Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Teams With Essence for Black Women in Hollywood Special

Oprah Winfrey  - H 2015
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Leon Bridges will perform at the ninth annual luncheon honoring Tracee Ellis Ross, Debbie Allen and Nina Shaw.

The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and Essence are partnering once again to present the magazine’s ninth annual Black Women in Hollywood celebration as a primetime special on Feb. 27. The 2016 honorees — director/producer/actress Debbie Allen (Legend Award), Tracee Ellis Ross (Fierce & Fearless Award) and entertainment attorney Nina Shaw (Lincoln Power Award) — will be saluted during a luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Feb. 25.

Grammy Award-nominated artist Leon Bridges will perform before an audience that includes special guests Oprah Winfrey, producer/writer Shonda Rhimes, Nick Cannon, director Ryan Coogler and Zendaya. Essence will also reveal the winner of its third annual short film contest, which showcases the work of up-and-coming filmmakers.

This year’s luncheon theme, “Power of Our Presence,” not only embodies the reason why the event was launched in 2008 but also underscores the ongoing dialogue sparked by this year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy, notes Essence editor in chief Vanessa De Luca. “It’s interesting that nine years later, we’re still having this conversation,” she says. “And brings to light even more this year the very reason why we conceived this event. It’s just yet another reminder that Hollywood is not as diverse as we’d like it to be.”

The cover subject of Essence’s annual March Hollywood issue is 2016 Academy Awards host Chris Rock. “People are going to be tuning in to hear how he’s going to frame this conversation,” adds De Luca of Rock, who is making his Essence cover debut. “He’s also been such a strong advocate for black women in Hollywood and has hired many black women in Hollywood, as he talks about in our story. So who better to showcase than someone who is actually exemplifying the work that we want to see the larger Hollywood body do?”

Essence.com will live-stream the Essence Black Women in Hollywood red carpet festivities starting at 11:45 a.m. PT / 2:45 p.m. ET. OWN will air the primetime special on Feb. 27 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.