Stefani Saintonge Named as Winner of ESSENCE’s Black Women in Hollywood Short Film Contest

WINNER’S FILM WILL BE HIGHLIGHTED DURING ESSENCE’S STAR-STUDDED 7TH ANNUAL BLACK WOMEN IN HOLLYWOOD LUNCHEON ON FEBRUARY 27TH

ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Event to Honor Lupita Nyong’o, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Ava Duvernay

ESSENCE And Tyler Perry Honor Outstanding Accomplishments In Cinema With A Special Celebration Of Black Men In Hollywood

INTIMATE DINNER REMEMBERS 2013 MILESTONE ACHIEVEMENTS AND INSPIRING MOMENTS ON CAMERA AND BEHIND THE SCENES

ESSENCE, the #1 media brand for African-American women, has named Stefani Saintonge as the winner of its first The Essence Black Women in Hollywood Short Film Contest: Spotlight On Our Journeys, it was announced today.

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An ESSENCE first, the Black Women in Hollywood Short Film Contest challenged entrants to present unique, refreshing visions of Black women—multidimensional portrayals that are different from the stereotypical and often negative images that respondents in a recent ESSENCE study said don’t reflect the totality of who they are. Last November, ESSENCE invited aspiring filmmakers to showcase their own inspiring images reflecting the truths and triumphs of Black women’s lives by entering the contest. Contest finalists were selected from an eclectic gathering of submissions by a team of ESSENCE editors. From there, ESSENCE’s Black Women in Hollywood Academy, featuring top industry tastemakers chose Saintonge as the winner—who will be recognized in the company of A-listers during the 7th annual ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon held onFebruary 27, 2014. Saintonge will receive the Black Women in Hollywood Discovery Award. Saintonge’s journey will be chronicled on Essence.com, and a portion of her film will be shown at the Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon.

The Black Women in Hollywood Academy featured Shonda Rhimes, creator and executive producer of hit shows Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal; actress Regina King; husband and wife producing team Mara Brock and Salim Akil; film director and writer Gina Prince Bythewood; producer Stephanie Allain; PEOPLE movie criticAlynda Wheat; director and editor-in-chief of Shadow and Act Tambay Obenson; filmmaker Ava DuVernay; director of development for 34th Street Films Amber Rasberry; and screenwriter and director Dee Rees.

At 26, Saintonge, who hails from Queens, N.Y., is a daring young risk-taker who loves exploring provocative new stories to tell and the opportunity to expand her repertoire from documentary to narrative. With tenacity, she made the film in just 9 months—writing it, casting an amazing pool of talent through the Casting Network on Craigslist and throwing every dime she had into her dream. The result: Seventh Grade, a unique coming-of-age story about a brave young Black girl who discovers the politics of sexuality and in the process stands up for a friend and makes it count.

It’s great to get validation from your own community, and ESSENCE represents that community very well. I’m really happy to be a part of it,” says Saintonge of winning the contest. “When I was in middle school I remember…the stories that are out there for when [men] come of age, [was] about them being interested in sex. For women, they become the sex objects. So I wanted to explore what that’s like for women to deal with your body becoming a sex object. That’s why it’s really amazing.”

This year, the 7th annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon also will honor three of the year’s most impactful and inspiring talents, both in front of the camera and behind-the-scenes, including: 2014 Academy Award® nominated actress Lupita Nyong’o (Best Breakthrough Performance); Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs (Trailblazer Award) and award-winning director/writer Ava DuVernay (Visionary Award).

Award presenters include Sidney Poitier, Oprah Winfrey, Alfre Woodard, Kerry Washington, David Oyelowo, Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee and Danai Gurira. In an effort to honor the past, the event will also celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by paying tribute to legendary performers who were also the freedom fighters of the Civil Rights Movement. Cicely Tyson, Diahann Carroll, Nichelle Nichols, Jim Brown, Denise Nicholas and Clarence Williams III among others will be honored for their brave acts both on and off the stage.

ESSENCE, the number one media brand aimed at African-American women, today unveiled plans to join forces with award-winning producer, director, actor, writer, and philanthropist Tyler Perry on February 26, 2014 for Black Men in Hollywood, a remarkable celebration during OSCAR® week.  A second event, Black Men in Hollywood: A Year in Film, will pay tribute to our brothers on the silver screen. The dinner will be hosted by the Tracee Ellis Ross and will trumpet the most compelling and outstanding performances in 2013 by Black men. The event will salute the exceptional work of breakthrough and trailblazing performers and visionaries who contributed to the industry’s most heralded films.

Throughout the year, ESSENCE has chronicled the multitude of extraordinary performances and unforgettable moments in the pages of the magazine and on http://www.Essence.com,” commented ESSENCE Editor-in-Chief Vanessa K. Bush.  “To be invited by our friend Tyler Perry to partner in this intimate celebration of Black cinema during OSCAR® week is especially significant, as we salute some of the most powerful, authentic and multi-dimensional images we’ve seen on screen—images that serve to inspire our young men of color.”

The intimate celebration will also spotlight The California Endowment’s influential Sons & Brothers (#sonsandbrothers) campaign, which acknowledges those stand-out achievers who are vital role models for young men of color. The California Endowment is a philanthropic foundation that invests in the health and well-being of communities across California. Sons & Brothers (#sonsandbrothers) supports young men of color in living up to their full potential.  Our sons and brothers will become tomorrow’s doctors, teachers, and movie industry leaders.  An investment in them is an investment in us.  Additional information is available at www.sonsandbrothers.us.

Black Men in Hollywood will precede ESSENCE‘s annual Black Women in Hollywood luncheon, which returns to the Beverly Hills Hotel on February 27, 2014 to recognize the incredible triumphs of trailblazing women in film and television.

2013 was an extraordinary year of breakthroughs in Hollywood,” says Bush, “with the naming of Cheryl Boone Isaacs as the first African American president of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the emergence of gifted actor Lupita Nyong’o as a rising star, Ava DuVernay‘s riveting directorial bow on Scandal, and the prominence of African-American leading men who created roles that displayed our diversity and humanity. During the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ESSENCE remains committed to honoring excellence in media both in front of and behind the camera.”

Fans can gain exclusive access to the red-carpet action of the 2014 Black Women in Hollywood event through a live-stream hosted here on http://www.ESSENCE.com, at 1:30 p.m.