The 94th Academy Awards took place Sunday night and featured some historic winners during the ceremony.
The night saw the likes of Will Smith, Ariana DeBose and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson take home Oscars in historic fashion. Smith won Best Actor for his portrayal of Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams in King Richard, DeBose won Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Anita in Steven Speilberg’s West Side Story and Questlove’s Summer of Soul won Best Documentary.
Also The Queen of Basketball, the documentary about Lusia “Lucy” Harris, also won Best Documentary Short.
1. Will Smith wins Best Actor
Smith beat out a crowded field to win Best Actor, winning his first-ever Oscar. After minutes earlier having a confrontation with Chris Rock, he delivered an understandably emotional speech. Smith started his speech off by describing the Williams family patriarch he embodied to win the award, saying:
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family. In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world. Making this film, I got to protect Aunjanue Ellis, who is one of the most strongest, most delicate people I’ve ever met. I got to protect Saniyya [Sidney] and Demi [Singleton], the two actresses that play Venus and Serena. I’m being called on in my life to love people. And to protect people and to be a river to my people.”
Smith continued, indirectly addressing his spat with Rock, but his experience in the industry at large, adding. “I know, to do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse. You gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you gotta be able to have people disrespecting you and you gotta smile and pretend like that’s OK.”
Smith also shouted out Denzel Washington, who was visibly emotional during the speech as he came to Smith’s side, consoling him and his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, revealing the advice the icon gave him moments earlier. He said, “Denzel [Washington] said to me a few minutes ago, ‘At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.’ I want to be a vessel for love. I want to say thank you to Venus and Serena … and the entire Williams family for entrusting me with your story.”
To end his speech, Smith thanked his mother, who was watching back home in Philadelphia, and once again apologized to the Academy, saying, “Thank you for this moment. i thank you on behalf of Richard and Oracene and the entire Williams family. Thank you. I’m hoping the Academy invites me back. Thank you.”
2. Ariana DeBose wins Best Supporting Actress
Debose became the first openly queer woman of color to win an Academy Award. She and Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for the same role in 1961, became the first two actors to win separate awards for portraying the same character. DeBose recognized Moreno, saying, ‘I’m so grateful your Anita paved the way for tons of Anitas like me.”
DeBose thanked director Steven Spielberg during her speech, jokingly adding, “My God, thank you, Steven Spielberg. You’re stuck with me now!”
Debose ended her speech with a powerful message:
“Lastly, imagine this little girl in the back seat of a white Ford Focus, look into her eyes: You see a queer, openly queer woman of color, an Afro Latina who found her strength in life through art. And that’s what I believe we’re here to celebrate. Yeah so, anybody who has ever questioned your identity ever, ever, ever, or you find yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us.”
3. Questlove wins Best Documentary Feature for 'Summer of Soul'
Questlove won Best Documentary for his directorial debut, Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). The speech came directly after the dust-up between Smith and Rock, but Questlove was sure to take his moment and deliver a passionate speech regardless of the circumstances.
He was sure to recognize his fellow nominees, thanking them for their “powerful” works. He then discussed the importance of what the Harlem Cultural Festival represented and what the documentary strove to showcase, saying, “It’s not lost on me that the story of the Harlem Cultural festival should’ve been something that my beautiful mother and my dad should’ve taken me to when I was 5 years old. This is not about me. This is about marginalized people in Harlem that needed to heal from pain.”
4. 'The Queen Of Basketball' wins Best Documentary Short Subject
The Queen of Basketball won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject. The documentary showcases Lusia “Lucy” Harris’s unsung accomplishments as one of the greatest basketball players ever. Director Ben Proudfoot accepted the award and remarked on the film and Harris, saying, “If there is anyone out there that still doubts whether there’s an audience for female athletes, let this Academy Award be the answer.” He continued, “Long live the queen.”
Both Shaquille O’ Neal and Steph Curry exec produced the doc.