Oscar host, producer, others honor black women in Hollywood

By SANDY COHEN - AP Entertainment Writer ,

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Actress, dancer and honoree Debbie Allen, second left, and family Norman Nixon Jr., from left, Norm Nixon Sr., and Vivian Nixon attend the Essence 9th Annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel

Actress, dancer and honoree Debbie Allen, second left, and family Norman Nixon Jr., from left, Norm Nixon Sr., and Vivian Nixon attend the Essence 9th Annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (Photo: Vince Bucci/Invision/AP)

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Oscar host Chris Rock, producer Reginald Hudlin and film academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs took an afternoon off from Academy Awards preparations to celebrate black women in Hollywood.

Rock, Hudlin and Boone Isaacs were among the guests at Essence Magazine's ninth annual awards luncheon Thursday at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Hudlin took the stage to present an award to legendary entertainer Debbie Allen.

The annual Essence event celebrates the achievements of black women in entertainment. Actress Tracee Ellis Ross and entertainment attorney Nina Shaw were also recognized.

Shonda Rhimes announced that Allen has agreed to serve as producing director of "Grey's Anatomy" and called the writer-director-choreographer-performer "a force of nature."

"Debbie blows through an environment and changes the landscape forever," Rhimes said.

Ross, accompanied by her father and older sister, Rhonda, accepted the Fierce and Fearless award. She said she had been sick for the past week and worried she wouldn't be able to attend the luncheon.

"I got dressed in the car," she said. "I'm unclear if what I'm wearing is see-through. If it is, I'm sorry."

Oprah Winfrey opened the program, which will air Saturday on OWN.

In a year when Hollywood's lack of inclusion has overwhelmed the Oscar race, Winfrey said, "it's a beautiful thing that we have the good sense to do this for ourselves."

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