Alfre Woodard hosted her seventh annual pre-Oscars “Sistahs Soiree” on Wednesday at the London West Hollywood’s exclusive Vivienne Westwood Penthouse. The intimate night began with a social cocktail hour for the attendees, all of whom Woodard explained are “African American and Latina [women] who have been nominated for the Oscar in the acting category, and, we say in a perfect world, those who should have been.”
After some mingling and selfies, Woodard’s female friends — including Margaret Avery, Loretta Devine, Lorraine Toussaint, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, LaTanya Richardson, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Aja Naomi King, Anika Noni Rose, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Rosario Dawson, Aisha Tyler and Yolonda Ross — headed into a small dining room, sans any plus ones or reps, to privately continue the girl bonding.
The guest list stays pretty consistent from year to year, a testament to the ladies’ true friendships. Smollett-Bell, who came quickly after taping “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” was excited to return to the annual event. “I’ve been every single year except for one,” she said. “It’s like food for my soul every time I come, because rarely do we all get to be in the same room and love each other and celebrate each other.”
King was one of the Sistahs Soiree’s newcomers. “I’ve known about this event for years, so it’s kind of a moment in my career, so to speak, to be invited to this,” she said. “It makes me feel like I’ve reached a certain level, that [Woodard] would even know about me, to invite me.”
Toussaint described the gathering as more of a “lodge meeting” than a dinner party, emphasizing that actress rivalry and competiveness is nonexistent at Woodard’s fete. Plus, she says these women support each other all year-round, and not just on this one night. “Here’s the thing,” Toussaint explained. “None of us have drunk the Kool-Aid. And if you’re tempted to drink the Kool-Aid or if you’ve had a sip or two of the Kool-Aid, or you’ve had a full glass of the Kool-Aid, we’re here to go, ‘Girl, throw up! Throw that shit up. Do not consume the Kool-Aid. Keep it real.'”
Woodard acknowledged the lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations, and also noted that films simply don’t reflect the world she lives in. “I think it’s hilarious that we have to use the word ‘diversity’ in Hollywood, because the world is diverse. Life is diverse,” Woodard said. “God did diversity, and if you don’t believe in God, (then) evolution did diversity.”
“The conversation and the level of conversation here is really important,” Dawson said. “There’s a different kind of warmth here, and generosity I find, which I don’t think is ever talked about very much. We’re always pitted against each other.”
The positive vibes spread throughout the London Hotel rooftop, where the women were laughing, sipping cocktails and nibbling on small bites, including spicy tuna on crispy rice cakes, curry chicken on pita bread, crab cakes and goat cheese balls with fig jam. They posed for a group shot, standing close and some linking arms, before heading into the dinner sponsored by Tanqueray No. Ten and Perennial Sports & Entertainment.