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The Dolby Theatre may be known for attracting A-listers thanks to the Oscars each year, but on Saturday night the downtown L.A. venue was lit up for the 50th NAACP Image Awards.

And, thanks to the stranger-than-fiction battles involving a certain Empire star, it was a night defined by who wasn’t there almost as much as by who was.

Despite celebs like Beyoncé, Kerry Washington, Jay-Z, Michael B. Jordan and Sterling K. Brown flocking out for the Anthony Anderson-hosted celebration, all eyes were on the door after Jussie Smollett flew back to Los Angeles on the weekend, prompting rumours he would attend the show.

Spoiler alert: he didn’t. Nor did he show up to the non-televised portion of NAACP’s awards on Friday night at the Beverly Hilton, where he lost out to Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. That didn’t stop Smollett from making headlines though, not after presenter Chris Rock took serious aim.

Let’s break that—and all of the night’s other highlights—down, shall we?

Jussie, Jussie, Jussie

Despite all 16 counts of disorderly conduct being dropped against the Empire star this week for his alleged involvement in his reported attack in Chicago this past January, it’s clear that the story surrounding Jussie Smollett is still being told. Plenty of people in Hollywood have been making their opinions known throughout the ordeal, with Lena Waithe sharing on the NAACP red carpet, “Being queer and black is like having a target on your back every time you walk out the door,” Variety quoted her as saying. Or host Anderson, who prior to the event told press he hoped Smollett would take home a trophy.

“I’m happy for him that the system worked for him in his favour because the system isn’t always fair, especially for people of colour. So I’m glad it worked out for him,” he also told Variety.

“I stand with Jussie,” black-ish and grown-ish star Yara Shahidi added from the stage after the former show won for Outstanding Comedy.

Not everyone was as complimentary, of course.

“They said no Jussie Smollett jokes,” Chris Rock while onstage to present the award for comedy series. “I know.  But what the hell was he thinking? You’re Jessie from now on. You don’t even get the ‘U’ no more. That ‘U’ was respect. You don’t get no respect from me.”

She’s still our Bey

The night wasn’t all about Smollett and his ever-evolving case, mind you. How could it be when the Queen B herself was in attendance? Not-so-shockingly Beyoncé took home the trophy for Entertainer of the Year, topping an impressive list of nominees that included LeBron James and Regina King.

Like the class act that she is, Bey took time to thank the others in her category during her acceptance speech, all while stunning in a white couture suit gown from Balmain.

“Regina King, I love you so much, you’ve taught us patience, persistence and how to be masterful in your craft. Chadwick Boseman is teaching children to dream and to see themselves as kings,” she said. “LeBron James has taught us that strength of all forms and leading by example and providing education for our kids. Ryan Coogler tells our stories in a way that celebrates our history, and proves that we do have power at the box office.”


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Jay-Z gets presidential

Mr. Beyoncé was also a fan of his wife’s white suit. Jay-Z gave a sweet, blink-and-you-miss-it nod to her fashion choice when he graced the stage to accept the President’s Award, a trophy that’s doled out in recognition of special achievement and public service. Previous winners include the likes of Jesse Jackson, Muhammad Ali and Soledad O’Brien.

But while Jay-Z thanked and acknowledged his, he also dedicated the award to his grandmother Hattie White and the original Mrs. Carter—his mother Gloria Carter—in a truly sweet tribute.

“I grew up believing I could do anything. That I could accomplish anything because of those strong women in my house,” he said. “I would like to dedicate this award to those beautiful women.”

Host with the most

For his part, Anderson kept politics and personal commentary out of it and stuck to the awards themselves, which is probably why he was asked to return as host in the first place—this was his sixth straight year helming the festivities.

The audience saw Anderson hit the stage as more than the just the host, though. In addition to his regular duties, Anderson also hit the stage to accept the award for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series, and to help celebrate the trophy for black-ish’s win for Outstanding Comedy. Meanwhile Anderson’s co-star, and Instagram goddess, Tracee Ellis Ross, won for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series.

Wakanda forever

On the film side of things, Black Panther cleaned up as expected, taking home an armful of hardware, including a win for best film, best actor for Chadwick Boseman and Letitia Wright nabbed a trophy for breakthrough performance.

#WakandaForever indeed.


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perfect way to show gratitude +celebrate tonight’s @naacpimageawards with my brother @zackarymomoh 🙏🏾🙏🏾 #gratitudeisamust

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Full list of NAACP winners

Special Award – Entertainer of the Year
Beyoncé – WINNER
Chadwick Boseman
LeBron James
Regina King
Ryan Coogler

Outstanding Motion Picture
Black Panther – WINNER
Crazy Rich Asians
If Beale Street Could Talk
The Hate U Give

Outstanding Drama Series
How To Get Away With Murder
Power – WINNER
Queen Sugar
The Chi
This Is Us

Outstanding Comedy Series
black-ish – WINNER
Dear White People

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series
Anthony Anderson, black-ish – WINNER
Cedric the Entertainer The Neighborhood
Donald Glover, Atlanta
Dwayne Johnson, Ballers
Tracy Morgan, The Last O.G.

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series
Danielle Brooks, Orange is the New Black
Issa Rae, Insecure
Logan Browning, Dear White People
Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish – WINNER
Yara Shahidi, grown-ish

Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
Jason Mitchell, The Chi
Keith David, Greenleaf
Kofi Siriboe, Queen Sugar
Omari Hardwick, Power– WINNER
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us

Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series
Alfre Woodard, Marvel’s Luke Cage
Naturi Naughton, Power
Rutina Wesley, Queen Sugar
Taraji P. Henson, Empire – WINNER
Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder

Outstanding Album
Dirty Computer – Janelle Monáe
Ella Mai – Ella Mai – WINNER
Even More – MAJOR
Everything Is Love – The Carters
I Used To Know Her: The Prelude – H.E.R.

Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
Chadwick Boseman – Black Panther – WINNER
Michael B Jordan – Creed II
Denzel Washington – The Equalizer 2
John David Washington – BlacKkKlansman
Stephan James – If Beale Street Could Talk

Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture
Amandla Stenberg – The Hate U Give – WINNER
Constance Wu – Crazy Rich Asians
KiKi Layne – If Beale Street Could Talk
Sanaa Lathan – Nappily Ever After
Viola Davis – Widows

Outstanding Breakthrough Performance in a Motion Picture
Storm Reid – A Wrinkle In Time
Letitia Wright – Black Panther – WINNER
Winston Duke – Black Panther
John David Washington – BlacKkKlansman
KiKi Layne – If Beale Street Could Talk