The 49th NAACP Image Awards Nominee Luncheon launched the celebration of the annual award show’s honored talent at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles Saturday.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson encouraged the audience to use their platforms as entertainers and athletes for social justice, and several nominees agreed with his sentiment, especially when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

Niecy Nash believes there has been progress on the representation front, with certain filmmakers showing the way for the rest of the industry. “I feel like there are amazing storytellers — Dee Rees, Ava DuVernay, Spike Lee — I feel like those storytellers are inviting people to develop a new narrative about what a leading lady looks like.”

Loretta Devine was equally optimistic. “You can look at black shows all day,” she said. “Which had never happened in my coming up in the business!” She continued, “It’s just an endless array of things that are happening that I think are going to make a great difference.”

Luncheon co-host and nominee Lil Rel Howery, star of “Get Out,” had a somewhat different outlook. “It’s amazing shows on television, it’s amazing actors, and I feel like they’re still picking the same people and overlooking all this great stuff that’s going on,” he admitted. “You need to diversify these boards and […] let some of us be included in those conversations.”

Yvette Nicole Brown agreed. “I think the bigger issue is that we don’t have people of color in the positions of power in the industry,” she remarked. “Until we have more studio heads and network heads that mirror the ethnic composition of our nation, we are not going to see ourselves on television as we should.”

Also on hand were Mike Jackson, producer of “Underground”; Justin Simien, director of “Dear White People”; talk show hosts Jeannie Mai and Adrienne Bailon-Houghton of “The Real”; industry veteran and recent producer of the film “Marshall” Reggie Hudlin; Lonnie Chavis of “This Is Us”; and other notables.

With a light atmosphere marked by sounds of laughter and a feeling of community, the event was punctuated by some holiday karaoke. Devine offered the crowd a cute and flirty rendition of “Santa Baby” before Demetria McKinney belted out a powerful, goosebump-inducing version of “The Christmas Song”.

TV One will air the 49th NAACP Image Awards, hosted by Anthony Anderson, at 9 p.m. ET on Monday, January 15, 2018. The pre-show from the red carpet will air at 8 p.m. ET.