Chilean actress Daniela Vega made history at Sunday’s Oscars when she became the first trans person to present at the coveted award show.
Vega, the star of “A Fantastic Woman,” which picked up an award for “Best Foreign Language Film,” introduced a performance by Sufjan Stevens, whose hit “Mystery of Love” from the “Call Me By Your Name” soundtrack was nominated for best original song.
The 28-year-old up-and-coming actress acknowledged the importance of her presence.
“Thank you so much for this moment,” she said while on stage.
Her historic presentation was accompanied by several other LGBTQ wins, including openly gay screenwriter James Ivory accepting the prize for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Call Me By Your Name;” Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” considered a love letter to the queer community, winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Score and Best Production Design; and trans director Yance Ford’s nomination for Best Documentary Feature for his film “Strong Island.”
In “A Fantastic Woman,” Vega plays a trans opera singer who is mourning the death of her boyfriend. Learn more about the history-making Latina in our video below.
The 91st Annual Academy Awards took place Sunday night and this year, it was a night full of glitz, glamour, and, most surprisingly, a lot of Spanish language! (Diego Luna, Javier Bardem, Alfonso Cuarón, and Guillermo del Toro all spoke Spanish during their speeches.)
Heading into the night, many viewed “Roma”, Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón’s artful and semi-autobiographic film, as the Best Picture front-runner and indeed, the film racked up three Oscars. But ultimately, “Roma” lost the Best Picture award to Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book.”
Although The Oscars still woefully under-represent Latinas in almost every category, Netflix’s critical darling, ‘Roma,” has provided a major spotlight for Latinx talent and stories, employing a largely Latinx cast and crew in its production.
Latinos Win Big
Sunday night was a big night for the Latinx community, with Spanish-language film “Roma” amassing three Oscar wins out of a total of 10 nominations. “Roma” wasn’t the only winner for the Latinx community though: Cuban-American director Phil Lord’s animated feature “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” won for Best Animated Film. All in all, Latinos walked away with Oscars for Foreign Language Film, Cinematography, Directing, and Animated Film.
Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, won the Best Director statue for “Roma”, marking the second year in a row that a Latino has won the award after Guillermo del Toro won last year. Cuarón also won the award for Best Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Film–marking the first time Mexico has landed the award out of a total of ten nominations.
Cuarón began his impassioned acceptance speech Best Director first by thanking “Roma”‘s leading ladies, Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira. He then went on to thank the Academy for “recognizing a film centering around an indigenous woman–a character who has historically been relegated to the background in cinema”.
In another win for the Latinx community, “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” up-ended animation titan Disney to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. “Into the Spiderverse” revolves around the story of an Afro-Latino teenager moonlighting as Spiderman who discovers there are multiple versions of Spiderman in parallel universes.
Latino Director Phil Lord touched on the importance of representation in his acceptance speech, saying: “When we hear that a child turns to their parent and says, “[Spiderman] looks like me’ or ‘He speaks Spanish like us’, we feel like we already won”.
Latina Nominees Break New Ground
Most of the Latinx nominees for the night consisted of “Roma”‘s cast and crew, including Mexican actress Marina de Tavira for Best Supporting Actress, Yalitza Aparicio for Best Leading Actress, producer Gabriela Rodriguez for Best Picture, and set decorator Barbra Enriquez for Achievement in set design.
Yalitza Aparicio’s nomination, especially, was notable, as it was the first time in the Academy’s 90-year history that an Indigenous woman was nominated for Best Actress in a Lead Role.
Although these Latinas didn’t walk away with a gold statue, their presence alone was encouraging enough for the historically under-represented Latinx community.
“It’s possible to speak Spanish at the Oscars now”
The winners and nominees weren’t the only Latinos making a splash at this year’s Academy Awards, however. Oscar-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem veered into political territory when he presented the award for Best Foreign Language film.
In Spanish, he stated: “There are no borders or walls that can restrain ingenuity and talent,” which many interpreted as a dig aimed at President Trump.
Actor Diego Luna began his introduction of “Roma” by stating, in Spanish: “Ya se puede hablar español en los Oscars. Ya nos abrieron la puerta y no nos vamos a ir”. Translation: “It’s possible to speak Spanish at the Oscars now. They finally opened the door for us, and we’re not going anywhere.”
Spanish-American Chef José Andrés joined Luna in introducing “Roma”and praised the film for shining a spotlight on “all the invisible people in our lives–immigrants and women–who move humanity forward”.
As usual, Latina Twitter users had a lot to say about Hollywood’s biggest night.
Never one to beat around the bush, political commentator Ana Navarro remarked on the refreshing amount of diversity displayed onstage this year.
Other Latinas gave Alfonso Cuarón props for acknowledging domestic workers, a class of women that Hollywood often ignores:
Nuanced stories centered on domestic workers are few and far between in Hollywood.
This Latina expressed excitement at the novelty of a film featuring an Afro-Latino characters winning Best Animated Film:
Just the phrase “#WeSeeYou” says all that needs to be said about the importance of representation.
Some Latinas expressed disappointment that “Roma” was relegated to the “Foreign Film” category when its story transcended such labels:
Some members of the Latinx community were frustrated that “Roma” wasn’t awarded the Best Picture award.
Many Latinas were here for Javier Bardem condemning border walls:
He was one of the few actors of the night who dared to make a political statement–and in Spanish, no less!
And of course, Yalitza made us all fall in love with her more when she brought her mom.
The Mexican actress didn’t take home an Oscar last night, but there’s no doubting that her presence in Hollywood has changed the future of its landscape. Last night Mexican-American fans of the newcomer gushed about Aparicio’s role in bucking the light-skinned Latina stereotype that has so long been favored in Spanish-language films and TV shows.
Also, her appearance at the Oscars couldn’t have been more defining. After spending awards season turning heads in a series of dresses by Alberta Ferretti, Miu Miu and Prada, Aparicio took to the red carpet a pale tulle custom Rodarte gown designed specifically for her, the actress stepped out onto the red carpet with her mother at her side.
And finally, Latinas everywhere expressed their joy at hearing Spanish proudly spoken at the Oscars
The importance of normalizing Spanish’s presence in day to day life cannot be overstated–especially during a time when many Latinas are afraid to speak Spanish in public.
As usual, the Oscars were a night to remember. We hope that the Academy continues to support actors, producers and filmmakers of Latinx descent into the future.
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In 2015, the Academy Awards looked much different than they do today. Back then “Birdman” took home the Oscar for Best Movie. Actresses nominated included Marion Cotillard, Felicity Jones, Julianne Moore, Rosamund Pike, and Reese Witherspoon. Steve Carell was nominated for Best Actor, as was Bradley Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Keaton, and Eddie Redmayne. There’s no subtleness that in 2015, movies lacked diversity and social media aimed for the Academy’s failure to recognize actors of color and films with proper representation.
The lack of diversity in 2015, prompted April Reign to use the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, and it quickly went viral.
Reign’s brilliant hashtag sparked much-needed dialogue about representation in Hollywood and the recognition of people of color at the Oscars. The following year the Academy invited more actors and creatives in Hollywood to be part of this exclusive group in order to represent diversity. In 2015 they invited 322 new members, in 2016 they invited 683 more, and in 2018, they invited another 928. Talk about inclusiveness.
If you’re wondering whether or not, #OscarsSoWhite worked, just look at the diverse group of people and films nominated this year including the first Mexican indigenous actress, Yalitza Aparicio.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, this year’s Academy Awards are the most diverse ever. Thanks to social change via social media, people of color are finally getting the recognition they deserve.
“It’s not about saying who is snubbed and who should have been nominated, it’s about opening the discussion more on how the decisions were made, who was cast and who tells the story behind the camera,” Reign told Huffington Post in 2016. “My goal was just to have the conversation and push the dialogue further.”
To thank Reign for her incredible work, the Academy has invited her to attend this year’s Oscars.
“I’ve been holding this secret for nearly a year!” Reign said in a tweet about her exciting invitation.
“After creating the hashtag and working for almost five years to turn it into a movement that not only changed the Academy but made its way into so many other industries, I feel immense pride and a sense of coming full circle, back to the where it all began,” Reign told The Hollywood Reporter. “The work continues, but I am thrilled to be able to celebrate the incremental progress that has been made, even if only for a night.”
She added that seeing films such as “Roma” and “BlacKkKlansman” is proof as to the success of her social media campaign.
“I’m going to give myself permission to think that the work that I and many who believe in issues of diversity, equity and inclusion have done is having an impact,” she told the publication. “Seeing Spike nominated is a very public validation of that work. Nevertheless, the daily work of [#OscarsSoWhite] is for all marginalized people, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, age, or disability, to have opportunities they didn’t before.”
As far as who he will be her plus one to the event, Reign said she is taking her son.