Host Mike Epps Talks About the Importance of ABFF Awards

"As black artists, we have to continue to open up other doors and avenues for ourselves"

With ABFF Awards: A Celebration of Hollywood, airing tonight on BET, we sat down with host Mike Epps to get his thoughts on the celebration and honoring of black Hollywood, and why it’s so important to carve out your own lane.

[Related: ABFF Awards Celebrates Black Film and TV Tomorrow on BET]

BlackEnterprise.com: What were your initial thoughts when Jeff and the ABFF team asked you to host ABFF Awards?
Epps: My initial response was timing is everything—it’s perfect. Right now the business is in an uproar about the Oscars, about black artists being honored for awards, so it was such great timing. I was really honored that Jeff called me to participate in this. This is a big opportunity for me, for us, to be honored for our work.

You have hosted a few awards shows. What do you think makes ABFF Awards unique?
We’re honoring people who have really paved the way, who have made strides in this business. We’re honoring people that deserve to be honored, that have put in work — some for years and some are new. I think that we as African Americans should have something for ourselves, something that we’re proud of, something that we look forward to. This awards show is it. It’s our homecoming. We’re not always invited, as you can see, to other awards shows, so for us to have our own and to honor our own is always beautiful.

In today’s entertainment landscape, with #OscarsSoWhite and lots of focus on diversity, do you feel that ABFF Awards is a necessity?
It’s a necessity. It’s a must that we do this, and we’re in a position to do it.

What are some of the awards you’re looking forward to presenting?
I look forward to seeing Will Packer be honored. He’s been at this for so long, and he’s our golden child. I also look forward to honoring Diahann Carroll. She’s put in work and paved the way for many African American women throughout the years. She did it at a time where we didn’t even get the opportunities that we get now. So, I look forward to honoring her, as well as Don Cheadle.

You’ve successfully made the switch back and forth from television and films, hosting and standup. What is the main thing that allows you to successfully navigate these different sides of the industry?
First of all, I’d like to thank God for giving me the ability and talent to be able to do this. I’ve always approached my career as one box of goodies. I’ve never separated what I do — it all comes from the heart and my talent. I recognize that it can be hard for us, so I have to keep a number of different irons in this business. If you have the ability to do it, it’s a must. As we know, [the business] is a rollercoaster, where you have high and low points but if you keep different avenues open for yourself and you work at them, you can work all the way across the board. That’s my mentality – if one door shuts, I’m over here opening another one because that’s what we have to do as artists. As black artists, we have to continue to open up other doors and avenues for ourselves so we’re not typecast or blocked and put specific categories.

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