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Alfre Woodard Hosts Oscar’s Sistahs Soiree

Alfre Woodard threw her first Oscar’s Sistahs Soiree six years ago, when she had grown tired of everyone assuming actresses of color were in competition with each other. “Every time we hear each others’ names, it felt like it was one of our reps going, ‘If that b–tch turns it down, then you can have it!’” Woodard revealed at a cocktail gathering before the dinner. “I was like, wait a minute. When I hear my sisters’ names, I want to have a joyful feeling in my heart about it.”

There was nothing but joy evident in the cocktail party at the Beverly Wilshire held before the 28 invited guests headed into a private dinner. The room was loud with laughter and cheers as Woodard tried to find an area where she could talk. “You see how loud it gets!” she said with a laugh. “It’s always like this, because all the women in this room have more in common with each other than anyone else in the professional world. We’ve all been on the same journey — we speak a common language.”

Per Woodard’s decree, the women attend solo — no one brings a partner or any representatives. “From the first time, everyone just fell into each others’ arms,” she said. “It was immediate bonding.”

The event was sponsored by Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds Lustre fragrance and Piper-Heidsieck, the official champagne of the Oscars.

Woodard had wanted to host a gathering for some time, but 2009 happened to be the year both Viola Davis (“Doubt”) and Taraji P. Henson (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) were nominated. And she didn’t want to just honor nominees. “It’s to honor the women who are nominated and the women who, in a perfect world, should have been,” she noted. “I wasn’t going to have a gathering of women actors and not have CCH Pounder or Lorraine Toussaint here!”

Woodard says the event is about making their presence known. “There are so many beautiful, talented, black and brown women,” she said. “We know the ones nominated will be out and (are) being celebrated. But when they’re on the carpet, when they’re walking onstage, there are people like them wishing them well. The women who know exactly what you’re doing, actors of quality, saying good on you. We got your back.”

She added: “But it’s not reactive, it’s proactive. It’s about us celebrating us and lifting each other up.”

Also attending the event were “Selma” director Ava DuVernay, “Top Five” star Rosario Dawson and Davis, who, when asked about the finale of her hit show “How to Get Away With Murder,” would only say: “It is going to. Blow. Your. Mind.”

Her Thursday night ABC co-star Khandi Alexander, who plays Kerry Washington’s terrorist mother on “Scandal,” was equally mum about upcoming twists and turns. “You know I can’t tell you anything!” she said with a laugh. She did mention she enjoys playing scenes where her character is in prison. “I don’t do my hair, and I don’t wear makeup. I get to roll out of bed and show up!”

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who was being honored at the event along with DuVernay, was chatting with fellow Brit Carmen Ejogo, now on screens in “Selma” as Coretta Scott King. Mbatha-Raw admitted that when she first came to America six years ago with the TV show “Undercovers,” she felt lost. “I actually asked Carmen for advice,” she revealed. Ejogo declared, “You clearly found your way, babe.”

In discussing the excellent year for women of color onscreen, Ejogo noted, “There were some great characters onscreen this year. But I think we’re always striving for more. Women of all ethnicities, all stripes and colors, know that we lead some of the most interesting lives out there, and we hope to see more of those experiences represented onscreen.”

Ejogo added that she was grateful for events like this, “which remind you we’re all in this together and we have to support each other.” She added that she was excited to celebrate Mbatha-Raw that night, prompting the latter to respond, “I feel like I’m celebrating everyone. It’s a wonderful moment.”

(Pictured: Emayatzy E. Corinealdi, director Ava DuVernay, Danai Gurira and Alfre Woodard attend the Alfre Woodard’s Oscar’s Sistahs Soiree.)

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