There is always a lot to celebrate during Oscar week, but many of this year’s special occasions toasted to something in particular: a historical year for Oscar nominations by the Academy. Diversity and inclusion was front and center for celebrations throughout the week, from Alfre Woodard’s Sistahs Soiree, to Common’s pre-Oscar dinner (pictured above), to African-American publications Ebony and Essence toasting to black Hollywood at their respective fetes.
Women were also a part of the conversation. While the landmark moment for people of color was applauded, the ladies in the industry were still pushing for progress at the Women in Film’s annual cocktail reception, which sprinkled in motivational speeches from Brie Larson and Meryl Streep with the hors d’oeuvres.
Take a peek inside this year’s pre-Oscar celebratory gatherings below:
Oscar’s Sistahs Soiree:
Progress, not politics, was what some guests shared at Alfre Woodard and Farfetch’s 8th annual Oscar’s Sistahs Soiree, held Wednesday at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
After two consecutive years without a touch of color in acting categories, this time around a record-breaking six black actors scored nods. And among them is another breakthrough, in that it is the first time that three of the five nominees in the supporting actress category are black — Viola Davis (“Fences”), Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”) and Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”).
Woodard feted a mouthwatering catalogue of black Hollywood, including some current contenders, past nominees and “those who, in a perfect world, should have been,” she noted in an invitation.
The highlight of Woodard’s annual event includes a heart-to-heart bonding session that facilitates discussion on navigating showbiz — and everything else — among rising starlets and acclaimed veterans.
Margaret Avery, who was nominated in the supporting actress category for “The Color Purple” at the 58th Academy Awards alongside co-star Oprah Winfrey in 1986, said, “We go to another place and talk intimately and share things that you don’t get to with another actor, about work and life, how you survive this business being a woman of color.”
|Tracee Ellis Ross and Loretta DeVine at the 8th Annual Oscars Sistahs Soiree. Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock|
Vanity Fair and L’Oreal Paris “Young Hollywood” Party:
Dakota Johnson played host at Vanity Fair’s annual ode to young Hollywood Tuesday night at WeHo hot spot Delilah. The champagne-soaked fete drew the industry’s freshest faces in the way of “The Night Of” breakout star Riz Ahmed, Rowan Blanchard (“Girl Meets World”), “Shameless” heartthrob Jeremy Allen White, and Dove Cameron, the perky, adorable Marilyn Monroe-esque lead in Disney’s villainous juggernaut “Descendants.”
“It made a lot of sense to do [this party] with Dakota Johnson,” said Vanity Fair executive West Coast editor Krista Smith.
“She’s been on our cover, she’s an ex-‘Vanities’ girl from a few years ago and I really feel like once you’re featured in the magazine you really become part of the Vanity Fair family.”
|Alia Shawkat, Shameik Moore and Fabianne Therese show their moves at Vanity Fair and L’Oreal Paris’ Young Hollywood celebration. Lauren/REX/Shutterstock|
Ebony Magazine & iTunes Movies present “The Storytellers”:
Delilah in West Hollywood was quickly at capacity by 10 p.m. on Thursday, leaving celebrities like Kym Whitley and Omar Dorsey of OWN’s “Queen Sugar” to stand in the VIP line on Santa Monica Boulevard for the fire marshall on scene. Inside, Earth, Wind & Fire’s Verdine White was taking photos with fans by the door while Macro’s Charles D. King held court on the dance floor with stars of BET’s “The New Edition Story” greeting the former WME partner one by one.
Ebony Magazine kept the opening remarks brief at the “Storytellers” event, co-hosted by iTunes Movies and co-produced by lifestyle boutique firm MVD Inc. The night saluted “Manchester By the Sea” exec producer Kimberly Steward, “I Am Not Your Negro” director Raoul Peck and “Moonlight” editor Joi McMillon.
“I remember reading Ebony in my house growing up,” Steward said in pure excitement for the honor.
“You are breaking glass ceilings,” shouted “Loving” producer Oge Egbuonu as she happily pointed to Steward, who stood by the DJ booth.
DJ D-Nice kept the star-studded crowd dancing with an array of hits from artists such as Lil’ Kim and Michael Jackson (whose brother and former bandmate Tito Jackson was on hand, bobbing his head throughout the night along with “Black-ish” comedian Deon Cole.
“Insecure” actress Yvonne Orji was cutting a rug with “Queen Sugar” star Dawn-Lyen Gardner into the later hours as many stars were already filed out by 12:30 a.m. The party, however, was just beginning for night owls like Larenz Tate, who walked up to the side entrance when the clock struck 1 a.m.
|Ebony’s Kyra Kyles with Joi McMillon, Raoul Peck, Kimberly Steward and Apple’s Justina Omokhua. Lauren/Variety/REX/Shutterstock|
Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood Awards:
“Black girl magic” was the catchphrase of the evening at Essence’s “Black Women in Hollywood Awards” gala, now in its 10th iteration. It’s the first time the event was held as an evening gala after years as a luncheon ceremony.
The celebration on Thursday at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel attracted a mouthwatering roster of talent to honor Hollywood’s entertainers.
Gabrielle Union served as the host, and guests included Viola Davis, Shonda Rhimes, Diahann Carroll, Quvenzhane Wallis, Alfre Woodard, Common and Laverne Cox among others.
Pharrell Williams, who served as a producer and co-composer on “Hidden Figures,” presented singer-actress Janelle Monae with the Breakthrough award; Tracee Ellis Ross introduced her “black-ish” co-star, Yara Shahidi, who received the Generation Next prize; “How to Get Away With Murder’s” Aja Naomi King, whose ABC drama aired its season finale that night was presented with the Lincoln Shining Star award; while “Insecure” creator-actress Issa Rae earned the Vanguard trophy.
“It’s so amazing to grow up onset—and more importantly, grow up watching you,” Shahidi said of Ross. “I want to take a moment to appreciate that I’m surrounded by all of this magic right now, specifically, black girl magic. I’d also like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the women in this room and the work you are all dedicated and committed to creating.”
Following her recent Grammy win for best musical theater album, from the cast recording of “The Color Purple,” singer-actress Cynthia Erivo brought down the house with a performance.
The 10th anniversary ceremony was recorded and will air March 5 on OWN.
|Janelle Monae at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards. Cook/WWD/REX/Shutterstock|
Women In Film:
“With numbers, they can’t ignore us,” Meryl Streep told the guests of the Women in Film pre-Oscar cocktail party, doubling down on the message from her headline-making speech at the Golden Globes. Brie Larson, the host of the evening and last year’s best actress winner, hooted in support from the side of the stage before taking the mic herself.
Streep and Ava DuVernay had been brought on stage by Cathy Schulman, president of WIF, to help kick off the celebration of this year’s female Oscar nominees on Friday night at Nightingale Plaza. And a celebration it was; feelings of jubilation and pride in being able to support one’s fellow female creatives didn’t dissipate even as the evening wore on.
Perhaps the sentiment was bolstered by Larson’s comments: “You’re given this incredible opportunity to be part of this space with others. Let’s share our stories.”
The “Room” actress went on to add, “We’ll be here a year later and let’s talk about how this was the moment when we went, ‘I got it. I know how to make the world a better place.’ Artists are the ones politicians fear. It’s always been the case. So let’s do it.”
Read the full story here.
|Ava DuVernay and Meryl Streep flank Women In Film president Cathy Schulman. Lauren/Variety/REX/Shutterstock|
Film Is Great:
In the run-up to the Oscars there are plenty of parties to attend. So, to keep their guests a little longer the Film Is Great reception at Fig and Olive on Friday offered Jessie J’s performance. As she belted out a couple of tunes, including “Bang Bang,” the conversations muted to a dull roar in the background.
Kieran Breen, president of the BAFTA Los Angeles board of directors, said, “She’s got an amazing voice.”
Discussing the U.K. nominees, Breen said while there may be fewer above the line nominees, “below the line there is a huge number of nominees. So many films get made in the U.K. we have strong below-the- line crews.” While tax credits helped, he added, “the professionalism and the expertise of the crews is pretty unparalleled. Our stages in London are full because producers keep coming back again and again.”
Among the guests was the U.K. ambassador Kim Darroch who even tweeted that British-made films took 25% of the global box office since 2015. “We have a very talented industry and we have nominations in every category this year. We did very well last year.”
As for the Great campaign, he said it would continue doing what it’s been doing since that has paid off well. “Make the most of the areas where we’re doing well already, try to bring new parts of business in tourism or whatever into the country, selling the U.K. as a great, great place to invest in, do business with and travel to.”
Besides the British nominees, BAFTA LA’s Chantal Rickards and Howard Stringer were among the guests.
|Jessie J headlines the Film is GREAT reception. Latour/Variety/REX/Shutterstock|
Toast to the Arts Curated by Common:
Gabrielle Union and Samuel L. Jackson arrived early for the celebration, presented by MVD, at West Hollywood’s Ysabel on Friday. The latter actor passed the time in the corner by engaging in conversation with guests, including Shonda Rhimes – who snuck in quickly past the carpet upon her arrival. The section also had young “Moonlight” actors Alex R. Hibbert and Jaden Piner dancing to the tunes, provided by DJ D-Nice, before they eventually slumped down onto the couches as they awaited dinner.
After the three course meal, the evening’s host, Common, took front and center to discuss the night’s honorees, Ava DuVernay, Barry Jenkins, Ezra Edelman and Raoul Peck.
Praising his former “Selma” director, Common makes one thing clear to the listening dinner guests: he had to fight to have a song on the Oscar-nominated documentary. “She wasn’t going to let us do a song just because we did a song for her last film,” he assured.
Moving on to Edelman, Common admitted to believing O.J. Simpson’s innocence for years until he watched “O.J.: Made in America” late one night.
“I didn’t think he did it,” Taraji P. Henson interjected from a nearby table.”Insecure” star Issa Rae, sitting across form Henson, calmly assured her. “Yea, he did it.”
“Alright, I’ll watch it when I get home,” Henson ended.
The intimate dinner gathering concluded with more drinks and dance hits as new stars flowed in, such as Alano Miller, Malachi Kirby and supermodel Jessica White.
|Issa Rae and Taraji P. Henson stop for a photo at the third annual Toast to The Arts Curated by Common. Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock|
Bulgari Pre-Oscar Celebration:
Bulgari, jeweler to the stars, invited some of the biggest names in Hollywood for a glamours dinner. The “Bulgari Family” in attendance included Laura Dern, Zachary Quinto, director David Furnish, and Jasmine Sanders — joined by boyfriend Terrence Jenkins throughout the night.
The Chateau Marmont hosted the exquisite evening, which featured floral arrangements from Jeff Leatham (who was seen taking playful photos with beau Colton Haynes in front of his beautiful violet and red arrangement), as well as magician David Jarre, who entertained dinner guests with a fire act.
Oscar winner Alicia Vikander entered the bungalow later in the evening, holding court in the center of the room as guests began finishing eating the buffet-styled cuisine. Lorenzo Soria, however, couldn’t get enough of the delectable cuisine as he went back in line for another dinner plate.
Soria was overheard predicting “Fences” as the winner in the best supporting actress category. “Viola, 100%,” Soria declared to a party guest, before swaying on the dance floor to Nelly’s “Hot in Herre.”
Toward night’s end, attendees were greeted as they left Bungalow 1 by the of NBCUniversal partygoers, as groups of talent mingled in the driveway of the Chateau while awaiting their respective car rides.
|Alicia Vikander gets flanked by model friends Jon Kortajarena and Toni Garrn at the Bulgari dinner party. Lauren/Variety/REX/Shutterstock|
Chanel Pre-Oscar Dinner:
Before Hollywood’s big night at the Dolby Theatre, showbiz giants squeezed into Madeo’s dimly-lit cocktail room. A mariachi band welcomed guests at the annual Oscar eve dinner, hosted by Chanel and Charles Finch.
In one corner, Pharrell Williams raved about the mini-margherita pizza (“It’s really worth it!”). On the other side of the bar, Harry Connick Jr. chatted up Michael Keaton about New Orleans (“It’s just like the Caribbean”).
Meanwhile, pals Naomi Watts and Nicole Kidman found a spot to sit for a tête-à-tête, pausing every few minutes for the photographers making rounds. Kristen Stewart, Mick Jagger, and Ruth Negga each drew a crowd within the room. There were plenty of hors d’oeuvres and cheek kisses to go around — a prelude to a grand evening ahead.
|Naomi Watts and Nicole Kidman cuddle up at the Chanel pre-Oscar celebration. Katie Jones/WWD/REX/Shutterstock|