Sherri Shepherd wasn’t a nominee at the 13th AAFCA Awards on Wednesday night, but she certainly had the look of a winner.
Shepherd was on hand at the annual awards show — which celebrates the best in film each year — to present the best actress award to her “Chi-town sister” Jennifer Hudson, who the organization’s near-100 members honored for playing Aretha Franklin in “Respect.”
“I’m so in awe of her, that she has reinvented herself but she’s still singing those soulful gospel songs, then she’s pop, then she can get in there and act her butt off and did an amazing job in ‘Respect,’” Shepherd told Variety about Hudson on the red carpet outside the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. “Now the girl’s got her own talk show — welcome to the block, sis! — so, it’s very, very exciting to support her in this manner.”
Of course, Hudson isn’t the only one with a new show. Shepherd was also basking in the glow of her own big news — that she’s launching “Sherri” this fall. And, as Hudson and Shepherd’s join “The Tamron Hall Show,” she noted, Black women are dominating that sector of the industry.
Shepherd’s new syndicated series from Lionsgate’s Debmar-Mercury will take over the Fox O&O time slots that are currently held by “Wendy Williams Show.” When Shepherd made the emotional announcement last week, while guest hosting on “Wendy Williams,” she shared with audiences that she’d long dreamed of hosting her own show, but the opportunity never came. Her message to other women going for their dreams in entertainment: “If you’re a spiritual person like me, you’ve really got to trust His timing.”
“I’m not going to say it’s not going to be without hurts,” she explained. “Because, for 18 years, I heard people tell me I couldn’t sit on a couch by myself and talk. I was in the running for many a show and then someone else would get it.”
So, instead of fielding more suggestions to host cooking shows and other projects that didn’t fit, Shepherd said she “hung those dreams up with the fine china and focused on my acting.”
And now, with the opportunity to host “Sherri,” her dream is renewed. “But God brought that back; that was not me,” she noted. “That was 18 years of him saying, ‘I need to season you. I need you to go through some hurts. I need you to be able to have gone through the highs and the lows, so that you can inspire other women so that when you walk in that room, you have stuff up underneath you.’ I see it now.”
Shepherd’s new show might not premiere for a few months, but she has a lineup of potential guests in mind for her debut week.
“Michelle Obama — my fellow Chi-Town sis — you doing anything? If you want to bring your husband by?” she shared. “Idris [Elba], what you doing? Come in that first week. Oprah, I’m about to call you. I want them all coming. Method Man, come on, you’ve reinvented yourself. You look amazing — I love you on ‘Godfather of Harlem’ and ‘Power Book II: Ghost.’ I’ve already manifested it.”
The night’s big winner was “The Harder They Fall” filmmaker Jeymes Samuel, who hopped up to the microphone throughout the evening to collect his Netflix Western’s heap of awards, including prizes for best picture, best director, best music (shared with Jay-Z and Kid Cudi) and best ensemble (for which he was joined onstage by stars Deon Cole, Edi Gathegi and Kevin Phillips).
Also accepting honors were “King Richard” stars Aunjanue Ellis (best supporting actress) and Saniyya Sidney (breakout actor), plus emerging director winner Reinaldo Marcus Green; “Don’t Look Up” filmmaker Adam McKay (who jetted over to the venue from the DTLA premiere of his HBO Max series “Winning Time” to pick up his award). Best actor winner Will Smith and supporting actor honoree Corey Hawkins were unable to attend.
Special achievement honors went to “Attica” filmmaker Stanley Nelson (best documentary); “Who We Are” filmmaker Jeffrey Robinson (best independent feature); the MPA’s John Gibson (the Salute to Excellence Award); composer Terence Blanchard (the Innovator Award); producer and Hidden Empire Film Group co-founder Roxanne Avent-Taylor (the Building Change Award); and Tri-Star Pictures president Nicole Brown, who accepted the Cinema Vanguard Award on behalf of Sony.
The event was hosted by Charlamagne Tha God and Alesha Reneé, with presenters including AAFCA President Gil Robertson, Chanté Adams, Lee Daniels, Jay Ellis, Travon Free, Cassandra Freeman, Meagan Good, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Shaka King, Karen Sharpe Kramer, Franklin Leonard, Geffri Maya, Algee Smith and DeWanda Wise.