By Oliver Gettell
June 07, 2019 at 12:49 AM EDT

Beyoncé made a surprise appearance at the AFI Life Achievement Award Tribute to Denzel Washington in Hollywood on Thursday night to honor director Melina Matsoukas, a longtime collaborator.

The megastar performer presented Matsoukas — with whom she has worked on music videos including “Upgrade U,” “Diva,” “Sweet Dreams,” “Why Don’t You Love Me,” “Move Your Body,” “RUN,” and “Formation” — with the Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal, which honors creators embodying the qualities of “talent, taste, dedication, and commitment to quality storytelling in film and television.”

Bestowing the award, Beyoncé praised Matsoukas for telling “stories that are thought-provoking, dramatic, funny, and real.”

Mason Poole

She added, “[Matsoukas] is holding up a mirror for people who look like you and me to see ourselves, saying, ‘You are beautiful, and your stories matter.’ She is fearless, no matter the challenges, and believes in breaking stereotypes in the industry, hiring marginalized creators, especially women. As a woman of color, conformity is not her thing. She stays authentic to her roots and femininity in an industry dominated by men. Her drive, vision, taste level, and storytelling is boldly unapologetic.”

Beyoncé concluded her remarks by congratulating “Melina, my sister.”

Visibly moved, Matsoukas also referred to Beyoncé as “my first sister” and added, “She truly influenced my career. She taught me how to work, how to dream, and how to achieve. And most importantly as an artist, how to take control of your own narrative. Without her, I’m not the same voice, I’m not the same creator, and I’m definitely not the same filmmaker.”

Mason Poole

Matsoukas’ other directing credits include the TV series Insecure and Master of None and the upcoming film Queen & Slim.

With reporting by Maureen Lee Lenker.

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