Oscars, Diversity and 3am Mornings

It’s 3:27am and I’m awake.

In three minutes the 87th Academy Awards will be live on TV.  I jump out of bed, head-towards the living room, flop on the couch and turn on the TV. It’s funny how I struggle to wake up at 6:00am for work or gym but when it comes to awards I’m wide awake!

*Side note: I live in South Africa and we’re 7hrs ahead of the US, hence why I have to wake up this early.*

Anyway, good or bad the Oscars will be the hot-topic of the day and I’ll be able to say I was there front and centre… in front of the TV.

I love Neil Patrick Harris (NPH), so I thought his hosting skills were on point. From the moment he stepped out on stage for the opening number – with Anna Kendrick and Jack Black – I was entertained. He used quirky ways to introduce the presenters and even stepped out on stage just wearing his tighty whities!!

There were some great musical performances but two stood out for me. The first was the emotional performance of Glory by John Legend and Common which had Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine in tears.

John Legend and Common were the favourites to win the Academy for Best Original Song. However, when it was announced that John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn had won I was like “Nooooo” … only to find out that John Stephens is John Legend’s real name and Lonnie Lynn is Common.

John Legend and Common
John Legend and Common

The second most memorable performance was The Sound of Music medley performed by Lady Gaga. Although Gaga is usually known for her outrageous/over the top performances last night I saw another side of her.

But the one thing that stood out above the glamorous outfits, performances and laughs was the lack of diversity. Even though it’s a topic that gets brought up every year this year the Oscars were dubbed the whitest.

An eye opening article I read on The Huffington Post titled: Why It Should Bother Everyone That The Oscars Are So White highlights the issue. The opening paragraph reads:

#OscarsSoWhite that if Common and John Legend win an Academy Award for Best Original Song this Sunday, it will be only the 32nd time in 87 years that a black person has held a competitive Oscar on Hollywood’s biggest stage. That’s 32 times out of more than 2,900 winners.

Stories and statistics, like the ones shared in this article, are important for people to understand the lack of representation, both in colour and gender, in the industry is not some pie in the sky but a real issue.

It can become disheartening to see the same perpetuating cycle year in and year out. But the actors, actresses, directors, screenwriters and producers alike keep working, keep pressing and keep moving forward.

And every now and again we get to hear an inspirational speech which sparks something in us to keep believing that it is possible.

At the end of the day, win or lose, who are you to let an award define you? In my mind, it would have been great for Ava DuVernay to have won the Academy Award for Best Director and make history. But her loss doesn’t take anything away from the brilliance of her work.

During the last awards season a friend asked me why do I wake up at 3:00am to catch the Academy Awards when I can watch the highlights in the morning.

I think part of it is because I suffer from major FOMO (fear of missing out). Part of it is because as a journalist I like to catch things as they happen, I like to feel like I’m part of the action even if I’m just putting my thoughts on twitter.

But the biggest reason I guess is because I’m waiting to witness a historical moment. To see moments where actors and actresses win awards for roles that were not based on the colour of their skin. I’m waiting for that day. And when that day comes I will be there at 3:00am, sitting in front of the TV watching history unfold.

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