5 MTV Movie and TV Awards Moments That Made Me Even Prouder to Be Black

Dana Oliver
Beauty Director

The 2017 MTV Movie and TV Awards was filled with many highs: Emma Watson took home the first gender-neutral acting award, Cara Delevingne took her shaved head to the next level with this intricate design, and Chrissy Metz oozed body confidence in a red latex dress (and then clapped back at her haters like a boss!). But as a young black woman, I found there were a handful of instances that really resonated with me.

Here are five moments from the MTV Movie and TV Awards that inspire me to be comfortable in my black skin and encouraged me to hold my head higher as I walked into the office on Monday morning.

1. Issa Rae’s natural hair as her crowning glory

Issa Rae attends the 2017 MTV Movie and TV Awards in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

I’ve fangirled over Issa Rae since her days as the teeny-weeny Afro-wearing actress, writer, and director behind the Youtube series Awkward Black Girl. Fast-forward years later and the Insecure star has sported many natural hairstyles, proving that black hair isn’t a trend or something that can be confined to just ’fros and cornrows. The two-strand twist and halo of curls Rae rocked at the MTV Movie and TV Awards is yet another one of her crowning moments.

Felicia Leatherwood, the stylist behind Rae’s red carpet hairdo, penned a heartfelt note on Instagram on why she’s so appreciative to work with the 32-year-old. She wrote:

“When I was a little girl I never liked playing with Barbie dolls because they never made sense to me. They did not look like me or represent the brown reflections in my mirror. I would eventually cut my Barbie’s hair after doing braids, curls and twists, hoping to make my Barbie look a little more like me. So I’m very proud and grateful to finally have the opportunity to work with my version of a real life Beautiful Brown Barbie.”

2. Zendaya’s glamorous red carpet look

Zendaya attends the 2017 MTV Movie and TV Awards in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

While most of the people on my Twitter timeline were shocked to see Zendaya without down-to-there hair extensions, I wasn’t surprised at all. To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her sheer olive-green Zuhair Murad Couture gown. Her curly, shoulder-length hairstyle and emerald eye shadow added the finishing touch.

The 20-year-old is stunning whether she’s wearing a wig or her natural hair, and the fact that she isn’t afraid to experiment with any look makes her even more worthy of the beauty chameleon title.

FYI: Zendaya doesn’t need extensions to stand out!

3. Tracee Ellis Ross, Taraji P. Henson, and Rep. Maxine Waters: a trifecta of black beauty

Tracee Ellis Ross, Rep. Maxine Waters, and Taraji P. Henson pose in the press room during the 2017 MTV Movie and TV Awards. (Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Taraji P. Henson and Tracee Ellis Ross pose in the press room during the 2017 MTV Movie and TV Awards. (Photo: Getty Images)
Taraji P. Henson accepts the Best Fight Against the System Award for “Hidden Figures” from U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters and Tracee Ellis Ross during the 2017 MTV Movie and TV Awards. (Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Looking at these photos of Taraji P. Henson, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Rep. Maxine Waters at the MTV Movie and TV Awards reminds me of just how strong, beautiful, intelligent, and talented black women are. It’s also evidence that “black don’t crack!”

What I would give to be right in the middle of the warm embrace these three women shared onstage. While critics (yes, Bill O’Reilly, I’m looking at you!) attempt to degrade and devalue our worth, women of color consistently push through criticism to come out on top victorious and looking mighty darn good, if I say so myself.

4. Taraji P. Henson’s humbling acceptance speech on equality and love

Taraji P. Henson has the right attitude about being uniquely made and accepting one another. (Photo: Getty Images)

Taraji P. Henson has never shied away from sharing her success story. As a single mother, she paid her own way through college and eventually moved to Hollywood with $700 and her son in tow to pursue her acting dreams.

I’d imagine many people would give up on getting their big break. However, Henson stayed the course and racked up credits in films such as Baby Boy, Hustle & Flow, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The latter earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Known for playing strong and sassy roles, her turn as NASA research mathematician Katherine Johnson in Hidden Figures allowed Henson to really show her range as an actor.

When accepting the Fight Against the System Award for the film during the MTV Movie and TV Awards, Henson used the stage as her platform to deliver a compelling speech on what the Hidden Figures message of unity can teach us all. She said:

“I hate the separatism, I hate that it’s man versus woman, black versus white, gay versus straight. Whatever. We’re all humans, right. God is very clever. God is very clever. He made us all different for a reason so we better figure it out. I love you. Thank you MTV. Thank you for everyone that voted. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Amen, Taraji. Amen.

5. “Moonlight” stars Ashton Sanders and Jharrel Jerome winning for “Best Kiss”

Jharrel Jerome and Ashton Sanders of “Moonlight” are Hollywood’s brightest stars. (Photo: Getty Images)

Moonlight stars Jharrel Jerome and Ashton Sanders embody the meaning of “Black boy joy.” And this country can use a whole lot of that, as we brace ourselves each day for news reports of unarmed young black men who are killed by police.

In Jerome and Sanders, I see bliss, I see innocence, I see my nephews. As the two took the stage to accept the Best Kiss award for that poignant scene in the coming-of-age drama, Sanders made it clear what the honor truly meant, saying, “This represents more than a kiss. This is for those that feel like the others, the misfits. This represents us.”

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