The #OscarsSoWhite controversy roars on with a number of big-named stars addressing the topic on Friday night at the 47th annual NAACP Image Awards in Pasadena.
Host Anthony Anderson, who won an Image Award for his leading role on the ABC comedy Black-ish, wasted no time addressing the issue at the top of the show.
“Look at all of these beautiful shades of people in the audience,” he said, before garnering applause. “Hollywood needs to know that this is what diversity is supposed to look like … Although we have our own awards show, I just want the other ones to be fair.”
Anderson even managed to poke fun at stars Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, who are boycotting this year’s Oscars and have been outspoken on the lack of nominations for actors of color in the Academy’s major categories.
“They better be here after all this ish they started!” Anderson joked.
Meanwhile backstage, a number of winners shared varying opinions. Filmmaker F. Gary Gray, who directed Straight Outta Compton, refused to address how his film received an Oscar nod for its screenplay, penned by white writers, but wasn’t acknowledged for its African-American leading actors or in the Best Picture category.
“We’re not trying to talk about anybody else,” said Gray shortly after winning an Image Award for Outstanding Motion Picture. “Tonight is about our win.”
Lee Daniels, who was nominated for a 2010 directing Oscar for Precious, argued that the Academy’s acknowledgment is less important than people think.
“The Oscars are secondary,” Daniels said after his hip-hop drama Empire nabbed a win in the Outstanding Drama Series category. Stars Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard also won for their leading roles on the Fox series. “First of all, if you’re doing a job for an Oscar, you’re doing the wrong job. I’ve always made my own opportunities. I don’t wait for people to give me anything.”
One of the most outspoken winners of the night was actress Sanaa Lathan, who won the Outstanding Actress award for her popcorn thriller The Perfect Guy.
“The Oscar controversy is great,” Lathan said. “It’s giving light to something that we’ve known all along. I’ve been in the business 20 years and that’s the reality of being a person of color in Hollywood and it’s something that is frustrating.
“I’m excited that the rest of the world is going to know what is going on for us and maybe there will be some change.”