Angela Bassett attends the TIME 100 Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, on April 26, 2023.
Landon Nordeman for TIME

Iconic actress Angela Bassett says awards don’t define an actor’s success and talent.

Bassett, 64, was nominated for her second Oscar this year as best supporting actress for her role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The Oscar ultimately went to Jamie Lee Curtis who appeared in Everything Everywhere All at Once, a move that many say snubbed Bassett of a much-deserved Oscar for the second time.

But Bassett made an appearance at the 2023 TIME100 Gala in New York City on Wednesday night and told TIME, “We can’t define ourselves based on awards when there’s one award granted and many, many, many people who are worthy of it.”

Bassett’s first Oscar nomination was in 1993 for her breakout role playing Tina Turner in the singer’s biopic, What’s Love Got to Do with It. Bassett said she felt like she’s had other notable roles in the 30 years between the two Oscar nominations, and she told TIME, people “slept on all of them between 93’ and 2023!”

“You never know what’s going to grab the energy, what role is going to catch the energy of the academy,” Bassett said. “But you don’t accept the roles, the work, the creativity based on that, but based on what stories you want to tell the world.”

In April, Bassett wrote a heartfelt essay for her friend and fellow actor Austin Butler in TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of the Year list. Butler was an Oscar nominee as well for Best Actor for his role in Baz Luhrman’s Elvis, but he lost to Brendan Fraser who starred in The Whale.

The pair sat together at the Oscar ceremony in Los Angeles in March, and Bassett talked about feeling the impulse to hold Butler’s hand as the Best Actor category was announced.

“On the evening of the Oscars, with Austin seated next to me, I understood intimately what he felt when it was time to learn if he would climb those stairs to the stage,” Bassett wrote. “I took his hand and held it softly as the winner was announced. Although his name wasn’t called, Austin is no less a winner.”

The TIME100 special airs Sunday at 7/6c on ABC and streams on Hulu and Disney+.

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