Whoopi Goldberg, Zendaya, Michaela Coel, Andra Day and Cynthia Erivo were honoured at Essence's Black Women in Hollywood Awards 2021.

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg

The magazine's annual awards ceremony aired virtually on Thursday night (22.04.21) and saw the five honourees share their stories of resiliency as Black women in Hollywood as part of this year's theme of 'Mastering Our Stories'.

Whoopi, 65, first thanked the publication for making it "a little bit easier and nicer" to be a Black women in Hollywood.

She said: "You’ve made it a little bit easier, a little bit nicer to move through all the mishegoss that is Hollywood.

"I’ve been a Black woman my whole life. To be a Black woman in the world is not always the easiest thing. Essence has always made it clear that we don’t have to be anybody else’s idea of a Black woman … Thank you for allowing me to be myself, even though it might have been a little strange sometimes."

British star Michaela, 33, was presented with the honour for her HBO series 'I May Destroy You' by founder of the MeToo movement, Tarana Burke.

The actress and writer used her own experience of sexual assault to tell the story of Arabella, who rebuilds her life after she is assaulted in London, in the acclaimed comedy-drama.

And she recalled arriving in Los Angeles to meet movie executives to pitch 'I May Destroy You' to them and being so jetlagged that she ended up falling asleep in a truck outside the offices.

Michaela also believes those she pitched to probably thought she was "unstable" because she didn't present them with a treatment or pilot for the show.

She shared: "When I look back at that meeting, I think the executives deemed me unstable.

"Maybe the frantic, terrified eyes. Maybe because I had no treatment or pilot. Maybe because shortly after the meeting, I was found sleeping behind a truck on the premises. The jetlag was just too much and it was so hot, so I crouched down and slept on the ground. I don’t know if I would make a show with me. To the sister who woke me up and got me a bottle of water, thank you."

Zendaya, who was presented with her award by her close friend, 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, paid tribute to "every single honouree" and "every Black woman" in the room at the pre-recorded ceremony for "existing".

She said in her speech: "This award means absolutely so, so much to me.

"To be acknowledged by Essence ​and by so many people that I admire and I appreciate means the world to me. I wish that I could be in a room full of all of you and talk to you and see your faces and hug you and thank you.

"I know that we're receiving the awards, but I really feel like I owe every single honouree, every Black woman that I've been able to come in contact with when I entered this building, a huge thank you. Thank you for existing, thank you for being everything that you are."

Andra, meanwhile, thank her fellow Black women for "constantly breaking through for each other".

The 'United States vs Billie Holiday' star said: "I want to express how grateful I am to Black women, cause we are constantly breaking through for each other.

"You are my sisters."

Laverne Cox hosted the proceedings and began with a 'Bridgerton' meets 'Orange Is the New Black' spoof.

The 48-year-old actress - who played Sophia Burset in the latter - wore a wig and put on her best English accent as Lady Whistleup, a take on Dame Julie Andrews' Lady Whistledown, the author of a scandalous society newsletter, who she voices in the Netflix mega-hit.