‘Finally the door is wide open’: Oscars’ big winner is diversity as winners make history

 

#OscarsSoWhite seemed very, very far away on Oscar night.

Spike Lee jumped onstage into the arms of presenter Samuel L. Jackson winning his first, non-honorary Oscar for adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman.”

Ruth E. Carter, costume designer, and Hannah Beachler, production designer, became the first African-American women to win in their respective fields for their work on “Black Panther.”

Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón took home three Oscars for “Roma”: best director, best cinematography and best foreign film.

Regina King won  the best supporting actress award for “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Mahershala Ali took best supporting actor for “Green Book,” the civil rights film which won best picture.  “Bohemian Rhapsody” best actor-winner Rami Malek talked from the stage of being “the son of immigrants from Egypt.”

For all the drama leading up to Oscars 2019, it proved to be a historic night of celebrating diversity in the film industry — three years after the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag became a painful symbol for the lack of diversity in the film industry.

 

A jubilant Spike Lee accepts the Oscar for best adapted screening for "BlacKkKlansman." (Photo11: Kevin Winter, Getty Images)

During his joyful acceptance speech, Lee pointed out the Oscars were taking place 400 years after the first slaves were brought to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619.

“The word today is irony. The date, the 24th. The month February,” said Lee. “Which also happens to be Black History Month.”

Backstage, King pointed out steps the Academy has taken to make its membership  more diverse, a direct result of the #OscarsSoWhite fallout, while giving shout-out to Hattie McDaniel — the first African American actress to win an Oscar for “Gone With the Wind.”

Regina King accepts the award for best supporting actress for "If Beale Street Could Talk." (Photo11: ROBERT DEUTSCH, USA TODAY)

“She didn’t win just because black people voted for her.  She won because she gave an amazing performance,” King said. “And especially then, the Academy was not as reflective as it is now.  We are still trying to get more reflective, still trying to get there. So many women have paved the way. I walk in their light, and I also am creating my own light.”

The #Oscars so far has had presenting or performing J-Hudson, Bryan Tyree Henry, Angela Bassett, J-Lo, Javier Bardem, Keegan Michael-Key, Trevor Noah, Serena Williams, Queen Latifah.. Academy threw down the flag & said “What you not gonna do is call us #OscarsSoWhite this year”

The results were celebrated on Twitter. Political strategist Atima Omara pointed out the diverse presenters and performers on the Oscars telecast — Jennifer Hudson, Bryan Tyree Henry, Angela Bassett, Javier Bardem, Keegan Michael-Key, Trevor Noah, Serena Williams and Queen Latifah (just to name few). “Academy threw down the flag & said ‘What you not gonna do is call us #OscarsSoWhite this year.’ “

“Does #OscarsSoWhite seem like a distant memory? It really isn’t, but its nice to see some amazing performances by people of color recognized,” tweeted comedian Herbie Gill. “The performances aren’t the issue, the opportunities and recognition were. Hopefully we’re moving past it. #Oscars2019.”

Ruth E. Carter poses with the award for best costume design for "Black Panther." (Photo11: Dan MacMedan-USA TODAY NETWORK)

Backstage Lee gave props to April Reign, who started the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, and former Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who was key to expanding the membership.

“Without them, I wouldn’t be here tonight,” said Lee, sipping on a glass of champagne. “They opened up the Academy to make it more like America to make it more diverse.”

“Black Panther” costume designer Carter talked backstage about what it meant for her to make history, after a career of mentoring up-and-coming costume designers of color.

“I dreamed of this night, and I prayed for this night. What it would mean for young people coming behind me,” Carter said. “It just means we have opened up the door, finally the door is wide open. This means other people can come right in and win an Oscar just like I did.”

Cuarón pointed out that more work needs to be done to continue making the industry represent the world.

“This is a Mexican film. This award belongs to Mexico,” said Cuarón backstage, pointing out the Mexican story, cast and crew. “This film doesn’t exist if it’s not for Mexico. I put it bluntly, I would not be here if it wasn’t for Mexico.”

Beachler talked about inspiring other young people of color to take part.

“Don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t do this craft,” she said. “You are worthy, you are beautiful and this is something for you.”

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