“I sincerely hope in this very red and blue divided country of ours that our show is something that can bring people together, if only for 42 minutes,” Brown said. “It weighs on my soul sometimes, after the election, we live in this California bubble or New York bubble. The country that I live in I’m not as intimately familiar with. So I’m thankful for the show because it exposes people to gays, Blacks, Whites living together in this wonderfully blended and loving family.”

The cast of OWN’s Queen Sugar echoed Sterling’s statements after their surprise win for Outstanding Drama Series.

Rutina Wesley, nominated for her role as Nova, told reporters how the storytelling on Queen Sugar can help build bridges.

“The themes are universal. It’s family, it’s love, it’s hardship, it’s loss. It’s all the things we go through as a human race together. The fact that we can reach people with that is quite beautiful” said Wesley.

Fences was also one of the favorites of the night, receiving three nominations and winning an Outstanding Actor award for Denzel Washington and an Outstanding Supporting Actress award for Viola Davis.

Washington said his own personal life served as inspiration for his role in the film. The 62-year-old A-list star was once a garbage man much like his character, Troy Maxson.

“I actually was a garbage man as a young man so I know how to do that. I understand the generational differences. My father was from that time. He wasn’t like Troy but he was from that time,” Washington said.

Washington went on to explain the significance of August Wilson work to today’s audience while hinting at future Wilson projects he plans to bring to the big screen.

“People ask me what I want people to get from the movie. I always say it depends upon what they bring to it. For some people you’re Troy, for some people you’re the son, for some women you’re Rose and for some women you might be the other women, Alberta,” said Washington. “There’s something there for all of us. He speaks in a language we understand that we feel in our core, in our souls. It’s a honor, a responsibility and a duty, but an honor ultimately to bring his stories to light.”

Other major wins for the night included Dwayne Johnson for Entertainer of the Year, Beyonce’s “Formation” for Outstanding Music Video, Mahershala Ali for Outstanding Supporting Actor (Moonlight) and Blackish for Outstanding Comedy Series.

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