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Film and TV

The Oscars finally began embracing diversity – but queer talent remained overlooked

Matilda Davies April 26, 2021
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Left to right: Martin Desmond Roe and Travon Free, Viola Davis, Mia Neal.

Left to right: Martin Desmond Roe and Travon Free, Viola Davis, Mia Neal. (Getty)

The 93rd Academy Awards didn’t have many LGBT+ nominees or winners, but there were still some unforgettable moments of queer joy during the ceremony.

While the Black and queer epic Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom missed out in the main categories, where Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman were nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress, it did take home some awards.

The film won Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. The latter marked the first time Black women have won the award, with Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson being honoured alongside Davis’ makeup artist Sergio Lopez-Rivera.

Neal used her acceptance speech to highlight the next steps for Oscars diversity: “I can picture Black trans women standing up here, and Asian sisters, and our Latina sisters and Indigenous women.

“And I know that one day it won’t be unusual or groundbreaking – it will just be normal.”

Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom tells the story of bisexual blues singer Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey

One of the few openly LGBT+ honourees this year was Travon Free, the Black bisexual man who took home the Oscar for his live action short Two Distant Strangers.

Free came up with the 32-minute short film in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by policeman Derek Chauvin. It follows Carter, who is stuck in a time loop, forced to relive the same day on repeat: the day he is killed by a police officer.

Travon Free wrote the film, and he shares director credit with long-term friend and colleague Martin Desmond Roe.

The awards were hosted in a socially distanced ceremony at Union Station in Los Angeles. Some guests also participated from the BFI Southbank in London and the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, where the Oscars usually take place.

There were a number of other record-breaking Academy Awards this year. Chloe Zhao was the first woman of colour to win the coveted Best Director Award for Nomadland. Kathryn Bigelow is the only other woman to ever win this category, for The Hurt Locker in 2010.

Daniel Kaluuya became the first Black-British winner in the Best Supporting Actor category, for Judas and the Black Messiah. Yuh-Jung Youn also became the first South Korean winner in the Best Supporting Actress category.

Emerald Fennell took home the Best Original Screenplay award, becoming the first British woman to win since the Oscars were established in their current form, for Promising Young Woman.

Related topics: Ma Rainey's Black Bottomm, Oscars

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