Chlöe Bailey and Whoopi Goldberg were among the A-list honorees at the third annual Hollywood Unlocked Impact Awards.
“It’s always nice to know that people appreciate you, and this award is really given because of what folks feel like I’ve done for the culture,” Goldberg said in a video message, accepting the Social Impact Award from presenter Macy Gray and thanking Hollywood Unlocked for the recognition.
The East Coast-based Goldberg didn’t travel to L.A. for the awards ceremony, held at the Beverly Hilton on Tuesday night. Instead, the EGOT winner recorded her acceptance speech from home, gleefully thanking “everyone who thought this [honor] was a good idea” and sharing how wonderful it was to hear that her accomplishments were appreciated.
“As you well know, many people get a little annoyed with me when I’m talking about the culture. But I’m glad you all were not mad enough at me to say, ‘I’m not giving this award to you,’” Goldberg joked. “Because I really feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of a lot of people. Whether it’s somebody like Cicely Tyson or Marian Anderson or Pearl Bailey, I just feel like the impact I have is because of the impact I’ve seen. So, when you’ve seen people make an impact, you feel like you could do the same thing.”
As the first Black woman to achieve the coveted EGOT (winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award for her work), Goldberg is a trailblazer — which fits in with the Impact Awards’ mission to celebrate change-makers across the music, film, media, political, social and creative industries for their accomplishments and contributions to the Black community.
The third annual awards ceremony was hosted by Tiffany Haddish, who happens to be a close friend of Goldberg’s (and former co-star in the 2018 comedy “Nobody’s Fool”). In Variety’s 2021 cover story celebrating the 30th anniversary of Goldberg’s Oscar win for “Ghost,” Haddish discussed the impact the comedian had on her future career.
“I didn’t understand the enormity of what an Oscar was at that time. All I knew was that she deserved it,” Haddish shared, explaining that, “For so many hundreds of years, we’ve been told, ‘You can’t do this. You can’t do that. You’re restricted ’cause of this.’ But when you see someone [like Goldberg] do it, you think, ‘If they can do it, I can do it too.’”
And Goldberg wasn’t the only person who appeared via video — Vice President Kamala Harris also recorded a special message shouting out Hollywood Unlocked CEO Jason Lee “for his work in advancing and protecting the culture with the Impact Awards.”
One of the evening’s most powerful speeches was delivered by Grammy-nominated singer and actor Bailey (“Swarm,” “Praise This”), who received the Fearlessness Award. Bailey walked the carpet with her sister, “The Little Mermaid’s” Halle Bailey, though “Good Trouble” and “Insecure” star Sarunas Jackson presented her the trophy, which celebrates an individual who “faces the world unafraid and unapologetic.”
In her remarks, Bailey was candid about how she’s learned to overcome self-doubt and embrace her vulnerability.
“You know I don’t sugarcoat everything, so let me be honest and tell you when I was told that I was the recipient of the Fearlessness Award, I was a little apprehensive. In fact, it was somewhere between apprehension and terrified,” she began. “Over the past few years there have been so many times where I didn’t feel fearless at all. It may sound crazy, but I felt the opposite of fearless.”
Bailey said that she felt vulnerable, worrying that her art wouldn’t translate or be what people expected from her — or that she wouldn’t be able to be successful without her sister Halle as her “partner in art.”
“I felt vulnerable and bare, and then I realized that’s the whole point of being fearless. Doing it anyway because you believe in it,” Bailey said as the audience burst into applause. “Sure, I could create my art and lock it away for only me but I chose to share it. I chose to stand with my head high and say, ‘This is me, accept it or don’t.’”
It can feel “lonely” and “isolating” to put yourself out there, Bailey explained, “but you cannot even attempt to find your worth until you embrace your vulnerability, until you conquer your self-doubt and your fear. It’s a lifelong journey.”
Bailey concluded her speech with a call to action for the next generation: “Feel those vulnerabilities and those doubts. Conquer it and overcome it. It won’t be easy, and I’m still working on it. Be fearless.”
Haddish pulled double duty as host and presenter, saluting image architect (and recently retired top fashion stylist) Law Roach with the Innovator Award, which is awarded to an individual who has proven longevity and consistency in their field, with crossover appeal to help “bridge the gap between entertainment and the world.”
Hollywood Unlocked also saluted 12-time Grammy winner Babyface, who received his Icon award from Tyrese Gibson. Evan Ross presented the Community Award to Catherine Brewton, VP of creative at Broadcast Music, Inc. And, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, rapper Joyner Lucas presented the Culture Award to the late Tupac. The influential rapper’s sister Sekyiwa ‘Set’ Shakur accepted the award, stating, “A voice for the culture is not just a trend but a call to action.”
Guests at the black-tie gala included Yvette Nicole Brown, Fat Joe, Floyd Mayweather, Eric Bellinger and Michael Blackson, who were entertained with performances from Muni Long, who sang a sultry rendition of her hit “Hrs & Hrs”; Chrisean Rock, who took the stage for a surprise performance of “Vibe”; and Jonathan McReynolds, who closed the show with a rousing gospel tune.
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