February 18, 2015

Los Angeles — OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network announced today that it will air the star-studded primetime television event the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards, featuring exclusive backstage interviews, red-carpet highlights and intimate reflections from some of the most extraordinary African-American women in film and television. Hosted by Tracey Edmonds (Extra co-host and OWN's Deion's Family Playbook) and Shemar Moore (CBS's Criminal Minds), the special will air on Saturday, February 21, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on OWN.

As one of the entertainment industry's pre-eminent ceremonies, which gathers annually during the week leading up to the Academy Awards®, Essence will spotlight the top African-American women who are pushing the limits, raising the bar and breaking through barriers in both film and television. This year's event, held at the famed Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, honors African-American history while looking forward to the future, with Oprah Winfrey opening the luncheon, followed by appearances by Lupita Nyong'o, David Oyelowo, Ava DuVernay, Carmen Ejogo, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Mara Brock Akil and more.

"The Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards have become one of the most distinguished events in Hollywood, celebrating the year's standout performances and behind-the-scenes accomplishments from iconic, trailblazing African-American women who are reshaping the cinematic and television landscape," said Sheri Salata, co-president of OWN and Harpo Studios. "We are humbled in the trust that Essence has placed in us to bring this moving and poignant event to television for the first time, allowing a broader audience to experience the emotion of this powerful celebration."

"Together with OWN, we are proud to extend the reach of the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards and share this important recognition of our leading ladies who are creating, performing and calling the shots," said Essence president Michelle Ebanks. "Over the past seven years, Essence has celebrated the power of our presence in Hollywood, and this first-time television special is certain to broaden the conversation around images in media, personal inspiration and empowerment for women around the world."

Honors at the eighth annual ceremony include the 2015 Black Women in Hollywood Vanguard Award going to seven stars of the Emmy® award-winning series Orange Is the New Black, including Adrienne C. Moore, Danielle Brooks, Laverne Cox, Lorraine Toussaint, Samira Wiley, Uzo Aduba and Vicky Jeudy, marking the first time the award will be given to a group instead of a single person. Powerhouse actress/director Regina King is receiving the Fierce & Fearless Award, breakout British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw is receiving the Lincoln Breakthrough of the Year Award, and Oscar®-nominated costume designer Ruth E. Carter is receiving the Visionary Award.

The special is produced by IMG. Visit to preview the action, and join the conversation on social using #BlackWomenInHollywood.

OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network is the first and only network named for, and inspired by, a single iconic leader. Oprah Winfrey's heart and creative instincts inform the brand—and the magnetism of the channel. Winfrey provides leadership in programming and attracts superstar talent to join her in primetime, building a global community of like-minded viewers and leading that community to connect on social media and beyond. OWN is a singular destination on cable. Depth with edge. Heart. Star power. Connection. And endless possibilities. OWN is a joint venture between Harpo, Inc. and Discovery Communications. The network had its debut on January 1, 2011, and is available in 85 million homes. The venture also includes the award-winning digital platform For more information, please visit and

About Essence Communications Inc.:
Essence Communications Inc. (ECI) is the number one media company dedicated to African-American women, with a multiplatform presence in publishing, live events and the Internet. The company's flagship publication, Essence magazine, is the pre-eminent lifestyle magazine for African-American women, generating brand extensions such as the Essence Festival, Essence Black Women in Hollywood and Black Women in Music, Window on Our Women and Smart Beauty consumer insights series, the Essence Book Club, and ventures in digital media (mobile, television and VOD). For 45 years, Essence, which has a brand reach of 13.4 million, has been the leading source of cutting-edge information and specific solutions relating to every area of African-American women's lives. Additional information about ECI and Essence is available at


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