Actress Angela Bassett was celebrated for a lifetime of memorable roles, from Tina Turner to the Queen of Wakanda, as Hollywood’s film academy handed out honorary Oscars on Tuesday. The actress was among the recipients of a golden statuette at the annual Governors Awards in front of a crowd of top stars, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper, and Natalie Portman.
The Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and What’s Love Got to Do With It actress received her honorary Oscar for her role as the powerful African queen in the blockbuster film. The award was presented by Regina King, who is also an honorary Oscar winner. Bassett praised the trailblazing Black actresses in her speech who helped pave the way for her success. She cited Ruby Dee, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson, and Rosalind Cash as some of her idols.
She then added a message to young women in the audience: “Believe it or not, there were times when I didn’t believe it either.” She said she hopes her work inspires girls to dream big and follow their paths. “If you want to be an astronaut, don’t just watch an astronaut on T.V. – go out and become an astronaut,” she added.
Other honorary Oscar winners included Mel Brooks and film editor Carol Littleton. The pair were awarded at a private dinner hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences before the untelevised ceremony. Brooks, 84, has two Oscar nominations, for his 1974 screenplay for The Producers and his 1982 work on E.T. The Oscar winner joked that he would not be selling his new trophy and promised to cherish it.
Littleton, 73, has earned an Oscar nod for her work on films such as Into the Woods and The Big Chill. She has also been nominated for her work on several other big-screen hits, including The Manchurian Candidate and The Big Blue.
Bassett was introduced by her friend and fellow actress Regina King, who called her a “pillar of the community and an example of artistic excellence in human form.” The 68-year-old thanked her family, including her husband Courtney B. Vance, her children Slater and Bronwyn, her deceased mother Betty and aunt, and the crew members of her movies who have made a difference in her life.