Posted on April 27, 2021

The Oscars Embraced Diversity, but Not as Much as It Could Have

Adam B. Vary, Variety, April 25, 2021

After the humiliating back-to-back scandal of #OscarsSoWhite for the 2014 and 2015 Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences set itself to aggressively increasing representation within its membership. By expanding the perspectives of its voters, the hope was that a greater diversity of voices could find recognition at the Oscars.

Five years later at the 93rd Oscars, several major milestones were indeed achieved for representation. Yuh-jung Youn (“Minari”), winner for best supporting actress, was the first Korean actor to ever win an Oscar, and only the second Asian woman. Chloé Zhao was the second woman ever to win best director, and the first woman of color. Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson were the first Black women to win makeup and hairstyling. And with Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) winning best supporting actor, half the acting winners were people of color.

Granted, that was from a record-setting nine acting nominees who were people of color, and many prognosticators believed there was a strong possibility that four of those nine would make up all of the acting winners this year for the first time in Oscar history. The late Chadwick Boseman’s loss to Anthony Hopkins for best actor was especially shocking, and once again, Halle Berry remains the only woman of color ever to win best actress.

Beyond the winners list, however, this year’s Academy Awards spent considerable time putting the faces and concerns of people of color, especially Black Americans, front and center. The pre-show was hosted by Ariana DeBose — who plays Anita in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” — and “Get Out” and “Judas and the Black Messiah” co-star Lil Rel Howery, and the telecast opened with Regina King walking through Los Angeles’ Union Station to rousing music spun by the evening’s DJ, Questlove.

King then began the show by referencing the Derek Chauvin verdict, noting that had it gone a different way, she would’ve traded her heels for marching boots.

“I know the fear that so many live with and no amount of fame or fortune changes that,” she said.


Accepting makeup and hairstyling, Neal paid tribute to her grandfather, “an original Tuskegee Airman” who had to stay at a YMCA to attend Northwestern University and was denied a teaching job in his hometown. She then expressed hope that Asian, Latino, indigenous and Black trans women will all have the opportunity to win an Oscar in her category.


Best live-action short winner Travon Free — whose film “Two Distant Strangers” depicts a Black man stuck in a time-loop in which he’s killed by a white NYPD officer — opened his speech by noting that police kill on average three people per day in the U.S.

“James Baldwin once said the most despicable thing a person can be is indifferent to other people’s pain,” he said. “{snip} Please, don’t be indifferent to our pain.”