When Issa Rae watched Oprah Winfrey being honored at Essence magazine's Black Women in Hollywood Awards last year, the actress hoped she would one day be recognized in the same fashion. But she didn't think it would come this soon.
Rae, Janelle Monae, Aja Naomi King and Yara Shahidi will be honored Thursday in Los Angeles at the magazine's 10th annual awards. Past honorees include Oprah Winfrey, Viola Davis, Halle Berry, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer.
"I used to say, 'It would be so cool to be up there,' but I didn't imagine it now," Rae, creator and star of HBO's "Insecure," said in a phone interview. "I was thinking maybe after a couple more films, a couple TV shows under my belt. ... That's really what I thought. It's just so encouraging to be awarded so early in my career. But that's what Essence does. It gets behind and supports black women. Now I feel like I can be on that journey."
This year's awards recognize "Hollywood's Next Generation."
Singer-actress Monae starred in two films up for best picture at the Oscars, "Hidden Figures" and "Moonlight." King is featured on television's "How to Get Away With Murder" and Shahidi appears on the sitcom "black-ish."
"These women are making their own waves," said Vanessa K. De Luca, editor-in-chief at Essence. "We think about who's had a stellar year. We think about who's been working quietly behind the scenes forever and deserves recognition. We think about who are going to be the women to pick up the mantle. We think about who are new and next. This year, we are taking a look at the new Hollywood."
De Luca said the awards provide an opportunity for the actresses to network with each other. She said many carve out time in their schedules to make sure they attend the awards, an event Winfrey has called "a sacred place" for black women.
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Rae is one of them. The actresses-writer-director calls the event a "bonding experience."
And she feels validated by the recognition.
"It shows I'm on the right path," she said. "This is basically telling me, 'Hey girl, You're up next.'"