It was thrilling to see diversity in this year’s Oscar winners. The finale ruined it.

See what happens when diversity and inclusion aren’t just words, but actions?

At Sunday’s 93rd annual Academy Awards, Chloé Zhao became the first woman of color to win best director, for “Nomadland” (which also won best picture). Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) and Yuh-Jung Youn (“Minari”) clinched the supporting actor races. Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson became the first Black women to win in makeup and hairstyling, for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

These wins made the major awards at the end of the night all the more shocking: The best actor and actress races didn’t go to actors of color that many prognosticators had expected: Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis,  for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Instead, they went to Anthony Hopkins for “The Father” and Frances McDormand for “Nomadland.” 

Hollywood has been working to fix its track record on inclusion. The emotion in Sunday night’s Oscars speeches indicated how impactful wins can be for the communities that diverse winners represent, how thrilling they can be to watch – and how devastating it can be for them to miss out, yet again.

It’s easy to see a list of nominees and winners and marvel (or scoff at)  diversity. But it’s more important to listen to the words of underrepresented voices when they’re given the chance to hold the coveted golden statue.

Daniel Kaluuya, who won best supporting actor for his role as Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Black Panther Party’s Illinois chapter in “Judas,” made sure to thank the man he played, who was assassinated in 1969. “Thank you for your light. … Thank you so much for showing me myself,” he said.

In case you missed it all: Oscars 2021: Anthony Hopkins shocks as best actor, ‘Nomadland’ wins best picture

Hollywood’s most-coveted honors were handed out Sunday night at the pandemic-delayed Oscars in Los Angeles, where the stars finally got their gold. Here, Daniel Kaluuya accepts the award for Best Supporting Actor Oscar for "Judas and the Black Messiah". (Photo: AMPAS/ABC)

Zhao spoke about growing up in China during her acceptance speech, and how she keeps going when things get hard. She recalled a game she played with her father. “We would memorize classic Chinese poems and texts and we would recite it together and try to finish each other’s sentences,” she said in her speech.

Consider, too, Neal’s acceptance speech for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” which acknowledged the glass ceiling she broke along with Wilson – and her hope for a more diverse future. “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,” she said.

And then there was Youn, who gave us this gem of a callout to the film’s executive producer (and the award’s presenter)Brad Pitt: “Mr. Brad Pitt, finally nice to meet you! Where were you when we were filming?”

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