First Lady Michelle Obama Champions Education at the 5th Annual BLACK GIRLS ROCK!™

Michelle Obama has some inspiring words for the audience.

Michelle Obama has some inspiring words for the audience.

For the fifth consecutive year, BET Networks and BLACK GIRLS ROCK!™ teamed up to present the BLACK GIRLS ROCK!™ Award Show, honoring the inspirational work of African-American women in art, philanthropy, sports and community service. But last night’s show featured a special guest: first lady Michelle Obama, who paid tribute to the evening’s many honorees and spoke about an issue close to her heart.

“No matter who you are, no matter where you come from—you are beautiful, you are powerful, you are brilliant, you are funny!” the First Lady told the evening’s attendees inside the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. “There is nothing more important than being serious about your education. That’s why I am able to stand here tonight. … I want every one of our black girls do to the same, and our black boys.”

Cheryl Lynn, Alicia Myers, Kathy Sledge, Ciara, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Faith Evans, Fantasia, Sheila E. and Lalah Hathaway entertained the audience between award presentations. Award winners included:

  • Actress Cicely Tyson – Living Legend Award
  • Director Ava DuVernay – Shot Caller Award
  • Philanthropist Dr. Helene D. Gayle – Social Humanitarian Award
  • Singer/songwriter Erykah Badu – Rock Star Award
  • Educator Nadia Lopez – Change Agent Award
  • Actress Jada Pinkett Smith – Star Power Award

With so much talent in the building, memorable moments were inevitable. Actor Will Smith brought his wife onstage with an emotional introduction. DuVernay, known most recently as the director of the Paramount Pictures civil rights biopic Selma, had this inspirational message for the audience and the millions watching at home:

“I feel strongly that you don’t have to be an actor, or a director, or a singer, or famous to be a star,” said DuVernay. “You can be a star in your own life, right where you are. Figure out what you need to do to be the heroine of your own story.”

Watch more of DuVernay’s words below:

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