Musicians and entertainers flocked to the Beverly Hilton on Friday night to give their A-list peers their flowers at the second annual Femme it Forward Give Her FlowHERS Gala in Los Angeles. This year the organization — which recognizes leaders in music for their artistry and mentorship of the next generation of trailblazers — honored SZA, Brandy, Teyana Taylor, Flo Milli, Jordyn and Jodie Woods, and Monaleo.
“I want to say thank you to God and thank you to my mama for birthing an icon and always seeing the star in me,” said rapper Flo Milli, the 2023 Bloom Honoree, as she accepted the first honor of the night. “Along this journey, I’ve been doubted, I’ve been laughed at, I’ve been talked about, but I’ve been supported and loved as well. When I decided that I wanted to pursue this path, I never made a plan B, because that’s not believing in my plan A. So, I’m thankful for all my supporters and everyone that made it possible for me to be in this position.”
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Houston rapper Monaleo, this year’s Self-Love Honoree, told Flo Milli how her words resonated with her as she took to the stage to accept her flowers. The new mom, who has been open about her mental health struggles in the past, decided to scrap the speech she’d written in favor of sharing a word of encouragement with the audience at the moment.
“Our bodies, these vessels that we carry, they emit heat,” she started. “And you know what else emits heat? Light. We are light. And without you, the world would be a little bit more dim. I want you to remember that the next time you wake up feeling like you’re alone here; this world would be nothing without you.”
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) November 11, 2023
Another touching moment in the evening was having two mothers give their daughters flowers; in presenting to Brandy, her mom and former manager Sonja Norwood commanded the audience to stand on their feet to celebrate the woman she announced as “your favorite singer’s favorite singer.”
Brandy thanked her parents, brother Ray J, and daughter Sarai before she extended a heartfelt thank you to her fans.
“Your loyalty, passion and support have fueled my motivation and inspired me to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible,” said the 2023 Muse Honoree. “It is you who have given me the strength to persevere through the highs and lows of my career.”
Elizabeth Woods also presented to her daughters, Jordyn and Jodie Woods, who were the event’s My Sister’s Keeper Honorees. Teyana Taylor’s daughter Junie joined her on stage to accept her flowers, which were presented to her by Lori Harvey.
“Thank you for reminding my heart that your plan is far greater than any plan I could ever have for my life,” Taylor said as she dedicated her speech to God. “Thank you for reminding me and all the amazing women in this room tonight that the wait was not punishment, it was preparation for what was already written in the palms of your hands and your plans.”
“And my mom is the best mom ever,” Junie said, adding one final line to Taylor’s speech as she stood on her toes to project into the mic.
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) November 11, 2023
Lizzo presented the last award of the night, which featured performances by up-and-coming artists Jane Handcock, Ambré, Maeta and LAYA, as well as a presentation of the Pen it Forward Honor to songwriter and producer duo Nova Wav.
In chronicling her journey from being an “O.G. SZA fan” to now a friend, Lizzo called SZA “my favorite songwriter of all time.”
“Your music is a gift to us all. You tear us apart, and you put us back together again. You challenge us to examine our shadows and cuss them out or invite them, consensually, to the strip club,” Lizzo said taking a jab at the sexual harassment lawsuit that was filed against her earlier this year. “You’ve done so much for us. Honestly, we don’t deserve you, but you deserve your flowers. You blow my mind every single day, Solána Imani Rowe. I love you deep.” The star also sang “Happy Birthday” to SZA, who turned 34 earlier this week.
SZA, who that morning was nominated for nine Grammy Awards, spoke candidly about this chapter in her career as she accepted the Big Femme Energy Honoree Award.
“This is a strange stage in my life, not because anything is wrong per se, but probably because everything is right,” she said. “I’m seeing God move in my life in a very strong and direct way, and I really would like to just be still enough to listen to how to spread that to other people and know what I’m supposed to do right now. I feel so blessed and so grateful to even be acknowledged by anyone and around peers, especially in my own life, that I look up to.”
In her closing remarks, Femme it Forward founder Heather Lowery encouraged guests to give flowers to the women in their own personal lives. “Let’s be sure to extend this sentiment beyond this room,” she said. “Be a shining example to the women in your lives. Commit to understanding her, not judging her. Show her what true sisterhood looks like.”
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