Oprah Winfrey received the 2018 Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globe awards on Sunday night — becoming the first black woman to receive the award.
Winfrey joins an impressive list of DeMille Award recipients including Denzel Washington, Audrey Hepburn, Meryl Streep and directors Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg — but her speech was arguably one of the most memorable to ever be delivered on the awards stage.
Oprah Winfrey is the first black woman to receive the award. In her speech, Oprah weaved in a story about her childhood, drew in unforgettable moments of black history and recognized today’s powerful Time’s Up movement. She also thanked her best friend Gayle King and partner Stedman Graham as well as paid homage to actor Sidney Poitier who received the same award in 1982.
“In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee watching Ann Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: ‘The winner is, Sidney Poitier,'” Winfrey recalled. “Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remember his tie was white and, of course, his skin was black. And I had never seen a black man being celebrated like that.
“It is not lost on me at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given the same award,” she continued, as the room erupted in applause. “It is an honor and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them and also with the incredible men and women who’ve inspired me, who’ve challenged me, who sustain me and made my journey to the stage possible.”
Reese Witherspoon, who will appear alongside Winfrey in the upcoming film A Wrinkle In Time, presented the award to Winfrey during the ceremony.
“When I learned that I’d get to introduce Oprah tonight, I began asking people, ‘If you could say one thing to Oprah, what would you say?’ And they all said different things, but every answer started the same: ‘Tell her thank you,” Witherspoon said. “‘Tell her thank you for teaching us, for inspiring us, for encouraging us. Thank you for seeing us.’
“So Oprah, thank you for your grace and your generosity and your wisdom. Thank you for your powerful contributions to the world of film and television. In this, and in everything you do, you’ve changed our lives.”
Before ending her speech, Oprah made an even more powerful stance on the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements that have been sweeping social media and nation news in recent months.
“What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have and I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal story,” she said. “Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell. And this year, we became the story. But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault, because they, like my mother, had children to feed, bills to pay, and dreams to pursue.”
“They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers, and farmworkers,” she added. “They are working in factories, they work in restaurants and they’re in academia and engineering and in science. They’re a part of the world of tech, and politics and business. There are athletes in the Olympics. There are soldiers in the military…For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up!”
Over the course of her career, Winfrey has dominated media a TV talk show host, actress and entrepreneur. The media maven also started her own television network OWN that features a variety of black-centric shows, like “Queen Sugar,” that aren’t found anywhere else.
But it’s Winfrey’s work as an entertainer that has attracted the attention of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. With notable films like “Beloved,” “Selma,” “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and “The Color Purple” in her filmography, she has lit up the silver screen as well as the small.
“As a global media leader, philanthropist, producer and actress, she has created an unparalleled connection with people around the world, making her one of the most respected and admired figures today,” Meher Tatna, the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, said.
Director Ava DuVernay, friend and colleague of Winfrey’s, said she attended the ceremony Sunday night for two reasons, and celebrating her friend was one of them.
“I’m really excited to be here on this night. It’s a very electric energy here. I’m here for two reasons,” DuVernay said while on the red carpet before the show. “One, to kind of assert my voice in black for Time’s Up, and the other is to celebrate my friend Oprah Winfrey. I’m just really grateful that we get to celebrate her tonight — a phenomenal woman on a night like this.”