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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." "Hello!" began the 26-year-old newcomer, who always manages to pleasantly surprise with her bright and bubbly disposition, such a contrast to the downcast, depressed teen she played on the silver screen. "It is an honor to be nominated, but it is so awesome to win. I love winning!" Sidibe exclaimed, going on to thank God, "for ordering my steps," and her "teachers"—Mo'Nique, Paula Patton, Sherri Shepherd and Mariah Carey.
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."
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."
The NAACP/Ford Vanguard Award is presented to a person whose groundbreaking work increases understanding and awareness of racial and social issues. Previous honorees include Tyler Perry, Russell Simmons, Aretha Franklin, Prince, Stanley Kramer and Steven Spielberg.
“The NAACP is proud to honor Wyclef Jean this year’s Vanguard Award for his continued activism and dedication,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “His passion for social justice and helping those in need should be applauded.
It was Wyclef who was on a plane shortly after the devastating earthquake hit his homeland of Haiti, and it was his dedication to the people of Haiti that helped spur all of us to donate what we could and keep the people of Haiti in our hearts and prayers.”
Wyclef Jean has effortlessly crossed genres, generations and geographic boundaries with his music. Jean’s musical journey began in Haiti where he first sang in his father’s church at age 3. At 10 years old, he moved with his family to the United States, where he formed his first serious musical collaboration, the Tranzlator Crew, with his New Jersey classmates Lauryn Hill and Pras Michel. By 1994, the Tranzlator Crew had become the Fugees, and the group enjoyed its first critical acclaim with its debut album, “Blunted On Reality.”
"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. If you were born in a nightmare, God will usher you into a dream!!! said Perry.
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.
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