In honor of tonight’s 80th Annual Academy Awards, I thought I would give a little shout out to the reel sistas who have been recognized for there work as Leading Actress.Dorothy Dandridge
The first African-American actress to be Oscar-nominated for “Best Actress in a Leading Role,” for her work in 1954’s “Carmen Jones.” Dorothy was also considered for the role of “Billie Holliday”
in a movie; however, the project didn’t materialize in her lifetime. When the movie did come to pass, the role was portrayed by Diana Ross.
Diana Ross and Cicely Tyson
In 1972 Diana Ross and Cicely Tyson were both nominated for “Best Actress in a Leading Role” Oscars. This was only the second time in the history of the Academy Awards that African-American actresses were nominated in the “Best Actress” Oscar category. Diana was nominated for her first film role playing Billie Holliday in “Lady Sings the Blues.” Cicely Tyson was nominated for her work in the film “Sounder.”
The next reel sista to grab a “Best Actress in a Leading Role” was Diahann Carroll. She garnered a nomination for her work in the 1974 film “Claudine”
It would be 10 years before another reel sista was nominated for the top honor, but it came in 1985 when Whoopi Goldberg was nominated for her work in the film adaptation of Alice Walker’s classic novel The Color Purple
. Whoopi would later go on to win a “Best Supporting Actress” Oscar for her role in “Ghost”
For her dead on performance as Tina Turner in the 1993 biopic “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” Angela Basset was nominated for a “Best Actress in a Leading Role.”
Years later Angela turned down the role that led the 7th African-American Actress nominated for the “Best Actress in a Leading Role” Oscar.
In 2002, reel sista Halle Berry made history y becoming the first African American woman to win the Academy Award for “Best Actress in a Leading Role.” Halle won for the role of Letecia Musgrove in the film “Monster’s Ball.”
Although many have criticized the film for it’s portrayal of the black woman, Halle’s win was historic and she will forever be a part of Oscar history.
For those who missed it, here is the text from her acceptance speech:
Oh, my God. Oh, my God. I’m sorry. This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It’s for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened. Thank you. I’m so honored. I’m so honored. And I thank the Academy for choosing me to be the vessel for which His blessing might flow. Thank you.
I want to thank my manager, Vincent Cirrincione. He’s been with me for twelve long years and you fought every fight and you’ve loved me when I’ve been up, but more importantly you’ve loved me when I’ve been down. You have been a manager, a friend, and the only father I’ve ever known. Really. And I love you very much.
I want to thank my mom who’s given me the strength to fight every single day, to be who I want to be and given me the courage to dream, that this dream might be happening and possible for me. I love you, Mom, so much. Thank you. My husband, who is just a joy of my life, and India, thank you for giving me peace because only with the peace that you’ve brought me have I been allowed to go to places that I never even knew I could go. Thank you. I love you and India with all my heart.
I want to thank Lions Gate. Thank you. Mike Paseornek, Tom Ortenberg for making sure everybody knew about this little tiny movie. Thank you for believing in me. Our director Marc Forster, you’re a genius. You’re a genius. This moviemaking experience was magical for me because of you. You believed in me; you trusted me and you gently guided me to very scary places. I thank you. I want to thank Ivana Chubic. I could have never figured out who the heck this lady was without you. I love you. Thank you. I want to thank Lee Daniels, our producer. Thank you for giving me this chance, for believing that I could do it. And now tonight I have this. Thank you.
I want to thank my agents — CAA, Josh Lieberman especially. I have to thank my agents — Kevin Huvane, thank you. Thank you for never kicking me out and sending me somewhere else. Thank you. I, I, I, who else? I have so many people that I know I need to thank. My lawyers — Neil Meyer, thank you. Okay, wait a minute. I got to take…seventy-four years here!! Ok. I got to take this time! I got to thank my lawyer, Neil Meyer, for making this deal. Doug Stone. I need to thank lastly and not leastly, I have to thank Spike Lee for putting me in my very first film and believing in me. Oprah Winfrey for being the best role model any girl can have. Joel Silver, thank you. And thank you to Warren Beatty. Thank you so much for being my mentors and believing in me.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
I hope that in the next 80 years of the Oscars, more and more reel sistas will get the recognition the receive.