Oscars So Diverse: Seven of the 20 Nominees in Acting Categories for 2017 Academy Awards Are Non-White

Chris Spargo, Daily Mail, January 24, 2017

Seven of the Oscar nominees competing in the acting categories this year are non-white, one year after the Academy Awards failed to nominate a single non-white actor for its top prize.

Denzel Washington, a two-time Oscar winner for Glory and Training Day, is nominated for Best Actor for his turn in Fences while newcomer Ruth Negga is nominated for her role in Loving.

Negga, 35, was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and is half Irish and half Ethiopian.

Meanwhile, three of the nominees in the Best Supporting Actress category are non-white – Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Viola Davis (Fences) and Naomie Harris (Moonlight).

It is the first time in Oscar history that a single category has had three black nominees.

Davis is also the first actress of color to receive three Oscar nominations, having previously been nominated for Doubt and The Help.

Spencer meanwhile joins Whoopi Goldberg (The Color Purple, Ghost) and Davis as just the third actress of color to receive a second nomination.

Davis has never won an Oscar, while both Goldeberg and Spencer have one Academy Award for Ghost and The Help respectively.

And in Best Supporting Actor, Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) and Dev Patel (Lion) both picked up nominations.

It is not just the individual nominees either, with the films Fences, Moonlight, Lion and Hidden Figures all receiving Best Picture nominations as well.

And Barry Jenkins is nominated for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for Moonlight.

Jenkins is just the third black director to be nominated, following John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood), Lee Daniels (Precious), and Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave).

McQueen won the Oscar.

August Wilson also received a posthumous nomination for writing the screenplay for Fences, which is based on his Pulitzer Prize winning-play.

Bradford Young became the second black nominee for Best Cinematography for his work on Arrival  (Remi Adefarasin was the first when he was nominated for Elizabeth in 1998), while Joi McMillon is the first black woman nominated for Best Editing for her work alongside Nat Sanders in Moonlight (Hugh A. Robertson was nominated for his work in Midnight Cowboy in 1998).

Lin-Manuel Miranda is also nominated for Best Song for ‘How Far I’ll Go’ from the animate film Moana.

If he wins he would become an EGOT, having already picked up multiple Tonys and Grammys as well as an Emmy for his work on the productions of In the Heights and Hamilton.

And Ava DuVernay was nominated for her documentary 13th, which will compete against OJ: Made In America.

It was revealed last year that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does not just have a lack of diversity among its nominees for the Oscars this year, but also its Board of Governors.

There were 51 members of this ruling board of the Academy, and of them only two are non-white – president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Daryn Okada who is the head of the cinematographers branch.

The other 49 individuals – who included actress Annette Bening, director Kathryn Bigelow and Rory Kennedy – are all white.

What’s more, there had been a chance to add some diversity to the board one year prior when four African-Americans including DuVernay; one Asian-American; and two Latinos ran for spots on the board.

Of those seven just Okada managed to win, and as a result doubled the number of non-white members to two.

Despite these shocking numbers, Isaacs still claimed that changes would be coming to promote diversity with the group.

And they eventually did, with a number of new members incited to join the Academy, which made a noticeable difference in the nominees this year.

Stars including Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lupita Nyong’o, George Clooney and Snoop Dogg made public statements about the lack of diversity among last year’s nominees, with Pinkett Smith and Lee announcing they would be boycotting the awards.

Pinkett Smith’s husband Will had been expected by some to receive a nomination for his work in Concussion while Lee actually received an honorary Oscar last year.

The 89th Oscars will take place on Sunday, February 26 with host Jimmy Kimmel at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood. Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd are the producers.

Lee said in November of 2015 when accepting his award; ‘It’s easier to be the president of the United States as a black person than to be the head of a studio.’

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