LOS ANGELES (Reuters) â€“ Independent movie “Precious: Based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” swept the Image Awards on Friday, picking up six trophies including best movie and best actress for its star, newcomer Gabourey Sidibe.
The harrowing tale of an abused, obese Harlem teen also brought an NAACP Image award for actress Mo’Nique, whose performance as a manipulative mother is the leading favorite for a best supporting actress Oscar in March.
“Precious” also won the Image award for best independent movie, and Lee Daniels picked up the best director prize for the film on a night of honors given out by the oldest U.S. civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
An emotional Sidibe dedicated her award to “all the Precious girls everywhere. This is for you,” she said.
Daniels, also fighting back tears, recalled how big Hollywood studios had told him repeatedly that “no one wanted to see a movie about a 350-pound black girl, who is struggling and who has HIV.”
Morgan Freeman won best actor for playing former South African president Nelson Mandela in the movie “Invictus”, and R&B star Mary J. Blige won two music awards, for best female artist and best album for “Stronger With Each Tear.”
Hip-hop singer Wyclef Jean won the NAACP’s prestigious Vanguard trophy for his humanitarian efforts on behalf of his native Haiti.
Jean, a founder member of The Fugees, was a leading celebrity campaigner for Haiti disaster relief after January’s devastating earthquake in the poverty-stricken nation.
Jean, who started the evening singing with Haitian musicians and legendary Mexican guitar player Carlos Santana, dedicated his award to “all of those people you all don’t see working on the ground in Haiti and in America.”
“Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” swept the TV comedy category, winning four awards including best series and best comedy actress for Cassi Davis. The ABC Family channel drama “Lincoln Heights” won for best TV drama.
Perry, who writes, directs, produces and acts in hit movies, was also presented with the NAACP Chairman’s award, which recognizes special achievement and public service.
“I want to use my gift to make you not only laugh but think…To show us we don’t have to just act in the sitcom, but we can own the show and the network,” he said.
In the literature category, Deborah Willis won an Image award for her biography of U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, and David Bergen Brophy was honored for his children’s book “Michelle Obama: Meet the First Lady.”
President Barack Obama also got a shout-out during the ceremony from Van Jones, the former White House special advisor for green jobs, who was presented with the NAACP President’s award for promoting environmental justice.
“He (Obama) volunteered to become captain of the Titanic after it hit an iceberg — and it’s still floating,” Jones said, to cheers from the packed audience.
The NAACP Image Awards have been given out for 41 years to honor the achievements and performances of people of color in TV, film, music and literature.