Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, Naomi Campbell, Wendy Williams, Mary Mary & Valerie Jarrett Among the Dynamic Visionaries, Innovators, Artists and She-Roes to be Honored During the Essence Fierce & Fabulous Awards EVENT PAYS TRIBUTE TO EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN CHANGING THE WORLD AND CELEBRATES THE 40th ANNIVERSARY OF ESSENCE MAGAZINE



NEW YORK, Sept. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, as the culmination of a spectacular, year-long 40th anniversary celebration, ESSENCE presents the Fierce & Fabulous Awards luncheon at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City.   Honoring extraordinary women who are changing the world, this star-studded event is inspired by the magazine's 40 Fierce & Fabulous special feature, which is the centerpiece of the September 40th anniversary commemorative issue.

The esteemed honorees for the ESSENCE Fierce & Fabulous Awards include Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, Naomi Campbell, Wendy Williams, Mary Mary and Valerie Jarrett, among others representing four categories: Visionaries, Innovators, Artists and She-roes. Host Tracee Ellis Ross will be joined by presenters Gabrielle Union, Nancy Giles, Cathy Hughes and Malaak Compton-Rock; as well as young students representing Girls Inc. and the Young Women's Leadership School.  As a special highlight, Diahann Carroll will deliver an exclusive keynote address.

"Four decades after the first issue of ESSENCE hit the newsstands, African-American women have undeniably excelled -- from college campuses to corporate board rooms all the way to the White House," says ESSENCE editor-in-chief Angela Burt-Murray. "We are so inspired by this amazing group of Fierce & Fabulous honorees, and we are celebrating these incredible artists, innovators, visionaries, and she-roes for following their dreams and making a difference around the world."

"The spirit of the ESSENCE Fierce & Fabulous Awards is to truly bring our mission to life," says Essence Communications President Michelle Ebanks.  "With this special 40th anniversary celebration, we are saluting many of the world's most accomplished and dynamic Black women as an important example for all women and girls to lead fearless lives that strengthen the well-being of themselves, their families and their communities."

Featuring tributes by young students from Girls Inc. and the Young Women's Leadership School, the ESSENCE Fierce & Fabulous Awards will honor the following leaders with a special celebratory medal:

  • Naomi Campbell, Supermodel, Founder, Fashion for Relief – She's clocked 25 years in fashion, and her foundation has raised millions to benefit Haiti and to support Hurricane Katrina victims.
  • Wendy Williams, Talk show host, author – By embracing her outsize persona, this rising star has made daytime TV prime time.
  • Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Engagement – She has the ear of the most powerful man on the planet, and is helping to launch a more inclusive era of political engagement.
  • Esi Eggleston Bracey, VP and General Manager, Global Cosmetics, P&G Beauty & Grooming – She diversified P&G's top-branded spokesmodels to reflect the range of women's beauty.
  • Erica Campbell & Tina Campbell, Chart-topping gospel duo Mary Mary – The Campbell sisters spread The Word with conviction and flair.
  • Faith Ringgold, Visual Artist/Writer – People soar in her stirring, vibrant masterpieces.
  • Viola Davis, Actress – Her riveting portrayals captivate audiences.
  • Ntozake Shange and the cast of Tyler Perry's "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf": Kerry Washington, Anika Noni Rose – Her choreopoem has a power and relevance that transcends time, race and gender.
  • Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, Infectious Disease Specialist – She revolutionized the way we fight HIV.  
  • Sheryl Lee Ralph, Actress/HIV Activist – She increased awareness of HIV through powerful performances.
  • Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the Board, NAACP – She's leading the fight for civil rights into the 21st century.
  • Beverly Bond, DJ and Founder, Black Girls Rock! – She created a platform for talented young sisters, giving them role models to guide the way.  
  • Dr. Ruth Simmons, President, Brown University – She helped to raise more than $1.5 billion to enhance academic programs.

Sponsors for the ESSENCE Fierce & Fabulous Awards include Buick and Clinique.

About Essence Communications Inc.:

Essence Communications Inc. (ECI) is the number one media and communications company dedicated to African-American women.  With a multi-platform presence in publishing, live events, and online, the Essence brand is "Where Black Women Come First".  The company's flagship publication, ESSENCE magazine, is the preeminent lifestyle magazine for African-American women; generating brand extensions such as the Essence Music Festival, Essence Women's Conference, Window on Our Women (WOW I & II) and Smart Beauty I, II & III consumer insights, the Essence Book Club,, and ventures in digital media (mobile, television and VOD). For 40 years, ESSENCE magazine, which has a brand reach of over 8 million, has been the leading source of cutting-edge information relating to every area of African-American women's lives. Additional information about ECI and ESSENCE is available at



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