Teyana Taylor Accepts Innovator of the Year at 8th Annual Culture Creators Awards Brunch in L.A.
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Teyana Taylor Accepts Innovator of the Year at 8th Annual Culture Creators Awards Brunch in L.A.

Teyana Taylor, BET’s Connie Orlando and more were honored at the eighth annual Culture Creators Innovators & Leaders Awards Brunch on Friday (June 28) at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Hosted by journalist Gia Peppers, the exclusive fête brought industry icons, influencers and thought leaders together to pay tribute to extraordinary individuals who have left an indelible mark on Black culture across various sectors, including technology, business, sports, fashion, music and more.

It also benefitted The Culture Creators Foundation, a non-profit that is dedicated to bridging the gap between high school and college as well as college to graduation for underrepresented students in industries lacking diversity. The foundation empowers these students to thrive academically and professionally by providing resources, curriculum supplementation and membership. Funds raised during the brunch will support the 2024 Academic School Year Scholarship Program for the Campus Changemakers, the foundation’s inaugural cohort of students across 35 colleges and universities.

Taylor was honored as Innovator of the Year with a celebratory video montage that highlighted her incredible career in entertainment, from choreographing Beyoncé‘s “Ring the Alarm” music video and signing to Pharrell Williams‘ Star Trak Entertainment when she was only 16 years old (when the world also watched her epic birthday bash on MTV’s My Super Sweet 16) to later signing to Ye‘s GOOD Music when she was 21. Since then, the multihyphenate star has earned eight gold-certified singles from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), while “Gonna Love Me” from her 2018 album K.T.S.E. is certified platinum. She’s creative directed shows and tours for Usher, Latto, Summer Walker, Diddy, Glorilla, Lil Durk and Lil Baby.

She also won the video director of the year award at the 2020 and 2023 BET Awards. While Taylor’s gearing up for her directorial debut, Get Lite, she’s also had a successful run in front of the camera: Her starring role in A Thousand And One earned her the best breakthrough performance award at the 2023 National Board of Review Awards and 2023 Critics Choice Awards, and she’s set to star in Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest untitled feature and Tyler Perry’s Straw film.

“Teyana Taylor is a one of one. She’s a person who helps us mark time, a time in culture and different times of our lives. We’ve Googled her, we’ve celebrated her Sweet 16, we’ve watched her be our favorite baby mama next door, we’ve watched her slay rap battles (some of y’all remember that?), we’re watched her conquer choreography that would even make Janet Jackson blush,” said Emmy-winning screenwriter, producer and actress Lena Waithe while she was presenting the award to Taylor.

“She’s given us timeless music videos, unforgettable performances like the one she beautifully delivers in A Thousand And One. I’ve gotten a front row seat to her journey in becoming a serious actress. I’ve watched her break down both in front of and behind the camera. She let us watch her tears fall so others wouldn’t be afraid to cry.”

Taylor held back tears as she began her acceptance speech, which took the form of a prayer.

“Heavenly Father God, I thank you for who you are. All-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful. Let me tell you something about your favor. Father God, your favor cannot be stopped, you hear me? I know you’re hear me, so let your daughter cook. Let me cook. Lord, you told me in John 8:12 that you are the light of the world and if I followed you, I wouldn’t have to walk in darkness because you would have the light that leads to life,” she said.

“Thank you for wiping away every tear away when I thought the weight was punishment, ’cause you’ve made it very clear now that it was just preparation. Thank you for never letting my crown fall because you keep my head high. Thank you for teaching me the power of grace as I walk in it.”

She thanked her 8-year-old daughter Junie, who stood on stage beside her, for her “protection” and “being so pure. Thank you for loving me the way that you do. Thank you for teaching me how to be fearless,” Taylor said. And to her 3-year-old daughter Rue, “she knocked out in the green room,” Taylor revealed, which was met with roaring laughter. “I love you too, girl! …. One thing Rue gon’ do is never make it to the table, you hear me. My girl be knocked out like she work five jobs.”

After thanking her parents, her longtime friend and The Aunties production company co-founder Coco Gilbert, “Auntie” Natina Nimene, executive vp of promotion and artist relations at Def Jam and the rest of her team, Taylor returned to her prayer.

“I want to thank you for having me in this room full of amazing, talented innovators and leaders. Thank you for using me as an affirmation to everybody and every hardworking person in this room today that we are here because we belong here in this moment, it was already written in the palm of your hand…. And thank you for telling us ‘yes’ when naysayers told us ‘no.’ In Jesus’ name, Amen.” But right before she left the stage, Junie took the microphone for a precious scene-stealing moment. “And I love my mom! I love my mom!” she exclaimed.

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Former BET Networks CEO/chairman Debra Lee presented presented an award to her former colleague Orlando, BET’s EVP specials, music programming & music strategy.

“I don’t think anyone in this room would disagree with the statement that everybody loves Connie,” said Lee, who collected proof in the form of a four-page document filled with responses from Orlando’s friends and business contacts about why everyone loves her. “Jesse Collins, her producing partner on many BET specials, says, ‘Words that describe Connie: integrity, her word is her bond; patience, in a world of folks seeking instant gratification with very little effort, she stands out as someone who puts in the work in order to make sure whatever she is working on is perfect; style, just look at her; love, Connie is love. Her heart is always open for anyone that needs it. And that is probably her greatest talent because, please know, she is not to be taken lightly or toyed with and will gladly let you see the girl from Queens if she has to. But after she pops out and shows you, she will always send you on your way with a hug and a smile. And you gotta give her credit for the BET Awards and all the moments she creates.’”

After Lee continued singing her praises, Orlando took the stage and choked back tears while crediting Lee as the reason why she was there in the first place.

“I’m honored to accept this year’s Culture Creator Award and to receive your generous recognition of my contributions to the world of television and film. I stand before you filled with so much gratitude. It is a blessing to do the work that I love,” she said while addressing Culture Creators founder Joi Brown and the Culture Creators Advisory Council. “Working in the mediums of television and film, I am keenly aware of how much time the average person spends watching the screen of some kind, at any given moment. With billions of people consuming content everyday, there lies a unique opportunity to foster meaningful discussions, to create pathways of understanding, to uplift and to educate countless numbers of viewers. Though entertainment is at the core of what we do, we can use the power of media to speak life into our audiences, to tell authentic stories and ignite a light in the darkness that exists in our world today.”

CAA account executive Lorrie Bartlett — whose client roster includes Andra Day, Fantasia, Regina King, Rachel Zegler, Michael Keaton, Travis Kelce, Jeymes Samuel and more — received the Icon Award for her commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion within the entertainment industry, while spearheading initiatives promoting equity within Hollywood. Additional honorees included Reign Venture Capital’s co-founder Monique Idlett; Brown Girl Jane CBO and media personality Tai Beauchamp; FashionBombDaily CEO/founder Claire Sulmers; social impact and brand engagement strategist Alencia Johnson; WME Sports agent and executive Cecil White; celebrity stylist duo Wayman + Micah; AI innovator and immersive technology expert Alton Glass; and The Doux haircare brand creators Maya and Brian Smith.

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