Yuh-jung Youn, Takes Home Best supporting Actress For “Minari”
Have the Oscars resolved their problem with diversity? Historically the Oscars have had a problem with the representation of persons of color; an opinion held globally since the start of the Academy Awards in 1928. Then came the day of reckoning when for the first time in Oscars’ US history a hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite made the rounds on social media, especially Twitter. Voices were raised against the biases of the Oscars and similar hashtags highlighting the lack of diversity, began trending on social media in 2015.
People weren’t wrong in blaming the Academy Awards for being unfair, as, since its start, only 24 from a total of 552 awards were given to people having roots beyond the West. However, at Oscars 2021, the sparkling talent of non-Western people couldn’t go unacknowledged.
Immigrant Nominees of Oscars 2021
This year, eight immigrants having immediate roots beyond the US, Canada, Australia, Europe, and New Zealand were nominated for Oscars in central categories, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Picture, and Best Supporting Actress.
- Steven Yeun, Best Actor, Minari (South Korean-American)
- Riz Ahmed, Best Actor, The Sound of Metal (British Pakistani)
- Yuh-Jung Youn, Best Supporting Actress, Minari (South Korean-American)
- Christina Oh, Best Film, Minari (South Korean-American)
- Chloe Zhao, Best Film and Best Director, Nomadland (Chinese American)
- Lee Isaac Chung, Best Director, Minari (South Korean-American)
- Shaka King, Best Film, Judas and the Black Messiah (Barbadian-American)
Of these nominees, Yuh-Jung Youn won Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Minari, while Chloe Zhao won the Academy Award for Best Film and Best Director for Nomadland. It’s been 93 years since the Academy Awards has named an Asian woman as Best Director.
Likewise, British-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed is the first male Muslim Oscar nominee, whereas Steven Yeun Yeun is the first Asian-American Oscar nominee.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that it’s not just the talent, quality, and delivery of the work produced by the immigrants that won them awards. Still, a major role has also been played by the loud voices raised on social media and other related platforms that compelled the Oscars to review their criteria and give persons of color their well-deserved share in the Academy Awards.
For example, in 2017, Alessandro Bertolazzi, an award-winning hairstylist and makeup artist, dedicated his Academy Award to “all the immigrants.” Similarly, in 2018, Lupita Nyong’o, who was the 6th black actress to win Oscars, and Kumail Nanjiani, a Pakistani immigrant nominated for Best Original Screenplay, said, “We are the two actors you keep hearing about but whose names you have trouble pronouncing.”
Another voice that criticized the Oscars for being partial towards immigrants was raised by Iñárritu, who, during his acceptance speech for Birdman in 2015, demanded that immigrants should be “treated with the same dignity and the respect of the ones who came before and [built] this incredible immigrant nation.”
Past immigrant Oscar winners
- Oscars 1957: Yul Brynner, Best Actor, The King and I (Russian-born)
- Oscars 1957: Miyoshi Umeki, Best Supporting Actress, Sayonara (First Asian woman Oscar winner)
- Oscars 1962: Rita Moreno, Best Supporting Actress, West Side Story (first woman Oscar winner from Latin and South America)
- Oscars 2005: Ang Lee, Best Director, Brokeback Mountain (Taiwanese-born)
- Oscars 2003: Charlize Theron, Best Actress, Monster (South African-born)
- Oscars 2013: Nyong’o, Best Supporting Actress, 12 Years A Slave (first Black African woman Oscar winner)
- Seven Mexicans and two Caribbeans have also won the Academy Awards.