Are the Oscars More Inclusive and Diverse This Year?
Ruth Carter (left) and Hannah Beachler (left). 
Ruth Carter (left) and Hannah Beachler (left). (Photo: Canva/The Quint)

Are the Oscars More Inclusive and Diverse This Year?

After decades of receiving criticism for being the mouthpiece of white privilege, the 91st Academy Awards, seems to be determined to appear more ‘inclusive’ this year.

The break has been spearheaded by Hannah Beachler and Ruth Carter - who took home the award for Best Production Design and the Best Costume Design for Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther. Both Hannah and Carter became the first African-American women to win awards in their respective categories.

Along with them, Rami Malek winning the Oscar for Best Director for Bohemian Rhapsody, Alfonso Cuaron bagging the award for Best Director for Roma, Spike Lee for best adapted screenplay for BlacKkKlansman, Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor for Green Book and Regina King, for Best Supporting Actress, for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk, has definitely set this stage for artists of colour to finally be recognised for their talent.

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Before this year’s Awards, the highest number of actors of color to win at a single Oscar ceremony - was two, according to a report published by Time.

This included:

  • 1983: Ben Kingsley for Gandhi, Louis Gossett Jr for An Officer and a Gentleman
  • 2001: Denzel Washington for Training Day and Halle Berry for Monster’s Ball
  • 2005: Jamie Foxx for Ray and Morgan Freeman for Million Dollar Baby)
  • 2007: Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland and Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls

The Time report found that only 6.4 percent of acting nominations of the total 1,668, since the Academy Awards began in 1929, have gone to non-white actors. And that in the past 25 years, only 56 actors, which is 11.2 percent of the total, were non-white.

Considering this trend, and then taking a look at this year’s wins, with artists of Egyptian, Mexican and African-American origins taking the cake, one can assume that The Academy made a conscious decision to try and break its #OscarsSoWhite identity.

“Did My Best & My Best is Good Enough”: Hannah

Hannah is the first African-American to even be nominated in the category of production design.

A teary-eyed Hannah, who gave ‘Wakanda’ to Black Panther, said:

“I did my best and my best is good enough.”

Speaking to the media later, she also said: “I’m crying one minute then doing a little dance the next second and then crying again thinking of the weightiness of it, as well as the humbleness of it and the joy of it. But you do feel a certain responsibility...It means breaking down walls ... for young women of colour and boys and girls of colour to see that this is not impossible."

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‘It’s Been a Long Time Coming”: Ruth

Ruth Carter, a veteran costume designer, also made history by becoming the first African American woman to win an Oscar for best costume design. Ruth had previously been nominated twice for an Oscar in the same category.

Accepting the Academy Award, Ruth said: “I got this. This has been a long time coming.”

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“It’s been my life’s honour to create costumes. Thank you to the Academy, thank you for honouring African royalty, and the empowered way women can look and lead onscreen.”
Ruth Carter 

Carter also gave a shout out to the director Spike Lee, who she said gave her a start in the industry.

“May Not Have Been Obvious Choice, But Guess It Worked Out”: Malek

Rami Malek’s impersonation of musical legend Freddie Mercury in Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody, was definitely impressive enough to win him the Oscar.

Dedicating his award to his family, girlfriend and co-star Lucy Boynton and of course - Queen - Malek said:

“We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant who lived his life unapologetically himself. I am the son of immigrants from Egypt. I am a first-generation American, and my story is being written right now. I cannot be more grateful to each and every one of you.”

“Dedicate This Award to My Grandmother”: Ali

Mahershala Ali, an African American actor who converted to Islam, had won hearts in 2017 - for his role as ‘Chiron’ in Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight, for which he won the Award for Best Supporting Actor - becoming the first Muslim actor ever to win an Academy Award.

Moonlight also won the Award for the Best Movie, that year.

Dedicating this year’s award, for his role as Don Shirley in Green Book, to his grandmother, Ali said: “I want to dedicate this to my grandmother, who has been in my ear my entire life. Telling me that if at first I don't succeed, try, try, try again. That I can do anything I put my mind to. Always, always pushing me to think positively and I know that I would not be here without her, that she's gotten me over the hump in a lot of ways.”

“Being Here Doesn’t Get Old”: Alfonso Cuaron

Roma Director Alfonso Cuaron bagged three awards for the intimate black-and-white drama, with Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography.

Roma tells the story of tells the story of a woman named Cleo, through her life in 1970s Mexico City.

In his acceptance speech, Cuaron spoke about the responsibility of spreading awareness, as an artist.

“I want to thank the Academy for recognizing a film centered around an indigenous woman, one of the 70 million domestic workers in the world without work rights. A character who has historically been relegated to the background in cinema. As artists, our job is to look where others don’t. This responsibility becomes much more important in times where we are being encouraged to look away.”
Alfonso Cuaron 

"Make the Moral Choice Between Love vs Hate”: Lee

Spike Lee has waited a long time - 30 years to be precise - to finally bag an Oscar, after being nominated for the first time for Best Screenplay for Do the Right Thing.

In a heart-felt acceptance speech, Lee read from a two-page letter two-page that tied together ‘black history’ and the years 1619 and 2019, along with his own story. He praised his ancestors and mentioned the first in his family to break the chains - his grandmother - who helped him through school and to get a degree at New York University.

Speaking about liberation, he also mentioned the upcoming 2020 elections and asked Americans to “make the moral choice between love vs hate”, referring to the overall anti-Black prejudice encouraged by the current Trump administration.

“I’m an Example of When Love & Support is Poured Into Someone”: Regina

Regina King won the Award for Best Supporting Actress, for her performance in If Beale Street Could Talk.

It's the first Oscar and first nomination for King, who has won three Emmy Awards for her work on television. King thanked author James Baldwin, whose novel is the basis for the film from director Barry Jenkins.

In a heartwarming speech, the actress thanked her mother, who was in the audience, and said she is an example of what happens when someone is supported and loved.

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