The coming-of-age drama collected the Outstanding Independent Motion Picture accolade at the 43rd Image Awards. An independent drama written and directed by Dee Rees, it tells the story of a teenage girl embracing her identity as a lesbian, and it beat out “Mooz-Lum” and “The First Grader” to win an NAACP Image Award.
“It’s a movie about being yourself and being true to who you are, and not checking a box, and its a journey anyone can relate to,” Rees told Trendy Africa backstage. For director Rees, and the movie’s main star, Adepero Oduye, the win was was a huge honor. “The Help” collected three prizes including top actress honors for Viola Davis, the supporting actress prize for Octavia Spencer and outstanding motion picture.
With performances by Lenny Kravitz, Jill Scott and Kirk Franklin, there were moving tributes to Whitney Houston, the Black Stuntmen’s Association, George Lucas and the Tuskegee Airmen. Yolanda Adams sang the spiritual song “I Love the Lord, He Heard My Cry” as part of a tribute to Houston, who died last week. “We love you, Nip,” Adams said as she finished the song, referring to the singer’s nickname. Footage of Houston accepting the Image Award for outstanding female artist in 1994 was shown, as was Denzel Washington’s presentation of that award, in which he called her an “artist of unparalleled stature.”
Dee Rees and Adepero-Oduye backstage at the Image Awards. Photo by Royalty Image
Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte presented the President’s Award to the Black Stuntmen’s Association, which was established in 1967 to break racial barriers and earn black performers a place alongside white stuntmen in film and television. Samuel L. Jackson presented Lucas with the Vanguard Award. The filmmaker was honored for his body of work, including the recent “Red Tails,” which tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, several of whom were in the audience. While some of the elderly airmen struggled to stand, the audience rose to their feet to welcome them with a standing ovation.
NAACP Image Award hosts: Sanaa Lathan and Anthony Mackie. Photo by Royalty Image
In presenting the award, Jackson said he has always loved “Star Wars” and would have done anything to appear in an installment of the space story. He recalled telling Lucas: “I’ll be a Storm Trooper and just run across the screen. Nobody even has to know I’m in it.” Other winners announced during the two-hour telecast hosted by Sanaa Lathan and Anthony Mackie included, Laz Alonzo, Tracee Ellis Ross, LL Cool J, Tatyana Ali, and Keke Palmer, who took home her 5th NAACP Image Award. Actor Mike Epps received his fist ever Image Awards for his supporting role in movie “Jumping the Broom.”
Viola Davis with her best actress accolade for movie “The Help”. Photo by Royalty Image
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Epps told reporters backstage. “This is my first time winning anything; my first award ever.” The Image Awards are presented annually by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and celebrates the accomplishments of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature and film.
Samantha Ofole-Prince is a journalist and movie critic who covers industry-specific news that includes television and film. She serves as the Entertainment Editor for Trendy Africa.