If you’ve ever wondered Angela Bassett’s secret to success, it’s actually quite simple: Put your head down and work hard.
“I was taught to show up, to be prepared and to always do and give my best,” the 911 and Black Panther star said Saturday at the LadyLike Foundation Scholarship Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton, where she accepted an award for being a woman of excellence. “For many years I kept my head down, I studied my lines and I did the work. Whether portraying a fiercely talented living legend, a matriarch of a superiorly talented family or even the queen of a distant land named Wakanda, that’s been my process and that still is.”
The 59-year-old actress and director — following the color scheme for the afternoon in a pastel pink dress — mentioned just a few of her numerous accolades in her speech, indicating that her process has paid off well for her career. She said she learned from her mom and her aunt, and she tries to inspire others to take on this work ethic as well, including her 12-year-old twins.
“They [her children] lead these privileged lives, you know, and they can get caught up, of course, in this town, with all its glitz and its show and the business of it, but I have work for them to do,” Bassett, who brought her daughter to the event with her, told The Hollywood Reporter on the white carpet before the event. “It’s, like, ‘Okay, let’s get in here and clean out this garage.’ You gotta do work. You gotta earn this. You can have anything and everything you want, but you’ve got to take care of business first.”
The LadyLike Foundation welcomed over 900 guests to the international ballroom of the Beverly Hilton for the 10th annual Women of Excellence Scholarship Luncheon to raise money to provide six $5,000 scholarships to college-bound young women from Los Angeles.
The nonprofit, which mentors young women in the Los Angeles area through workshops and scholarship programs, recognized Bassett alongside fellow actresses Pauletta Pearson Washington and Latanya Richardson Jackson, as well as Debra Lee, chairman and CEO emeritus of BET Networks, as role models and leading women of color in their industries.
Lee recently stepped down from her position at BET, ending her 32-year career at the network. As she accepted her award, she reflected on her time there and discussed her next steps since moving to Los Angeles.
“I’m passionate about empowering girls and empowering women, so whatever I do, I will continue to do that,” she said.
The fundraiser also included a hip-hop dance routine and an Isabelle Couture fashion show featuring P. Diddy’s daughters D’Lila Star and Jessie James as well as Corinne Foxx, daughter of Jamie Foxx.
Following the fashion show, a live auction raised money for the foundation. Bidding ranged from $1,500 to $10,000 for items including glittering portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama, a Bernedoodle puppy and an all-inclusive trip to Maui.
Jordin Sparks performed for the first time since giving birth to her son a month ago. She attended the annual fundraiser for the first time, deeming it a worthy cause to leave her newborn home with his dad.
“Any type of event that has the drive and the effort behind it to encourage women and empower women to be the best that they can be all the way around, I want to be a part of,” the 28-year-old singer told THR. “I think we need more of that more now than ever. For them to ask me, I was just like: ‘Where do I sign? How many songs do you want? Where do I need to be?’”
The new mom sang some of her biggest hits, including “One Step at a Time,” “Battlefield” and “No Air” — songs she said she hoped would empower the audience.
“Is anyone else so proud to be in this room?” Sparks asked before she started her set. She introduced “One Step at a Time” as a song that changes meaning for her every time she sings it: “I think for this particular room, with the goals we all want to achieve, whether it’s moving women empowerment forward, getting that scholarship, getting that job, whatever it is, it takes just a few steps.”
Sparks wasn’t the only one who hoped to inspire the crowd.
In her acceptance speech, Samuel L. Jackson’s wife, actress and producer Latanya Richardson Jackson, urged the women in the audience to take lessons away from the words of each speaker.
“Your ideas are just as good as everyone else’s,” she said to the audience. “So much of what has been said here by the other honorees is what you need to take away from today. Not the celebrity of it, not the glitter of it, but there was good word that went forth from here that you can use in your life.”