Diversity Wins Big at SAG Awards

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.16.32 PMIn the wake of #OscarsSoWhite and Ava DuVernay’s Academy Awards snub, there was a bit of good news for women of color in Hollywood Sunday night.

At the annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, not one but two African American women actors snagged SAG awards for their leading roles. Viola Davis won Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series for her role in How to Get Away With Murder while Uzo Aduba won the same award in the comedy category for Orange Is the New Black.

As a woman of color who fangirls over both shows, it was a moment of relief in an award season that has otherwise been underwhelming. Though the Academy may be late to the diversity party in its move to pick predominantly white and male nominees this year, it’s refreshing to see that other award-granting bodies like the Screen Actors Guild are more willing to recognize the contributions of non-white actors.

And per usual, Davis killed it in her acceptance speech, using her time on stage to call attention to the lack of black women leads:

It starts from the top up, so I’d like to thank Paul Lee, Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers, Bill D’Elia and Pete Norwalk for thinking that a sexualized, messy, mysterious woman could be a 49-year-old dark-skinned African American woman who looks like me.

Her words were met with a burst of applause from the crowd.

She’s only the third woman of color to win in this category, the first two being Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson in separate years for their roles in Grey’s Anatomy, which is—you guessed it—another Shonda Rhimes-helmed show.

This year’s SAGs also made history when Aduba was presented with her award later in the ceremony, making it the first time both lead actress titles were given to black women.

In a society where women of color actors are called things like “less classically beautiful” by myopic culture writers, industry breakthroughs like the ones last night serve to remind everyone that ultimately “you define you.”

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Screenshot taken from Viola Davis’s acceptance speech



Anita Little is the associate editor at Ms. magazine. Follow her on Twitter.





  1. Ann Wilson says:

    Anita, get serious, there was no snub.

    Selma didn’t make money and it was a bad movie as explained at Black Agenda Report http://www.blackagendareport.com/node/14624 . Clint Eastwood wasn’t ‘snubbed’ by not being nominated — even though his film is making money.

    No one gave Selma directing awards — none of the festivals it played at — not even the Georgia film critics. The Directors Guild did not nominate it. Stop this nonsense that the Academy Awards snubbed the very boring, very badly directed Selma.

    This African-American woman doesn’t believe Oprah Winfrey gets forgiven for using her talk show to sell the Iraq War — Bill Moyers exposed that on his first episode of Bill Moyers Journal — and that she’s not entitled to see her bad TV movies masquerading as films receives Oscars.

    Stop insisting someone directing their first studio film is snubbed when they aren’t automatically nominated for an Oscar. Or that when they rewrite history to press JFK’s crimes onto LBJ that this makes for a good historical film.

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