Last night’s Oscars were monumental, to say the least. But between the highs, lows and (backhand) throws of the night, history was made for Oscar-winners Ariana DeBose and Troy Kotsur. West Side Story’s Ariana DeBose and CODA's Troy Kotsur won for their supporting performances, marking the first wins in Acadamy history for an openly queer woman of color and a deaf male actor, respectively.
DeBose was the first win of the night, taking the stage to accept her award with a reminder of the power Academy recognition holds, and the importance of representation.
“Imagine this little girl in the backseat of a white Ford Focus,” DeBose shared in her acceptance speech. “Look into her eyes. You see a queer — openly queer — woman of color, an Afro-Latina, who found her strength and life through art. That’s what I believe we’re here to celebrate. To anybody who has ever questioned your identity ... or found yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you that there is, indeed, a place for us.”
Though she may not have driven her white Ford Focus to the Oscars red carpet that night, DeBose’s speech highlighted the unique past, identity and story behind her recognition, and offered a moment of mutual recognition to viewers who relate to her queer, Afro-Latina, theatre kid identity, or her humble beginning vehicle of choice (because everyone’s mom had a Ford Focus in the early 2000s).
Another win for representation came later in the evening with Troy Kotsur’s recognition as best supporting actor in the film CODA, which later went on to win Best Picture. Kotsur signed a powerful acceptance speech, touching on his attempt to teach President Joe Biden “dirty” sign language, his gratitude for CODA director, Sian Heder, and a dedication to the deaf community.
“I read one of [Steven] Spielberg’s books recently, and he said that the definition of the best director is a skilled communicator,” Kotsur signed in recognition of Heder. “Sian Heder, you are the best communicator ... you brought the deaf world and the hearing world together. You are our bridge, and your name will forever be on that bridge.”
Bringing his own interpreter to tears, Kotsur’s words, alongside DeBose’s are distinct moments to celebrate amidst the media circus.
Photos via Getty/ Karwai Tang and P. Lehman/ Future Publishing
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