Angela Bassett and Beyoncé were the top individual winners at the 2023 NAACP Image Awards, with three awards each. Bassett took the top award – entertainer of the year – and opened her speech by having a little bit of fun with Ariana DeBose’s widely-mocked rap at last weekend’s Brit Awards, where the young star rapped, “Angela Bassett did the thing.”
“I guess Angela Bassett did the thing,” Bassett said, to much laughter. This marked the first time all five entertainer of the year nominees were women. The other nominees were Mary J. Blige, Quinta Brunson, Viola Davis and Zendaya.
Bassett also won outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and outstanding actress in a drama [TV] series for 9-1-1 on FOX. The veteran actress is considered the front-runner to win an Oscar for best supporting actress on March 12. (DeBose won in that category last year for the reboot of West Side Story.)
All three of Beyoncé’s categories were presented prior to Saturday and she wasn’t present on the telecast. She took outstanding album for Renaissance (her third win in the category), outstanding soul/R&B song for “Cuff It” and outstanding female artist (her record-extending seventh win in the category).
Chris Brown, Brunson, Ryan Coogler and Davis each won two awards. (Some of their shows also won awards; this counts only awards presented to individuals.)
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever won outstanding motion picture, just as the original Black Panther did four years ago. This marks the second time in three years that a franchise film has won in this category. Two years ago, the award went to Bad Boys for Life, the third film in that franchise.
ABC’s Abbott Elementary won outstanding comedy [TV] series. The show was nominated for a Primetime Emmy in that same category last year and while it didn’t win, it’s practically a foregone conclusion that it will win this year.
That doesn’t mean there were no surprises at the 54th annual NAACP Image Awards, which were presented at nightly ceremonies this past week, culminating in a live broadcast on Saturday (Feb. 25) from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, Calif. The show, ably hosted by Queen Latifah, aired on BET and was also simulcast across a dozen Paramount Global networks including CBS, MTV, VH1 and CMT.
One of the biggest surprises is that Kendrick Lamar didn’t win a thing. The acclaimed rapper received five nominations, which put him in a tie with Beyoncé for the most nods by anyone in the music categories. But where she won three awards this year, he was shut out.
Another hip-hop superstar, Drake, went 0-3 this year.
Without further ado, here are 14 Snubs & Surprises at the 2023 NAACP Image Awards.
Snub: Kendrick Lamar
Lamar lost outstanding male artist (which he has yet to win) to Chris Brown (who won it for the third time). In addition, Lamar’s Billboard 200-topping Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers lost outstanding album to Renaissance; “Die Hard” (featuring Blxt & Amanda Reifer) lost outstanding duo, group or collaboration (traditional) to Silk Sonic’s “Love’s Train”; and “The Heart Part 5” lost twice. It lost outstanding hip hop/rap song to “Hotel Lobby” by Quavo and Takeoff and outstanding music video/visual album to Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up.”
Surprise: Will Smith
It both is and isn’t a surprise that Smith won outstanding actor in a motion picture for Emancipation. This was his first nomination here since The Slap on last year’s Oscar telecast, which tarnished his image and imperiled his career. Smith also won here last year for King Richard, the role that brought him his first Oscar. Smith is the first actor to win back-to-back Image Awards in this category since Denzel Washington scored in 2002-03 with Training Day and John Q, respectively. Smith wasn’t on hand to receive his award. Instead, presenter Janelle Monáe simply accepted it on his behalf.
Snub: Samara Joy
Joy won two Grammys on Feb. 5 – best new artist and best jazz vocal album for Linger Awhile. So you might think she’d be a shoo-in to win here for outstanding jazz album – vocal. Nope. The award went to Adam Blackstone’s Legacy. Blackstone is also coming off a major award win. He won his first Primetime Emmy in September for outstanding music direction for The Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show Starring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent.
Surprise: Coco Jones
Jones took outstanding new (recording) artist for “ICU” over Steve Lacy for Gemini Rights, among others. Lacy’s album won a Grammy for best progressive R&B album and spawned the smash “Bad Habit,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks.
Snub: Future’s “Wait for U”
The hit by Future featuring Drake and Tems topped the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy for best melodic rap performance. But it came up short in both categories in which it was nominated here. It lost outstanding hip hop/rap song to “Hotel Lobby” by Quavo and Takeoff and outstanding duo group or collaboration (contemporary) to Chris Brown featuring Wizkid’s “Call Me Every Day.”
Surprise: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Prince-Bythewood won outstanding directing in a motion picture for The Woman King (Sony Pictures Releasing). She beat Ryan Coogler, the director of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, among others. This is Prince-Bythewood’s record-setting third win in the category, following The Secret Life of Bees (2009) and The Old Guard (2021). Coogler has won twice in the category for Creed (2016) and Black Panther (2019). Coogler won two awards on the night – outstanding writing in a motion picture and outstanding soundtrack/compilation album, both for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Snub: Jerrod Carmichael
Jerrod Carmichael won his first Primetime Emmy in September for outstanding writing for a variety special for his HBO Max special, Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel, but he lost in the equivalent category (outstanding writing in a television movie or special) here. The winner? Netflix’s Entergalactic, with a story by Scott Mescudi (better known as Kid Cudi) and written by Ian Edelman and Maurice Williams.
Surprise: Keke Palmer
Palmer won outstanding character voice-over performance – motion picture. She beat out a pair of past Oscar nominees – Angela Bassett (nominated for Wendell & Wild) and Taraji P. Henson (nominated for Minions: The Rise of Gru).
Snub: Sheryl Lee Ralph
Ralph won her first Primetime Emmy in September for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for her role in Abbott Elementary, but lost here to her castmate Janelle James. Both were vying here for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series. The two actresses presented the first award on the telecast. Ralph warmly congratulated James on her win the previous night.
Surprise: Tabitha Brown
The host of Tab Time on You Tube Originals won outstanding host in a reality/reality competition, game show or variety (series or special) – individual or ensemble. (That category name is longer than the show!) Her win was sweet because she was up against four major names – Lizzo for Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls, Trevor Noah for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Taraji P. Henson for hosting the 2022 BET Awards and Keke Palmer for NBC’s revival of Password. Tab Time also won outstanding children’s program.
Snub: ‘Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio’
Guillermo del Toro’s film is the front-runner to win the Oscar for best animated feature film, but it lost outstanding animated motion picture here to Wendell & Wild. The latter film wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar.
Surprise: Nicco Annan
The star of Starz’ P-Valley won outstanding actor in a drama [TV] series, beating, among others, Sterling K. Brown of NBC’s just-wrapped This Is Us (who won in this category twice). Annan stars as Uncle Clifford Sayles, the non-binary owner and proprietor of a strip club called The Pynk in the fictional city of Chucalissa, Miss. P-Valley also won outstanding drama series.
Not a Surprise: Michelle Obama
Image Award voters seem to prefer the real Michelle Obama to a dramatized version. ABC News 20/20 Michelle Obama: The Light We Carry, a Conversation with Robin Roberts won outstanding news/information (series or special). But Viola Davis’ portrayal of the former first lady on The First Lady (Showtime) lost in the category of outstanding actress in a television movie, limited-series or dramatic special. (The winner there was Niecy Nash-Betts, playing the suspicious neighbor on Netflix’s Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.)
Not a Surprise, but Really?: Jennifer Hudson
Hudson took outstanding host in a talk or news/information (series or special) – individual or ensemble for the first season of her syndicated The Jennifer Hudson Show. That’s not a surprise. Hudson is an EGOT, after all. Her competition included Lester Holt for NBC Nightly News. These shows – a resolutely positive daytime talk show and an evening news broadcast – should not be in the same category. It’s not really fair to either.