On Tuesday night at the Governors Awards, Angela Bassett, the acclaimed 65-year-old actress, stole the spotlight in a stunning gold Dolce & Gabbana gown. The red carpet event, celebrating Hollywood luminaries, saw Bassett accompanied by her husband, Courtney B. Vance, and their 17-year-old twins, Slater and Bronwyn Vance.
Bassett, honored with an Oscar in June, was presented the prestigious award by Regina King, her longtime colleague and friend. The Governors Awards also recognized Mel Brooks, Carol Littleton, and Michelle Satter with honorary Oscars.
The evening’s highlight was Bassett’s impassioned acceptance speech, where she delved into the history of Black actresses in Hollywood. Referring to her own journey, she acknowledged the significance of being the second Black actress to receive an honorary Academy Award, following the late Cicely Tyson.
“This, for me, is not just another award,” Bassett declared. Drawing inspiration from trailblazer Hattie McDaniel and subsequent Black Oscar winners, she emphasized the importance of recognizing and embracing diversity in the film industry.
“She [Hattie McDaniel] historically tore down a barrier… and it would be another 50 years before another Black woman would win an Oscar [referring to Whoopi Goldberg, who won for Ghost] … and still more than another decade before the next historic win [Halle Berry became the first Black best actress winner, for Monster’s Ball)… which, after more than two decades, remains ‘the only.’”
Bassett paid tribute to the ten Black actresses who have won Oscars, celebrating them as beacons of possibility for aspiring talents.
“Ten actresses who are makers of history in our industry. I call their names to acknowledge every one of them this evening for being beacons of possibility and hope for little Black and Brown girls who aspire to one day pursue the dream of becoming an actor.”
Bassett went on: “This honor isn’t just for or about me. What I hope this moment means is that we are taking the necessary steps towards a future in which it is the norm, not the exception, to see and embrace one another’s full humanity, stories, and perspectives. This must be our goal, and to always remember that there is room for us all. When we stand together, we win together. To all my fellow Black actresses, fill your hearts with courage and strength, because regardless of what you may think or see or feel, our contributions do matter. Remember who you are, and how our ancestors intended us to be.” She added, “I proudly share this honor with women who stand up when they are told to stand back, who speak up when they are silenced… these women represent those I have been honored to portray, as well as the everyday women who surround us and inspire us to keep striving.”
And the 65-year-old, who is still very active in her career, closed by saying to cheers, “The best is yet to come.”
Regina King, who introduced Bassett who is “a sister to me” on stage, praised her as a “national treasure.” King highlighted Angela’s ageless career, spanning over decades and covering more than 100 roles in film and television.
King concluded by saying: “Bottom line: Angela has lived a career for the ages, and I swear, she is ageless… She is artistic excellence embodied in human form.”
In her acceptance speech, Bassett quoted Maya Angelou, saying, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” She expressed gratitude for the profound honor and shared her anticipation that the best is yet to come.
As Angela Bassett continues to make waves in Hollywood, her legacy serves as an inspiration for the industry to become more enriched, forward-thinking, and inclusive. The iconic actress remains a symbol of resilience, talent, and the ongoing pursuit of meaningful work in the world of cinema.
Watch Regina King and then Angela Bassett’s speech below.