There was applause, a heartfelt speech, and genuine relief from friends and fans — as Jamie Foxx attended his first major Hollywood event since a medical emergency in April left him fighting for his life.
The Oscar-winning actor made a surprise appearance on Monday, Dec. 4, in Los Angeles at the Critics Choice Association’s Celebration of Cinema & Television honoring Black, Latino & AAPI achievements.
Actress Jurnee Smollett, Foxx’s co-star in the Prime Video film The Burial, introduced a montage of clips from the actor’s storied career and presented him with the night’s Vanguard Award. After walking on stage, Foxx told jokes, broke into song, and tried to contain his emotions.
“I’ve been through something. I’ve been through some things. It’s crazy, I couldn’t do that six months ago, I couldn’t actually walk to…” he said as his voice trailed off and he fought back tears.
“Take your time, Jamie,” someone yelled from the audience.
“Six months ago, I could not fathom that I would be here,” Foxx continued.
The Ray star was hospitalized in Georgia on April 11, while he was in Atlanta filming the Netflix movie Back in Action.
[Watch Foxx’s speech in the video below]
He did not disclose the cause of his illness on Monday night, but told the audience of Hollywood insiders and journalists that early on, he wasn’t sure he’d pull through.
“It feels good to be here. I cherish every single minute now. It’s different,” Foxx said. “I wouldn’t wish what I went through on my worst enemy because it’s tough… when it’s almost over, when you see the tunnel. I saw the tunnel — I didn’t see the light.”
“I want to thank you for all the prayers,” he continued.
“The one thing that I have to get used to now is [when people say] ‘Lord, have mercy, Jesus,'” he shared. “I’ll be driving and somebody will pull up and hit me with that.”
He then recalled undergoing physical rehabilitation in Chicago after being released from the hospital.
Foxx, 55, said his family went to great lengths to protect his privacy, and he wore a face mask so no one would recognize him.
“No one knew where I was. No one knew what was going on,” he explained, adding that a woman who worked at the rehab center’s front desk eventually made him remove the mask.
“The Black lady that was checking me in… at one point she said, ‘Well baby, I’m gonna have to see your face if I’m going to sign you in here. I run a tight ship and I’m gonna have to see your face,'” Foxx said while doing an impression of the woman.
As he continued the story, he began to get emotional.
“I took the mask down and she saw me… she said, ‘Lord, have mercy, Jesus. I’ve been praying for you,'” Foxx recalled. “I said, ‘Wow.’ And that gave me an indication that once I did get out of all of this, I was going to be alright.”
There were several other poignant moments during the ceremony, including when Emmy-winning actress Sheryl Lee Ralph was presented with the Career Achievement Award.
Ralph, 66, reflected on her journey to success and said she faced racism and colorism along the way. She recalled once being told her skin tone was too dark to make it in Hollywood. Yet, she reminded the audience that she never gave up.
“And here I stand,” she said to applause.
Emmy-winning actor and producer Edward James Olmos received the Icon Award.
The Stand and Deliver, Zoot Suit, Selena, Blade Runner, Miami Vice and Mayans M.C. star revealed he was recovering from health problems.
“I, like Jamie Foxx, had a very tough last year and I’m very grateful to be alive today,” Olmos shared after receiving a standing ovation.
The acting legend said he was diagnosed with throat cancer and underwent several rounds of chemotherapy.
“They radiated me for days, and weeks, and months,” he said. “They gave me tons and tons of chemo, and hey, we made it.”
P-Valley star Nicco Annan hosted the ceremony, which lasted nearly four hours. A full list of the night’s honorees can be found here.