ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon

Posted on February 24, 2012

Poodles, it was the 5th Annual ESSENCE “Black Women in Hollywood” Luncheon! All ladies to the red carpet, please!


Anika Noni Rose

We love how different she looks from appearance to appearance. She never not looks like herself, but she’ll switch up hairstyles and silhouettes like a pro. This could easily go twee, but it looks sweet and chic (if a little wrinkled) on her. That’s her color, for sure.


Emma Stone in Elie Saab

Sweetie, could you have maybe picked something that didn’t scream “WHITE” at the top of its lungs?

She’d look really cute if her shoes and clutch had some actual color to them.


Holly Robinson Peete

 Work that pose, girl. We’re digging the choice of grey shoes to go with this dress, but the dress itself is just a little stiff on her. A couple more inches on the hem would have balanced out the proportions.


Jennifer Beals in Rue du Mail

 Interesting up top, but then it all goes standard somewhere around the midsection.


Jurnee Smollett

 The only thing this ensemble is missing is wings and a glittery star on a stick.


Kelly Rowland

WERQ it.

But for god’s sake, burn those damn shoes.


Kerry Washington in Cushnie et Ochs

Is that a clutch? Because if it is, she spent the rest of the event looking like she was heading to the ladies room with a magazine under her arm.

We joke because we love. We think she looks pretty fierce.


Lynn Whitfield

 Sweetie, we don’t mean to alarm you, but it looks like your dress is in the process of making a getaway.


Nicole Ari Parker

 Great dress, bad jewelry.


Octavia Spencer in Tadashi Shoji

She looks cute, but those are the wrong shoes for this look.


Paula Patton in Marchesa

 Simple but classic. Lose the babyheads, girl.


Sharon Leal

Very pretty – until you get to the bedroom slippers.


Viola Davis in Victoria Beckham



[Photo Credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]

Previous post:
Next Post:

Please review our Community Guidelines before posting a comment. Thank you!

  • Sweetpea176

    Love Viola Davis with her natural hair!  Think she’ll go natural to the Oscars?

    • Jaeda Laurez

      I hope so- she looks so amazing with her TWA, and the color is perfect!

      • P M

         ignorant brownie question: what is TWA?

        • Jaeda Laurez

          Teenie Weenie Afro :-}

          • P M

             hee, so cute :)

        • JosephLamour

          I’m black and even I had to look it up. I was like… Trans World Airlines? NO. Today Was Awful? NO. Teeny Weeny Afro? Ding ding ding!!

        • QtheQuidnunc

          Teenie Weenie Afro

    • Ginger

      Let’s all hope and pray that she does.  I ADORE how beautiful she is!

      • TheOriginalLulu

        Word. She should donate all her wigs and just rock this natural look from now on. She looks SO much hotter like this.

        • Warmheartedgirl Seattle

          So much hotter, and so much younger!  Love it!

    • Brian @ PWYJudges

      I hope she does… she looks absolutely stunning like that!

    • Alli

      I just commented the same thing – great minds think alike.

    • MsKitty

      I hope she does.  She should ditch the wigs for good (except for her roles), she is much more stunning with natural hair.

      • dress_up_doll

        She also looks much younger with her natural hair.

    • Kat Wright

      please please please do I say!!!

    • VicD

       Viola Davis FTW (for the win) – both this outfit and on Sunday

    • LesYeuxHiboux

      She looks so young without the wigs!

    • carpediva

      This black chick says I don’t think so!  This is “Essence”; she’s among our peeps and feels “safe” here.  

      That said, I hope she does: not for any kind of statement, but just because it’s her most stunning self and that is a night to look your most gorgeous!

      • fauxhawk

        My thoughts exactly! It’s the hair she wears when she feels comfortable enough to be herself.

    • fauxhawk

      I love how she has her natural hair, and then her “work” hair, for Hollywood. Fucking awesome. It makes more of a statement than if she only wore her hair one way. I’ve been waiting so long for her to show her real hair and I was soooo not disappointed!!! (yes, I know this wasn’t the first time, I’m referring to an earlier time) YAY VIOLA!!!

    • Derek_anny

       If she does, she’ll be responsible for the collapse of the wig industry.  I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or bad.

  • Judy S

    Nice choice of images. Whenever I started thinking, wow, everyone looked great, there would be a hilarious mistake (and comment on it). But overall an attractively dressed group. 

  • LaMamanduPoeteetSainte

    Viola: stop wearing those ugly wigs!  You look great with the “hair Jesus gave you.”

    • P M

       Although, we should be glad those are wigs and not processed hair. Smart lady – she’s sparing herself the hair damage.

  • Samuel Joesph Donovan

    GOD I am in love with her natural hair.  I seriously hope she takes that to the Oscars and wins with it.

  • Tashina Savage

    Wow, you are right. Viola does looks FIERCE with her natural hair.

  • Patricia Gillett

    Love Viola’s hair. And the dress? Hot!!! Shelley O is jealous as Hell of that look. Will want to steal it for the convention! 

    • DaringMiss

      You are so right.  Michelle would look amazing in that dress!

  • Songstress

    Hallelujah! Ms Davis looks gorgeous and so much more chic with HER OWN HAIR!! Love, love, love.

  • serenitynow02

    Viola Davis looks like a pretty woman with her various wigs. But damn, she looks like a BEAUTIFUL AND POWERFUL WOMAN with her own locks.

  • SewingSiren

    Viola Davis is gorgeous. I love her. I also love her dress. The others seem equally split between cocktail and luncheon attire. Her dress works for either .

  • Belle Burnett

    VIOLA!! KERRY!! OMG they look so awesome!
    Also, let’s here it for everybody’s skincare regimen, some of these ladies (Lynn, I’m looking at you) are older than me, but look like they’re still in that blush of youth. Love it!

    • Liz Norris

       Lynn looks freaking amazing. Whatever she’s drinking, I’ll take ten gallons.

      • amywinns

        I think she’s drinking 10 gallons of botox. That face is unlined and immobile.

  • elleg929

    Viola shut it down.  GORGEOUS!

  • Lilak

    ANR’s and Smollett’s look like stuff they retrieved from a trunk in the attic.

    But mainly:  So-o-o-o glad to see Miss Davis’s natural hair again … and out in public … a most excellent development!
    Boy, would I love to see it again on Oscar night — dare I dream?

  • Deitra S.

    I hope Viola ditches the wigs for the Oscars, too!  She looks so great!

  • Jennifer Coleman

    Pleasepleaseplease Viola go natural at the Oscars!

    Paula Patton has the goofiest poses on the RC, hands down. Somebody please teach that child how to stand with a little grace.

    Octavia is liking the white shirts lately.

    I’m not really a big Kelly Rowland fan, but there’s no denying she has a well defined and distinctive style.

    Kerry Washington is my favorite look. Gorgeous!

    • Mercy

      Agreed on everything… Kerry Washington is defining Fierce!

      And that Easter Sunday toddler dress is a full on tragedy for ANR… that may be her color but it is NOT a dress for anyone over the age of five.

  • butterflysunita

    So agree that Viola Davis looks fantastic with her natural hair. 
    Overall, lots of great, interesting dresses.  

  • PastryGoddess

    Viola Davis wins the internet today and possibly for the rest of the week

  • Claudia Gilbert

    Kerry Washington looks amazing!  Is it wrong that I think the magazine clutch is a fun way to clutch?

    • gabbilevy

      It’s like the books made into bags! I LOVE those!

  • Lilithcat

    Viola Davis is the only one of the bunch dressed for a luncheon.  Everyone else looks like they’re going to a cocktail party.

    • Kayceed

      I think Kerry Washington also is working the the ladies-who-lunch vibe with that suit.

    • Scarlet39

      Particularly Paula Patton.  The peekaboo lace reads vulgar for a luncheon IMO

    • Jennifer Coleman

      Seriously! Emma, Octavia (even with those purple Hobbit feet shoes) Viola & Kerry are dressed for day. Sharon Leal might squeak by if she removes the bling.

    • Beardslee

      The strapless cocktail dress is the default for every conceivable event and season, it seems.  Also high strappy shoes.  Boring.

  • Eva_baby

    Jurnee  Smollet is so damned pretty that is pains me so see what she is wearing here.  You know when you are in a wedding and the bride tells you that you can totally wear the bridesmaid dress again?  Just go to a seamstress and have the bottom hemmed and voila! new dress?  Well that is what Jurnee’s dress looks like.

    Viola, otoh, is doing the thing!  She looks fab and I like the touch of color in the hair.

    Paula looks good.  She’s getting better with her choices, bless her heart.

    There is some serious shoe ass-hattery going on up in there, though.  Not digging many of the shoes.

  • Lilak

    Addendum (forgotten in my excitement over V. Davis):  Too right about Emma Stone’s dress … could not be more princess-y white girl … can only hope there’s some inside joke going on. 
    Majorly confectionary … in fact, fabric up close resembles nothing so much as Bill & Cathy’s wedding cake.  

  • Shannon Stewart

    What color is Viola Davis’s dress?  Is it cream, is it pale pink, is it some combo thereof?  ‘Cause I want that color — it’s amazing.

    • Jaeda Laurez

      i know! it’s like…creamy. Beautiful warm tone, like winter white. 

  • SapphoPoet

    That’s a very odd collection of dresses, but at least most of them had some sort of interest to them. I LOVE Viola Davis with her natural hair. 

  • Jennifer Hofstetter

    Viola Davis looks FANfuckingTASTIC there. Her body makes me jellies.

  • Jessica Goldstein

    Two superficial hair comments: Viola: Her hair is back! Yay! She looks younger, chicer, and more fashionable all-round with her short natural hair. Kelly: Is that all her real hair? If so, I am incredibly envious. It’s thick, it’s well shaped, and you can see the definition of every single ringlet. As a girl with a head of looser, messier curls, I think hers is the gold standard.

    • Jennifer Coleman

      If you think that’s her real hair, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn for ya.

  • Jessica Goldstein

    Two superficial hair comments: Viola: Her hair is back! Yay! She looks younger, chicer, and more fashionable all-round with her short natural hair. Kelly: Is that all her real hair? If so, I am incredibly envious. It’s thick, it’s well shaped, and you can see the definition of every single ringlet. As a girl with a head of looser, messier curls, I think hers is the gold standard.

  • sarahofalessergod

    Ooh, I am not a fan of Kerry Washington’s hair.  She usually looks great from top to toe, but that hair just looks flat.  Viola, on the other hand, can get it any way she wants it.

  • sarahofalessergod

    Ooh, I am not a fan of Kerry Washington’s hair.  She usually looks great from top to toe, but that hair just looks flat.  Viola, on the other hand, can get it any way she wants it.

  • Jaeda Laurez

    My fave dress is actually Nicole Ari Parker’s. And I love the hair and the big jewelry. I might have gone one less bangle, but overall, I  really want to rip the entire look off her and throw it in my closet lol. 

    • MilaXX

       I like everything about her look except the big bangle.

  • miagain

    Viola Davis looks so wonderful!!  I love her hair!!!!

  • bluefish

    Viola looks fantastic.  Here’s to hoping she ditches the wigs for good.  And a great great dress.

  • MDH3

    Viola Davis looks a-ma-zing.  It is good to see so many black women starting to go natural.

  • Pants_are_a_must

    I can’t get over how different and amazing Viola Davis looks with her natural hair.

    Paula Patton has joined Jessica Alba’s “ladies who hate breathing” club.

  • Alli

    OMG VIOLA! I love the natural look on her – imagine if she rocked it for the Oscars!

    Octavia looks like she’s going to a business lunch.

  • fiestyfashionfem

    Squeeeeeee!  I saw that photo of Viola Davis on another website and literally ran (well, with my fingers) to TLo to see what they said.  I love love love her hair, her dress, her face, everything!!!  Listen Viola – listen to your fairy gayuncles – they’ve been telling you from the get go – lose the wig, embrace your fabulousness, and keep the tits in check.  You’re a goddess! 

  • MissMariRose

    What’s with all the blue toenail polish? 

  • CQAussie

    Holly Robinson Peete’s grey shoes with Kelly Rowland’s dress = the best outfit of the evening.  Too bad that didn’t happen.  Loved Viola Davis rocking her hair but hated her Minnie Mouse shoes with the otherwise fab dress.  Octavia SO knows those shoes don’t work!  Also, I love her but she looks like a secretary here on casual Friday.  Even with the cha-cha shoes.  

  • Gus Casals

    Kelly + Curly hair= Instant WERQ moment.
    Loving Viola. 

  • YourBaloneyDontGotNoSecondName

    Oh Viola, PLEASE lose the wigs when you pick up your statue Sunday night.  Besides making an important statement about women and women of color, you look AHMAZING and GORGEOUS so that I hope you never wear wigs again!

  • granddelusion

    God, I love Viola’s hair. I wish she’d wear it everywhere.

  • granddelusion

    Is Viola a glorious tower of awesomeness, or what?

  • Sara Munoz

    Nicole Ari Parker- Love you, love the hair!

    Jennifer Beals- Love you, like the hair, hate the shoes.

  • Shopgrrl81

    Viola Davis said in her interview with Oprah that wigs and weaves had become a crutch and she just didn’t want to rely on crutches anymore. I loved that. She’s 46 and experiencing the greatest success of her career and looks like she’s loving every minute of it. 

    • MilaXX

       This true for many woman of color. I’ve met women who actually don’t know how to care for their hair in it’s natural state.

  • sashaychante

    Almost didn’t recognize Viola Davis in her photo.  She looks more youthful and vibrant with her natural hair.  Love that dress on her too.

  • FashionShowAtLunch

    Jurnee Smollett is so purty, even if that dress is a little fairy-princess.  I’m just happy to see her, so that I can continue to pretend in  my head that they’re actually going to make a(nother) Friday Night Lights movie. 

  • dress_up_doll

    Anika Noni Rose is such a chameleon. She looks great in this color even if the dress is a bit on the twee side.

  • ChristySchiff

    I don’t think Jurnee Smollett is the only one wearing one of Disney’s princess collection dresses.  Isn’t Anika Noni Rose wearing the Tiana dress?

  • samo_samo

    A pretty fantastic group of ladies. Nothing more I can say about Viola Davis that hasn’t already been said. I just can’t wait to see her work the Oscars red carpet on Sunday. If she’s as fresh and radiant as she is in this picture, she’s going to shut it down at the Oscars.

  • jennmarie19

    Viola Davis looks soooo fierce!

  • EEKstl

    Viola Davis and Kerry Washington get Best Dressed because this is a LUNCHEON, dammit, not a prom. But props to Kerry Washington because even tho it’s sparkly, I love her dress (tho agreed she should have ditched the Silly Putty shoes).

    • Jennifer Coleman

      Wha..? Thinking you meant Kelly Rowland.

  • P M

    And again with the scowl, Ms. Spencer. At least sneak in some highlighter in your bag – your makeup person obviously doesn’t know how to use it. But at least she / he gave you a pretty smoky eye look :).
    And carry a bigger bag – if you’re feeling scowly, you can smack somebody with the bag. It’ll be therapeutic. 

    • ChristySchiff

       Maybe the scowl is for the shoes?

  • Addicted2Glamour

    Kerry Washington to Emma Stone, passing her on the way to the ladies room: “THIS is how you pop a little color on your whites, girl.”

    • Jennifer Coleman

      Also, “Need some more advice? Here – read my clutch.”

  • emeazul

    Viola: WERQ IT! WORK IT!

    Why did they take all the pictures in front of the white part of the backdrop when almost the entire lot of them is in white/cream/pale dresses??

    I think that standing in front of the black part would have made their frocks more distinguishable, cus’ right now Emma Stone is a floating wig to me!!

  • Jennifer Peters-Ahnberg

    Viola Davis looks AMAZING!

  • Chaiaiai

    Viola, of course, looks amazing.  But can I just say I would KILL to look like Sharon Leal?  That woman is gor-ge-ous.  I don’t even mind the bedroom slippers:)

  • myblackfriendsays

    I love how you two consistently cover events featuring people of color. And I know you don’t do it to get comments like this, which makes it even better.

  • judybrowni

    Nicole Ari Parker: watch out,honey. Your hair is growing a tumor.Octavia, if it was such a pain in the ass to come to this thing, why didn’t you just stay home? Or fake a smile, at least.

  • TheOriginalLulu

    Lynn Whitfield – forget the dress; did she apply her makeup with a trowel?
    Jurnee Smollet – I’m pretty sure I wore that costume for Halloween one year.
    Miss Viola for the win, if only because I love her with her natural hair.  

  • hilonwheels

    lovelovelove Viola Davis! She looks amazing here. What are the chances she’d rock her hair like this at the Oscars? Be absolutely amazingly great if she did.

  • PeggyOC

    Vi, honey, please ditch the wig.  Must you perpetrate the fiction that a sister can only look fierce if she’s wearing flat, straight white-girl hair?  You ROCK the hair you were born with.

  • CarolinLA

    I wish white women would embrace the wig thing.  I’d love to hate a different look everyday.  

    • MilaXX

       You’d be surprised how many of them do.

  • Cathy S

    I wish Miss Viola would rock that hair more often. She’s fabulous.

  • Nicole Seligman

    obsessed with kerry washington’s kate spade clutch. i want the tote bag. emma stone looks delicious, but she’s at the wrooong event in that outfit. she should have worn something in a fierce purple or green.

  • Judy_J

    Viola looks amazing with her natural hair.  Makes me wish she’d ditch the wigs for good.

  • meowing

    Best hair EVER on Viola Davis.  Ditch the wigs–you clearly don’t need them.
    sigh.  Just realized what’s been missing from my wardrobe:  a star on a stick.

  • MilaXX

    I frakkin love Viola so much. I wish she would wear her natural hair all the time. She looks gorgeous!
    Every time I see Nicole Ari Parker, I can’t help but think about that gorgeous hunk o’ man she’s married to.
    Kerry Washington is showing Emma Stone how to wear all white the right way.I think Jurnee Smollett’s dress is lovely, but it’s accessorized all wrong. BTW, am I the only person who recalls that awful sitcom she had with her many siblngs when she was a child actor?

    All in all the ladies looked good.

  • Ass Kicking Adviser

    Love Viola’s hair but wow! that dress is chic as hell. She looks fabulous! She and Anika were the only ones worth getting excited about though.


    Kelly…Rowland’s…nail polish…*eye twitch*

  • irielle

    Yikes! I remember when purses that look like magazines were big in the early 80s. That’s not something I would have predicted would make it back into fashion.

  • Gayer_Than_Thou

    Kerri Washington and Viola Davis are clearly best in show here — smart, chic looks that clearly say “ladies’ luncheon” without saying LADIES’ LUNCHEON (or “meet me in the bar”).

  • kimmeister

    I don’t like the shoulders/neckline of Jennifer Beals’ dress.  Her shoulders look all slopey.

    Octavia’s look is cute (if only the shoes, in that color, were a different style), but she looks underdressed compared to most.

    • colleenjanel

      I think she’s the one who’s appropriately dressed for a luncheon. Most everyone else dressed for a cocktail party.

  • PeaceBang

    Um, could we mature women please lose the bright green and blue toenails, for God’s sake?

  • didntwanttomakeaprofile22

    I think you two think you’re a little more in tune with black culture than you are. Also do you mean “WHITE” as in the color of the outfit or the color of her skin? Hope its the outfit cause otherwise I think you’re judging criteria is a little off and that you should let your heads de-swell a little from all the praise you, granted deservedly, receive.  

    • leilah

      Hmmm, they’re not attuned to Black culture nor to White culture, either, eh?  You seem to do quite a bit of profiling; at least you recognize “deserved praise”….

  • Heather Snedeker Innis

    Viola is KILLING IT!!

  • sagecreek

    Viola killed, as usual.

    Actually, I thought everyone looked pretty good, with the notable exception of Kelly’s green toenails.

  • unbornfawn

    Viola is WERQing it!!! Ditch the wigs, please!  Everyone else can bow down.

  • ri_dic

    Holy eff- Viola for the win!

  • Lisa

    OMG!!!  Viola Davis is so freaking GORGEOUS!!!

  • quiltrx

    Some great looks here, but I feel a tangent coming on…

    I love the bodice of Jennifer Beals’ dress SO much–it should be an upcoming PR challenge!  Take this bodice, then fix whatever the hell happened from the tits down and make this a fabulous dress.

    • discordany

      If I could like this more than once, I could.

      On a somewhat side note, wouldn’t that be a brilliant challenge? Give everyone the same portion of a dress and see what kind of variety you could get from the rest of the design?

  • bitterk

    I’m traumatized by Kelly Rowland’s shoes.  Please burn them for the sake of the children.  

  • ccm800

    Viola just elevated her chic quotient to highest highs with that hair, and it cannot be unseen. Now those wigs just look abso FAKE on her. I hope she never puts one on. Her beautiful face and generous features just open up like a bloom. Voila, its Viola! 

  • leilah

    Viola Davis:  Perfection — can’t add anything to what’s already been said.  Hope someone reads these comments to her.
    Jurnee Smollett:  Absolutely adorable.
    Lynn Whitfield:  Too much dress in too little space, and not a good color for her — looks a little matronly.  But her face and makeup…frightening — lose the Botox and no more tucks.
    Octavia Spencer:  Poor thing (or her stylist) took “Luncheon” too literally.  But, irrespective of the event, every single element of that outfit is wrong (save for the clutch), and the whole thing is sloppy.  If she’s not short-waisted, that shirt and belt (w/big ass buckle) certainly create that appearance; and the ridiculousness of the collar is inexcusable (smh).  And a brocade skirt demands stockings and pumps…and some other top.  

  • Pterodactyl111

    Octavia’s shoes make me sad. :(

  • Antonija Mitt

    Viola Davis FTW!!!  Kelly Rowland is getting hotter by the second, and I just adore Kerry Washington–she’s the cutest thing. 
    That dress that Jen Beales has on is doing her no favors whatsoever. 

  • GTrain

    Lord I am SO tired of that look on Octavia’s face.

    Viola = gor-geous. Much as it pains me to say it, I really do like a lot of Posh’s designs.
    Lynn Whitfield just looks desperate to me. She looks great for her age, but in my opinion that dress is not flattering at her age.

  • Megan Sullivan

    Emma is just adorable. Loving Kerry Washington’s look. Viola Davis is gorgeous and also my favorite look here.