Even before she entered the room, Halle Berry
was getting misty. "I am feeling emotional ... it's about to be bad," said the actress as she arrived at the Essence
Magazine's 2nd Annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon on Feb. 19 at the Beverly Hills Hotel. "This has just been an amazing year. I've never felt more inspired to be a black woman." Inside, some of Hollywood's most respected black stars were gathered to honor Berry, Diahann Carroll and 2009 Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson for their accomplishments. But the tributes were only half the fun. The stars also relished the chance to spend an afternoon together. "When we get to do this, it's like a little playtime," said Latifah, who presented The Secret Life of Bees
director Gina Prince-Bythewood with the Visionary Award. Added Carroll, 73: "I'm just thrilled to be here. The youngsters are all coming along, and I hope that they are around as long as I have been." And just as she had predicted, Berry—who left daughter Nahla, 11 months, at home but brought boyfriend Gabriel Aubry—broke down when she accepted her honor. "I feel a lot of love in this room," she said, tears flowing. "I'm now a mom, and I really do understand what life is all about. I have more to offer my craft because [Nahla] makes me indelibly better every day. I'm honored."