Angela Bassett Receives Honorary Oscar for Groundbreaking Career: ‘This Honor Isn’t Just About Me’

Angela Bassett Receives Honorary Oscar (YouTube)

After a decades-long career that began on daytime soaps and now includes blockbuster films, Angela Bassett received an honorary Oscar Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

As she stood on the stage at the Ovation Center, Bassett shared her gratitude for the honor and ignited a powerful conversation about representation and the enduring legacy of Black actresses in Hollywood.

Known for her groundbreaking performances in a range of roles, the actress got her start in Hollywood over 40 years ago on Ryan’s Hope and The Search for Tomorrow.

Her career now includes two Oscar nominations — the first in 1994 for her portrayal of Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It and the second last year for her performance as Queen Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. 

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Among her other credits are roles in the acclaimed films Boyz N the Hood, Malcolm X, Waiting to Exhale, and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

“I have considered acting my calling and not just my career,” Bassett began after receiving a standing ovation. “To be recognized in this way for what I love doing is truly wonderful, and I am beyond grateful.”

She went on to acknowledge the historical significance of the moment, highlighting that she is only the second Black actress to receive an honorary Academy Award after the late Cicely Tyson.

“I hope that she is smiling from the heavens that I’m able to join her in that circle of recognition,” Bassett said.

She also paid tribute to Hattie McDaniel, the first Black actress to win an Academy Award in 1940 for Gone With the Wind, and emphasized the importance of recognizing and embracing the full humanity of stories, and perspectives of individuals.

“This honor isn’t just for or about me,” Bassett said. “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. This must be our goal, and to always remember that there is room for us all. When we stand together, we win together.”

She continued her speech by reminding Black actresses that their voices in the industry matter.

“To my fellow Black actresses, fill your hearts with courage and strength, because regardless of what you may think or see or feel, your contributions do matter,” Bassett said. “Take comfort knowing that your performances have given hope, offered a different perspective and, for others, just pure joy in a time of need.”

“Never allow fear, frustration or disappointment to get in the way of blessings that are divinely and deservedly yours. Remember who you are and who our ancestors intended you to be — us to be,” she continued.

“I proudly share this honor with women who stand up when they are told to stand back, who speak up when they are silenced, who remain determined when they’re told they’re defeated,” Bassett added. “These women represent those that I’ve had the honor to portray, as well as the everyday women who surround us and inspire us to keep striving.”

Closing with optimism, Bassett shared, “The best is yet to come,” signaling her continued commitment to the industry at 65 years old.

The other honorees included Michelle Satter, the founding director of the Sundance Institute, as she accepted the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award; legendary actor and comedian Mel Brooks; and film editor Carol Littleton.

Watch the speech from Angela Bassett in the video below: