Image Awards surprises: Palmer, Hounsou win nods
'Happyness' tapped best pictureA chameleon known as Prince, the creative forces surrounding "Ugly Betty" and an "American Idol" hopeful-turned-dreamgirl were among the mix of winners at the 38th annual NAACP Image Awards.
Amid the surprises Friday night at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles was "Akeelah and the Bee" actress Keke Palmer, who nabbed the award for outstanding actress in a motion picture, while Djimon Hounsou of "Blood Diamond" beat out the likes of "Dreamgirls' " Eddie Murphy and Danny Glover for outstanding supporting actor in a motion picture.
For her part, Jennifer Hudson, who took honors for outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture, was still reeling from her Oscar win for "Dreamgirls" during the ceremony that honors the best in movies, television, music and books that are by and about people of color.
"Never, ever, ever give up, and don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something," said Hudson, crediting her mother with nurturing talents she didn't know she had. "If they tell you that you can't do it, it's because they can't dream as big as you."
For Hounsou, the fact that his performance was part of a racially charged story line made his victory sweeter.
"Any time you're part of a film that's used as a tool to educate people, it's extremely rewarding," said the African-born Hounsou, who acknowledged advocates of the film in South Africa, Africa and Mozambique. "All the accolades I'm getting are great — but I think it's bigger than that."
In the category of best motion picture, Sony Pictures' "The Pursuit of Happyness" also dropped a few jaws by landing the evening's top award.
Chris Gardner, the man behind the rags-to-riches character upon which Will Smith's role was based, also won in the category of outstanding literary work, biography/autobiography, for the film and took the stage with the movie's talent and creative team.
"I am so proud of the work (done) with Will Smith. You may be the biggest movie star in the world, but you're the third best actor in your household," quipped Gardner, referring to Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, who co-starred in "Happyness."
Oscar winner Forest Whitaker beat out Smith in the category of outstanding actor in a motion picture for his work in "The Last King of Scotland."
Along with Palmer, "Akeelah" writer-director Doug Atchison took honors for outstanding writing in a feature film/television movie — comedy or drama.
ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" landed multiple awards. The drama won for outstanding drama series, Isaiah Washington nabbed a win for outstanding actor in a drama series, and Chandra Wilson won for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series.
America Ferrera best summed up for the cast of "Betty" the meaning of the multitude of creative efforts behind the show, which won for outstanding comedy series, while writer Silvio Horta won for outstanding writing in a comedy series and Vanessa Williams took the prize for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series.
"In the beginning of this project, we recognized something special about it," Ferrera said. "It recognized every kind of people — a theme on television we knew was going to connect with the American people — to take the mask off of stereotypes and make everybody human."
Other winners in the TV categories included Tracee Ellis Ross from the CW's "Girlfriends' " for outstanding actress in a comedy series and Tyler James Williams for outstanding actor in a comedy series for the CW's "Everybody Hates Chris." Kimberly Elise of CBS' "Close to Home" won for top actress in a drama series.
On the music side, Prince, who took the stage to a standing ovation before challenging the phone companies and new digital providers to allow artists to be the gatekeepers of the music industry, won outstanding male artist. Veteran Mary J. Blige beat out Beyonce and newcomer Corinne Bailey Rae among others nominated for outstanding female artist.
The evening also bestowed special honors on Bill Cosby, Soledad O'Brien and Bono.
Receiving the NAACP's President's Award, O'Brien — a Harvard graduate and product of a biracial parents — said it was a privilege to cover some of the most important stories of our time.
Flanked by music impresario Quincy Jones and the NAACP's Julian Bond, Bono, accepting the Chairman's Award, used the stage as a platform to continue his crusade to stomp out poverty and disparity.
"Today the world looks again to the NAACP. We need the community that taught the world about civil rights to teach the world about human rights," he said. "This is not about charity — it's about justice and equality."