Wednesday night’s All Def Movie Awards, Russell Simmons’ quick-fix answer to #OscarsSoWhite, was a brilliant, absurdist sideshow. It laid bare the Academy Awards’ neutered jokes, uninspired fashions, chronic white male faces, and the unimaginative acceptance speeches viewers suffer through year after year. At ADMA, the presenters, categories, and winning actors had one thing on their minds: telling Hollywood that blackness is something to behold.
The beginning of the evening started off much like a block party, rap show, black wedding, or sweet 16. Every time a notable entered the room, they were shouted out. “Bill Bellamy is in the building y’all!” said the evening’s host, Tony Rock, brother of comedian Chris Rock, who will be hosting this year’s Oscars on Sunday. “This isn’t a shot at the Oscars,” Rock said at the beginning of the evening. “This is our thing, done our way,” he said to claps. “And everything is done better our way.”
Seated up front were the big stars. A cloud of smoke sat above rapper Snoop Dogg like a halo. Actress, fashion designer, and activist Amber Rose—in her signature sunglasses—was seated next to singer and actor Tyrese. Just two days ago Rose schooled Tyrese about slut shaming on the Oprah network show It’s Not You It’s Men.
At ADMA, the nominees were not from last year. They were a collection of iconic black movies that never received acclaim from the Hollywood establishment and actors who have been consistently overlooked by in the industry. ADMA was the black entertainment’s way of celebrating it all, with major side eye and humor.
The audience was black: unmistakably and unabashedly black. But peppered in the crowd were some white faces. One in particular, singer Robin Thicke, accepted the award for “Best Helpful White Performance” on behalf of Christoph Waltz’s in Django Unchained. Waltz beat out Michelle Pfeiffer for her performance in Dangerous Minds, Sylvester Stallone in Creed, Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side and Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard. “If we come together as a world community we can change the world one helpful white person at a time,” Thicke joked.
Joe Pesci was the only white actor nominated in the “Ghetto As Hell” category.
But underneath the tongue-in-cheek jokes and fanfare was a serious note: the black entertainment industry deserves shine. “My name is Sanaa Lathan and I’m a blacktress,” said the first winner of the evening. “It’s so important for little boys and little girls of color to be reflected on screen,” Lathan said. “Hopefully, maybe, Hollywood is about to wake the f*ck up,” she said of the entertainment industry’s struggles with diverse casting.
Actor and comedian Marlon Wayans, who was a presenter, stood at the podium and breathed deeply. “This sea of black faces makes me feel so secure,” he said. “Makes me wanna say, ‘F*ck white Hollywood.”
The All Def Movie Awards will air on Fusion at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday night and will also stream on fusion.tv, Facebook, and YouTube.