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13th Annual Essence Black Women In Hollywood Awards Luncheon

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As we go into our second holiday season of the COVID-19 pandemic, more families are coming together and trying to regain some type of normalcy or even take their holiday cheer to the next level. We could learn a thing or two on how to reinvent the family Christmas gathering from Lifetime’s Welcome to the Christmas Family Reunion. The film follows event planner Amy (Michelle Argyris) as she plans a Christmas family reunion for singer Tiffanie Christmas and the Christmas family (yes, that’s their last name).

The family-friendly film, which stars Vanessa Estelle Williams, Wendy Raquel Robinson and Asia’h Epperson, gave a different outlook on Christmas gatherings among Black families. In my experience, family reunions are usually a summer event, so having a family reunion while everyone was in the Christmas spirit put a refreshing spin on the tradition.

“As we grow and as the idea of our humanity in as it’s being expressed gets more and more variations, we get to see all kinds of configurations of the what’s possible, and what has been the case for black people

I got to catch up with Vanessa Estelle Williams, who plays Eve Christmas, a widow who is focused on upholding family traditions while learning to enjoy her favorite holiday without her late husband and is having a hard time relinquishing control. Going through another COVID Christmas is hard but it becomes a double whammy when you’re also trying to have a joyous time without loved ones, like Williams’ character.

“I can understand her need to control some stuff and just have some sort of certainty about how the Christmas holidays will unfold,” Williams told MADAMENOIRE. “Because it also is a time that brings up memories of people who have gone to the other side, and how do I recreate and how do I make special and it’s supposed to be special, because it’s this particular day.”


A Christmas Family Reunion is a lighthearted contrast to other projects we’ve seen Williams in like New Jack City, Days Of Our Lives, The L Word, Soul Food, 9-1-1 and CandymanThroughout her three-decade career, Williams has been along for the bumpy ride that Black women experience in the film industry. Her longevity has allowed her to see the experience of Black actresses evolve, especially when it comes to colorism. During the 90’s, Black women with darker complexions were often type-casted and not given leading roles, which the Brooklyn native experienced when she was casted as Keisha in New Jack City instead of Selina, played by Michael Michele.

“There hadn’t been a breakthrough in terms of saying, ‘Oh, the brown girl could be sexy and hot and pretty, too,” she said about her experience in the ’90’s. “Until now, you know, and there’s still more of it to be seen. Those creators [in the ’90s] were also responding to their oppression, you know? To their ideology of like, oh, this is what’s beautiful.”

Williams said it’s now refreshing to see darker-skinned actresses be in the spotlight and also have them telling our stories.

“Anyone who makes a movie is moving from their sense of beauty and their sense of what they like. And so as Black women, like Issa Rae, you know, who are in charge of that, you get to see a different kind of ideology of embracing brown skin, kinky hair, people who look like people’s mamas, and not just their cousin on the light side of things. That’s a Black girl, too. That’s not taking away her Blackness, her struggle…we’re not a monolith of people.”

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