Oscar-week in L.A. is always like a visit to the "land of make-believe" -- everyone makes the scene, plays nice and looks nothing short of fabulous. This year was set to be so without exception, which is why I made a plan, grabbed enough heels and frocks to make one think I was running away from home -- albeit glamorously -- and caught a pre-dawn flight out in time to take it all in.
Face the Day
Like all chic-sters I've learned that in order to appear "effortlessly ready" at all times, you must strategize. "Time for self" is divine, so after catching a 6:00 a.m. flight out of Newark, I made plans to see no one! It was all about getting a massage to alleviate fluid retention, hitting Whole Foods to stay on track (despite the great dining options at West Hollywood's famed London Hotel where I hung my hat for the week), sorting invitations and going to bed in Estee Lauder's "Advanced Night Repair"!
Day two and time to go to work. Yours truly slipped into a winter-floral Betsey Johnson frock and Prada peep-toe heels that could hang for the day (while looking great on-camera) and headed over to SAG-AFTRA Headquarters for The ICON MANN Sessions (IM), a series of panel discussions created by the brilliant Founder and CEO of ICON MANN, Tamara N. Houston. The Sessions indeed offered a much-needed and poignant conversation this awards season about the evolution of black men in film, and their international viability.
"If Meryl Streep can play Margaret Thatcher, then I can surely play Dr. Martin Luther King," said amazing actor David Oyelowo in reference to his thunderous performance in the Oscar nominated film Selma. Through insightful panel discussions lead by David White, National Executive Director of SAG-AFTRA and Franklin Leonard, Founder and CEO of The Black List, actors Blair Underwood (ABC's Agents Of The Shield), Academy Award-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. (BET's Book Of Negroes), David Oyelowo (Selma, and A Most Violent Year), and others like industry rainmakers Charles King (MACRO Ventures) and Academy Award winning producer Jeremy Kliener (Plan B) had their say about the strategic intention necessary for those in front of and behind the camera. As a proud SAG-AFTRA member, yours truly conducted post-panel interviews with these leading men for both sites, ICON MANN and SAG-AFTRA on the challenges within the industry, and what's critical to change the game and bring our stories to life.
Next, it was all about hitting my first beauty suite of the week: St. Tropez, where most everyone goes to cancel the drab look of winter and emerge looking as though they just returned from St. Barts. Sophie Evans and Katrina Brown, two of the most sought-after celebrity skin finishing experts, were in residence, and trust me they are the real red-carpet secret weapons! I left looking like a chocolate dream -- yes, I said that-- with maintenance products like Self Tan Express Bronzing Mousse in tow, because beauty is all about the maintenance!
Later that evening, yours truly was in creative mode, tweaking the script for the eighth annual ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Awards Luncheon -- the most talked about event of the year.
Work it Out!
By now it's "Woman Crush Wednesday," and I'm headed out for what promises to be a blast -- the "Crush It!" workout conducted by Nike and ESSENCE with my WCW fave, the Hollywood trainer, Jeannette Jenkins and fitness evangelist, Angela Davis at the helm. After getting in gear (compliments of Nike) I entered the massive studio filled with film stars, award-winning directors and music divas for a fab boot-camp workout complete with a huge video screen of all the moves. It felt quite like a movie-set, and with our acid green sneakers that glowed in the dark, it looked just that! The wind-down featured yoga poses, a superb juice bar, swag bags, manicures and massages. You know what they say, nice work if you can get it.
Without a moment to meditate, I headed back to the hotel to meet my Ken Doll (who had just flown in), lunch and quickly change into a '60s inspired LBD, conversation-worthy shoes and MAC's RiRi Woo lipstick -- an utterly glamorous matte red. We enjoyed a lovely shopping reception, and then it was over to the Beverly Wilshire for my ESSENCE rehearsal. By 11:30 it was time to hit the pillow and sleep fast!
The eighth annual ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Awards Luncheonis the most affirming celebration of the week and it's not because I'm biased -- this is the testimony of all in attendance. It is the place to be, one where we're all reminded of the greatness that lies within each of us. I woke at 7 a.m., grabbed a smoothie and sat for hair and makeup with celebrity makeup artist Shannon Pezzetta and hairstylist Kim Kimble, who arrived with enough hair for me and Beyonce! After stepping into a shocking pink Roland Mouret and four-inch Louboutins, I was off.
As host, I couldn't be more proud to join ESSENCE President Michelle Ebanks and Editor-in-Chief, Vanessa K. DeLuca on this occasion to give honor to whom honor is due. This year's honorees were Iman N. Milner, winner of our Black Women in Hollywood Short Film Discovery Award presented by the Time Warner Foundation to provide exposure to emerging filmmakers seeking support and sustainable careers; members of the cast of Orange is the New Black, Regina King, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and costumer extraordinaire, Ruth Carter. The program kicked off with a powerful opening by Oprah Winfrey, Carmen Ejogo and Aja Naomi King. There were so many mesmerizing moments for yours truly, but I'll tell you, I was over the moon when it came time to introduce John Legend and Common and watch them perform!
After the celebration, yours truly selfie-bombed with all my sister-friends from Oprah and Ava DuVernay to Regina King, Garcelle Beauvais, Sharon Leal, Skylar Diggins and more. I think I didn't come back to earth until my feet called me and said it was time to give my Cinderellas -- uh, Louboutins -- a rest! Nevertheless, I gave them time to retract and was back in my coach three hours later, in softer, gentler pumps and on my way to Fig & Olive, a trendy spot, for Uptown Magazine's Pre-Oscar Gala honoring Lee Daniels.
48 hours away from the Academy Awards, and you could feel the excitement in the air! Around town, beauty and style suites were on fire, attracting Oscar nominees, televisions' finest as well as the media to experience the latest offerings. At Debbie Durkin's EcoLuxe Lounge, held atop the Beverly Hills Hotel, VIPs were treated to a styling bar, organic spray tans, along with makeup touchups from by O.C. Hair and Makeup, mixes by DJ Dime and a Café Press gift bag filled with among other treats, O.P.I. nail lacquers, a HAI MP3 flatiron, fragrance from Loree Rodkin and John Paul Pet shampoo and conditioner!
At TMG's suite, also at the Beverly Hills Hotel, yours truly got lash extensions by iCandy Eye Salon and experienced Miracle Wands. Secret Lounge's Luxury Gift suite, held at the W Hotel, had it all, from exotic travel packages and designer swimwear, to beauty treatments, and delish culinary treats by Wolfgang Puck Co. -- everyone's food obsession.
By now I was beauty and style overwhelmed (can you believe it?) so I dashed back to get ready for the Eighth Annual Women In Film Pre-Oscar Cocktail Party at Hyde Sunset Kitchen and Cocktails. The evening was co-hosted by Academy Award-winning producer and Women In Film, L.A. President, Cathy Schulman, and Academy Award-winning actress and recording artist, Jennifer Hudson, who looked absolutely fresh and fabulous.
It was the place to clink glasses with actresses like Carmen Ejogo, Best Supporting Actress nominee Meryl Streep, Oscar nominee Laura Dern, Leading Actress nominee Rosamund Pike, actress Michelle Monaghan and a long list of glamorous others. We all left what was truly a sensational celebration with a M.A.C Cosmetics gift box curated by Oscar-nominated makeup artists from The Grand Budapest Hotel (Frances Hannon) and Guardians of the Galaxy (Lizzie Yianni-Georgiou) which included my favorite lip picks, Ruby Woo and Russian Red! My only glitch -- I stayed too long and completely missed The GREAT British Film Reception by the L.A. British Consulate. It was held to honor the British nominees of The 87th Annual Academy Awards with an expected attendance that included Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Idris Elba, Keira Knightley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, David Oyelowo and others. What's laughable is that the celebration was taking place at The London! Go figure! We settled for great sushi at Yellowtail on Sunset, which proved to be quite the destination.
I decided to take it light on Saturday -- what with Sunday being a long night, and deemed it best to conserve my energies. I hit the WOW Creations Gifting suite and the Koreball, a portable rubber kettle bell that one fills with water or sand if you really want to go there, and Kathy Fielder's chic faux-fur accessories immediately got my attention. Later that evening, I met with my publicist at the L'Ermitage Hotel (another home away from home) and then had a quiet, candlelight dinner at Cecconi's, my new hot spot on Melrose, with hubby.
Day of Glory
Oscar Sunday promised rain -- "Ugh, rain and trains do not go together," I thought to myself, thinking of my gown, let alone those who would have to step carefully from their limos and onto the longest red carpet in the world. I've walked the red carpet at the Academy Awards, and the last thing you need to think about is not getting wet! I lamented, not only about the weather, but the complexities of the many road-blocks that kept us from attending worship service! Soon, I had to let it go and accept that my makeup artist was caught doing a certain Oscar presenter and couldn't get to me in time, and work my own magic before my hairstylist arrived. Thankfully, this girl knows how to improvise, and we were off in no time, coiffed and done! Of all the Oscar Viewing parties, we loved Instyle Magazine's exceptionally magic celebration. I especially loved meeting actor Tony Goldwyn whose sweet, down to earth personality made my day and one of my best selfies of the week!
Watching Common and John Legend make history in what was an emotionally moving performance of "Glory," the anthem from Selma, and win the Academy Award for Best Original Song, and then have their say about the struggle for justice, was more than I could have dreamed. After that, everything else paled in comparison and it wasn't long before we called it a night.