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After 2 nominations, Angela Bassett wins an honorary Oscar

After nearly 40 years as an actress and two Oscar nominations, Angela Bassett has received an honorary Academy Award.

She was honored Tuesday at the 14th annual Governors Awards, a gathering of the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gives out Oscars.

"Thank you, thank you to the Academy and the Board of Governors for this award," Bassett said in her acceptance speech, which lasted 15 minutes. "I have considered acting my calling and not just my career. I do this work because I find it meaningful and I hope in some way that it makes a difference and has an impact. To be recognized in this way for what I love doing is truly wonderful and I am beyond grateful."

She thanked her sister, D'nette, husband and fellow actor Courtney B. Vance and her children, Bronwyn and Slater, who she asked to stand.

She additionally expressed gratitude to her mother and aunt for allowing her to follow her dreams, despite their concerns that she was using her two Yale University degrees to pursue acting. (She has an undergraduate degree in African American studies, a graduate degree in drama and an honorary doctorate from Yale.)

Bassett turned the spotlight to other Black actresses

Bassett used several moments of her speech to acknowledge other Black actresses she admires for their talents and sacrifices.

Of Regina King, who presented Bassett with the award, Bassett said, "working alongside you has been one of the highlights of my career."

At another point, she called out King, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Lupita Nyong'o and others.

"I call their names to acknowledge every one of them this evening for being beacons of possibility and hope for little Black and brown girls who aspire to one day pursue the dream of becoming an actor," Bassett said.

She additionally paid her respects to Black actresses who have made Academy Award history, such as Hattie McDaniel, who was the first Black person to win an Oscar for her role in 1939's Gone with the Wind; Halle Berry, whose role in 2001's Monster's Ball has made her the only Black woman to win for lead actress; Whoopi Goldberg, who is the only Black person to be nominated for both best actress and best supporting actress and her mentor Cicely Tyson, who is the only other Black woman awarded an honorary Oscar.

"I hope that [Tyson] is smiling from the heavens that I'm able to join her in this circle of recognition, knowing that she was so impactful to me as an actress and as a woman," Bassett said.

Fans rejoice over Bassett's win

Fans took to social media to voice their frustrations after Bassett lost best actress to Jamie Lee Curtis in 2022. Though, they rejoiced on Tuesday.

"Such a powerful speech from the LEGENDARY Angela Bassett as she received her long overdue Oscar last night. Congratulations, @ImAngelaBassett, and THANK YOU for your unwavering commitment to the craft, and knocking down doors for the rest of us. We wouldn't be here without you paving the way !!!" EGOT winner Jennifer Hudson posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"Celebrating a historic moment as it took 38 years for an Angela Bassett to finally receive the well-deserved Oscar award. A reminder that progress is a journey, not a destination," one X user said.

"​​I'm glad angela bassett is finally going to win the oscar, but im sorry to say, that she should have had a collection in her house since [What's Love Got to Do With It]," another user said.

A look at her decades-long career

Bassett made her first onscreen appearance in the television movie Doubletake in 1985. She had breakout roles in director John Singleton's Boyz in the Hood (1991) and Spike Lee's Malcolm X (1992).

Bassett has been nominated for an Oscar twice, first for her portrayal as rock and roller Tina Turner in 1993's What's Love Got to Do With It, and then in 2022 for her role as Queen Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. (Cq)

Some of her other notable movies include Waiting to Exhale, Olympus Has Fallen, Akeelah and the Bee, Chi-raq and Vampire in Brooklyn.

In television, she appeared in several iterations of American Horror Story and is the lead actress and executive producer in FOX's procedural drama series, 9-1-1.

She has lent her voice to The Simpsons, the Disney movies Soul and Meet the Robinsons and Shatter, a villain in the Transformers movie franchise spinoff Bumblebee.

In addition to her new Oscar, Bassett has won two Golden Globes, a SAG Award, two Critics' Choice awards and 16 NAACP Image Awards.

Her message for the entertainment industry

Bassett said despite the momentous occasion, she wants it to be an opportunity for the entertainment industry to reflect on what a rarity it is.

"What I hope this moment means is that we are taking the necessary steps toward a future in which it is the norm, not the exception, to see and embrace one another's full humanity, stories and perspectives," she said. "This must be our goal, and to always remember there is room for us all. When we stand together, we win together."

She added later, "My prayer is that we leave this industry more enriched, forward-thinking and inclusive than we found it, a future where there won't be a first or an only, or suspense around whether history will be made with a nomination or a win."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ayana Archie