Quinta Brunson, Aunjanue Ellis, Chanté Adams and Nia Long grace Essence’s four digital covers celebrating the 2022 awards season.
Aunjanue Ellis. Quinta Brunson. Chanté Adams. Nia Long. Each is a uniquely gifted talent and almost all are household names—in Black households, at the very least. And, as we ramp up to the 2022 Academy Awards on March 27, each is being honored with an Essence Black Women in Hollywood Award, an announcement made with a quartet of stunning digital covers shot by J.D. Barnes.
Credit: J.D. Barnes for Essence
As explained in a release from the magazine, it’s a special year for the annual event, as well:
Fifteen years ago, ESSENCE launched Black Women in Hollywood Awards as a spotlight for achievements on screen and a celebration of female voices expanding and transforming the art of storytelling. In honor of the event’s milestone anniversary, ESSENCE releases four stunning digital covers featuring event’s 2022 honorees whose talents have contributed to the creation of a vast and dynamic Black cinematic universe: actress/producer/director Nia Long (You People), Oscar-nominated actress Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard), actress/comedian/creator Quinta Brunson (Abbott Elementary) and actress Chanté Adams (A Journal For Jordan.)
Inside the issue, each of the honorees discusses fame, ambition, longevity, and what it’s like navigating all of the above as a Black woman in Hollywood.
“Going on a true self-worth and introspective journey before you go out into the real world, it’s lifesaving,” said Brunson, creator and lead actor of the hit show Abbott Elementary, in her interview with the magazine. “I really want that for more young Black women. It’s a lot of stuff that’s thrown at us. And if we kind of do the work to know the ins and outs of who we are, it can provide a protective shield,” she adds.
Nearly 30 years into her career, Ellis is riding a career-high, having earned her first Oscar nomination for her portrayal of matriarch Oracene Price in King Richard. But as she explained to Essence, that triumph came after letting go of specific metrics for success—and simply showing up as herself.
“I felt like, Okay, well, I’m in these films and stuff. I need to be all this and be all that,” said Ellis. “But then I was like, No, I don’t. I don’t, because every time I feel like I make that effort to present in that way, it is an astronomical failure. I think that’s the universe saying to me, ‘Girl, it’s okay being you. You know what you want to do. You know what you want to accomplish. Do that. Put that energy in that place.’”
Credit: J.D. Barnes for Essence
And two of this year’s honorees share a special connection that emphasizes the need for support and mentorship among Black women, especially in the shark-infested waters of Hollywood.
“Nia [Long] saw this young Black woman who had just graduated college and knew nothing about being in front of a camera, and she immediately, with no hesitation, took me under her wing—offering advice on navigating representation, giving me her car for two weeks when I was visiting L.A. and needed to take meetings and I couldn’t afford a rental,” recalls A Journal for Jordan‘s Chanté Adams, adding, “But the most meaningful thing she did was just to make herself available, and to stand up for me when I was too scared to stand up for myself.”
Long, in turn, credits fellow star and former high school classmate Regina King for helping launch her career, which kicked off with a bit part on 227. Over 35 years later and co-starring in Kenya Barris’ upcoming Netflix film You People, she reflects on a career that has made her both a sex symbol and a respected artist among Black audiences.
“I didn’t realize the contributions I was making as the contributions were being made, right?” she says. “The greatest part of my journey has been that I’ve been able to maintain my authenticity.”
The 2022 Black Women in Hollywood profiles and more are available on Essence’s website.
Maiysha Kai is Lifestyle Editor of theGrio, covering all things Black and beautiful. Her work is informed by two decades’ experience in fashion and entertainment, a love of great books and aesthetics, and the indomitable brilliance of Black culture. She is also a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and editor of the YA anthology Body (Words of Change series).
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