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The Big Winners of the 2023 NAACP Image Awards

All hail Angela Bassett

Angela Bassett in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

Saturday, February 25, 2023 marked the 54th annual NAACP Image Awards. As with so many major events since the pandemic, it was the first time in three years the ceremony could be held in-person. This lead to many emotional moments throughout the night—a celebration of Black excellence throughout music, film, television, and more.

Notably, the ceremony also marked one of the first public appearances of WBNA star Brittney Griner since she returned from a 10-month detention in Russia. Griner appeared alongside her wife, Charelle, who noted that Black woman and Black-led organizations were instrumental in bringing Griner home. Looking cool as hell, Griner offered a message of resilience. “I want to thank everyone, she said, after the couple walked onstage to a standing ovation. “And let’s keep fighting to bring home every American still detained overseas.”

But you came here wanting to hear about winners! The NAACP Image Awards is massive. While most people hear about the awards celebrating film, TV, and music awards, one of the best features of the Image Awards is that other mediums are celebrated as well. Literature and podcasting are huge award categories. There are also celebrations for in categories like youth activism and social media personalities.

We’ll just be enumerating the “headlining” awards here. You can check out more on the NAACP Image Awards’ website, and see a full list of media winners on the Huffington Post.

Entertainer of the Year: Angela Bassett

I love the Entertainer of the Year Award. It’s the NAACP Image Awards’ highest honest, and it celebrates accomplishments across every medium. Plus, this year’s nominees were all women. Who could possibly emerge triumphant in a field which also included Mary J. Blige, Zendaya, Viola Davis, and Quinta Brunson? It has to be Angela Bassett.

Angela Bassett had an incredible 2022. She went home with no less than three awards. She additionally won Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series (for 9-1-1) and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (for, of course, Wakanda Forever).

Outstanding Motion Picture: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Audiences around the entire world were captivated by Blacker Panther: Wakanda Forever, so is it really any surprise it would come out on top to wind Outstanding Motion Picture? Wakanda Forever was snubbed a nomination for Best Picture at the Oscars, so I’m thrilled it was celebrated at the NAACP Image Awards.

The other films in competition for this category were: A Jazzman’s Blues, Emancipation, The Woman King, and TILL.

Outstanding Comedy Series: Abbott Elementary

The main cast of Abbott Elementary. Image: ABC.

May Abbott Elementary continue its reign! Quinta Brunson’s powerhouse ABC sitcom continues its rightful winning streak. Plus, Brunson was awarded Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series. Actually, Abbott Elementary won every acting award it was nominated for at the Image Awards, with Tyler James Williams and Janelle James taking home Supporting Actor and Actress in a Comedy Series, respectively.

Abbott Elementary warms hearts, makes the world a better place (probably? yes). It deserves all the awards. Even over such stellar co-nominees as Atlanta (and I love Atlanta), black-ish, Rap Sh!t, and The Wonder Years. Keep the awards coming for this wonderful show.

Outstanding Drama Series: P-Valley

Promotional image for P-Valley

At this point, P-Valley is the reason to have Starz. Except that it’s probably easier to watch it on The Roky Channel or Amazon Prime. Anyway, P-Valley‘s 95% Rotten Tomato score speaks for itself. The series follows the lives of a cast of characters working at a strip club called The Pynk in a fictional town in Mississippi. Stars Nico Annan and Loretta Divine also won Outstanding Actress and Outstanding Support Actress, respectively, for their incredible work in this series.

P-Valley beat out formidable competition from Euphoria, Bel-Air, Bridgerton, and Queen Sugar to snag this award.

Outstanding Animated Motion Picture: Wendell & Wild

A girl leaning over her desk in a classroom scowling at her classmate, from "Wendell and Wild"

Given Netflix’s current trend of dumping animated projects, any success which illustrates what happens when it does fund animation is a win for the medium. Also and separately, everyone needs to be talking about Wendell & Wild. You, me, everybody. An animated feature co-written by Jordan Peele and directed Henry Selick, who also directed The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline? That also serves as a Key & Peele reunion, where they play a duo of demons?! And it’s great??!

Anyway, this marvel of a film had some impressive competition: Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio, Turning Red, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, and DC League of Super-Pets.

Outstanding Album: Renaissance by Beyoncé

Beyoncé making history at the Grammys

Of course the winner is the Queen! At least, that’s what I’d say, but then Renaissance inexplicably lost Album of the Year to Harry Styles. Which … sigh. The NAACP Image Awards shouldn’t be where dumb wrongs are righted, but here we are. In any case, long live Queen Bey and the fact she now has more Grammys than anyone else, ever.

Beyoncé’s competition in this category included Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers by Kendrick Lamar (someone else I’d have love to see win the Grammy over Harry), Age/sex/location by Ari Lennox, Watch the Sun by PJ Morton, and Breezy (Deluxe) by Chris Brown (which … really? Chris Brown?).

Outstanding Literary Work—Fiction: Take My Hand by Dolen Perkin-Valdez

I really, truly love that literature gets a spotlight at the NAACP Image Awards, even if it’s not at the big ceremony. Taking home the award for Outstanding Literary Work—Fiction was Dolen Perkins Valdez’s historical fiction novel Take My Hand. Goodreads calls the work “a profoundly moving novel about a Black nurse in post-segregation Alabama who blows the whistle on a terrible wrong done to her patients.”

The other exceptional novels nominated for the award this year were Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction by Sheree Renée Thomas, Light Skin Gone To Waste by Toni Ann Johnson, The Keeper by Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes, and You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi.

Outstanding Literary Work—Nonfiction: Finding Me by Viola Davis

Viola Davis on stage at the Grammys

The same work which earned Viola Davis her EGOT status also won Outstanding Literary Work—Nonfiction at the NAACP Image Awards. Finding Me is an intimate memoir about Davis’ life. It’s the kind of memoir which is often described by the word “unflinching.” Alongside that unflinching nature, Finding Me is also a moving work about finding self-love.

The other nominees in this category were Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America by Cody Keenan, Requiem for the Massacre by RJ Young, Under the Skin by Linda Villarosa, and Who’s Black and Why? A Hidden Chapter From the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race by Henry Louis Gates and Andrew S. Curran.

There are so many amazing people and projects which were celebrated at the 2023 NAACP Image Awards. I’d highly encourage you to scroll through this list of winners. With a list of outstanding works this big, we can all find something new and incredible.

(Featured Image: Marvel / Disney)

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Kirsten (she/her) is a musician, audio person, writer, and nerd. When not talking about One Piece or Zelda (among other anime and games), she's finding surprising ways to play the guitar.