I, like a whole lot of people have gone loopy for Lupita Nyong’o. If you don’t know why or who she is just Google her name and let her talent, beauty and images of perfection be your guide.
Nutshell: She is a Yale trained actor who starred in the movie 12 Years A Slave that resonated around the world and particularly here in America and she just won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in that movie which won Best Picture as well.
A lot of statistics were flowing around on twitter after her win, and yes, after twitter BROKE DOWN because of the heavy load of YAY LUPITA TWEETS, statistics I am very familiar with.
In 2012, I wrote about the history the Academy Awards has when it comes to doling out its golden Oscar statues to Black actors. I chose to highlight the two highest award categories – Best Actor/Actress and Best Supporting Actor/Actress.
READ THE POST RIGHT HERE while the link lasts. I’m am never sure what is going on over there at the last place my blog was hosted on, but suffice it to say it should be an eye-opener for some and in other news water is wet to others.
Note: I use the word actor to mean both male and female people who act. I do not as a rule use the word actress, as the word actor is not actually a male defaulted word. If you are confused, read my No Ess, No Ette, No Trix blog post and get schooled. I can’t help it if the Oscars are divvied up between “actor” and “actress” however, when in Rome…
The Oscars have been around for 85 years. 75 years ago Hattie McDaniel won the first Oscar given to a Black actor EVER. It was for the category Best Supporting Actress.
I emphasize category because why? Because the other stat that was floating around twitter went something like this: “Only 7 Black people have ever won an Oscar in the 75 years since they one the first one”.
Yes, that is true, but what needs to be further broken down is that ONLY ONE BLACK WOMAN HAS EVER WON THE OSCAR FOR BEST ACTRESS.
Only one in the 85 year history of the Oscars and that was Halle Berry in 2001. IT has been EIGHTY-FIVE YEARS since the Academy began these awards in 1929. 85 years. And only 1 win for Black females in the Best Actress category.
The discussion for why that is so, is for another day, although I did highlight several telling aspects in the aforementioned and linked to Black Oscar Winners blog post which I KNOW you read.
But I will say this. You have to be in it to win it, as the saying goes. You have to be cast in Oscar-worthy films, you have to be cast in Oscar-worthy roles. Black women by and large are not cast hardly anywhere, much less at the top echelon. It’s not because there aren’t any Oscar-worthy Black female actors, #Doe.
Now back to Whoopi. Because without her barrier-breaking wins and stats there might never have been a Lupita. Shall we begin?
Remember that movie The Color Purple? Of course you do. Whoopi got nominated for Best Actress in the 1986 Oscars along with 10 other nods, including Best Picture, for that film. The win went to Geraldine Page for The Trip Bountiful. Note who else was up for Best Actress that year: Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange and Anne Bancroft. (I won’t mention that Best Picture went to Out Of Africa. Won’t mention that at all).
Some of you are of age to remember that the 80’s were all about Whoopi Goldberg. She was in movie’s all over the damn place. From Jumpin’ Jack Flash to Cara’s Heart.
She played a psychic in the 1990 film Ghost, and became the first Black female to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in nearly 50 years.
I’ll let that sink in.
She went on to play Guinan in the Star Trek: Next Generation series, and let us not forget the smash hit movies Sister Act and Sister Act 2. Or her iconic performance in Sarafina!. Oh you didn’t know Whoopi could sing?
She is one of the few entertainers who have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award. (There’s only 12 people on that list btw). Winning all four awards (EGOT) has been referred to as winning the Grand Slam of Show Business. She haz that.
Goldberg became the first African-American female to host the Academy Awards show in 1994, and the first woman solo host. She hosted the awards show again in 1996, 1999 and 2002.
I heard Ellen was great up there last weekend, and I’m sure she was, but Whoopi did it first, and yes, paved the way for other women, like Ellen, to be asked to host. Recognize.
Whoopi has been writing, producing and performing in film, television and the stage for decades now. She is a powerhouse. Many of you only know her from her current stint on The View.
She has won All The Awards all over the place, but I’ll just hit the highlights here as a sort of recap on why I’m talking about Whoopi today:
She has won an Oscar, two Daytime Emmys, two Golden Globes, a Tony, and let me tell you about the Grammy she won:
Whoopi Goldberg won a Grammy Award in 1985 for “Whoopi Goldberg: Direct from Broadway,” becoming only the second woman at the time to receive the award, and the first African-American woman. Goldberg is one of only three women to receive that award.
To say that she has been smashing the glass ceiling for women in general and in particular for Black women in show business is an understatement. She is not “conventionally pretty”. She isn’t “Hollywood Actress Thin”. She wears her hair naturally in dread locks. Her skin is chocolate brown. Her features, like many of us, are, as I like to say “Unmistakably African”.
She has built a highly successful career and at least during the 90’s was the highest paid female actress across the board at the time. (She was paid somewhere around $12 million for Sister Act 2).
Whoopi Goldberg paved the way for Best Supporting Actress winners Jennifer Hudson (2006), Mo’Nique (2009), Octavia Spencer (2011). And for Best Actress winners Halle Berry (2001) and yes, for last weekend’s win for Lupita Nyong’o.
It is interesting to note the distinctions made in the wiki listing about Lupita’s win:
“First black African (Kenyan) actress to be nominated.
First black African actor to win in any category.
Second black actor to win for a debut performance.”
If you want to get technical African-American women still only have those 6 other wins in that category. But I hate getting technical in that area, because what it boils down to is that a woman who according to her highly publicized genetic test is 92% “sub-saharan” African has been pushing the envelope, and breaking barriers for decades, and is the Fore Mother of all the joy and celebration of Lupita’s fabulous win.
Lupita’s win is for all of us.
I am glad that it happened. And Miss Nyongo’o is a powerhouse in her own right, with her own acting chops, intelligence, beauty and gravitas. Thank goodness for her! Thank goodness for Whoopi!
There is so much to touch upon, but I will just put it out there bold as you please:
Some discussion has been bandied about concerning the racism of Academy voters. That they are very white, very old and very male. All of those things are true. The Academy exists in a country where racism is endemic, and indeed part and parcel of how this country was built.
That members of a voting bloc in any area are racist comes as no surprise to me. They are part of an industry that has been well documented as being racist. I pointed out very specifically in my Black Oscar Winners post the roles that we are usually – and repeatedly – awarded for playing. Within the types of movies that are comfortable for those old, white, male, racist Academy voters to watch.
Which makes 12 Years A Slave and Lupita’s win so very interesting to me. However, I also know that this movie was created outside of American Hollywood. This was a British made film, and really for the quality and non-effing-up of the subject matter, I believe it could only have been made outside of the USA/Hollywood machine.
Goodness knows, Hollywood has tried and failed miserably countless of times.
For a very interesting and in-depth discussion of these and other themes surrounding the film 12 Years A Slave please check out the TWiB.FM #HistoricalBlackness podcast HERE or HERE or HERE.
Thank You Whoopi Goldberg for you, your life, your energy, your talent and for allowing Hollywood to “get used to” seeing women who look like you and me – and Lupita! – in prominent roles and Winning All The Awards.