The 2023 Oscars: The Academy Takes Strides to Recognize Diverse Talent


David Torcivia

A picture of an Academy Awards display, taken by David Torcivia in 2011 and licensed under Creative Commons.

A time-honored tradition, the annual Oscars ceremony is meant to recognize and celebrate the acting achievement and artistic skill of motion pictures. However, in recent years, the Academy Awards have stirred up controversy and garnered public criticism.

 In 2015, media strategist and activist April Reign tweeted “#OscarSoWhite they asked to touch my hair,” igniting a movement that called attention to the ceremony’s lack of diverse membership and failure to fairly award racial minorities. Even in 2022, 81% of award winners were white, further strengthening the argument that the Academy overlooks performances by actors and actresses of color. 

Last year’s “slapgate” incident added another level of controversy to the event. Will Smith walked on stage and slapped Chris Rock across the face after the comedian made an insulting joke about Smith’s wife. While some saw it as a justified act, the Academy and majority of the public saw it as a physical assault and an unnecessary disruption to the entire event. Smith is now banned from the Academy for 10 years. However, this year’s ceremony showed a return to normalcy, void of any intense debate.

At this year’s 95 Academy Awards ceremony, there were virtually no controversies or negative news headlines. Hosted by comedian Jimmy Kimmel, who made a brief joke about hoping not to repeat slapgate, the show ran smoothly. Marked by heartfelt speeches and exciting moments that recognized new and diverse talent, the 2023 Oscars received significantly more viewership than the previous several years, with a 12% jump from 2022.

The comedy-drama film Everything, Everywhere, All At Once received the most nominations of any film this year and won in seven different categories. The 2022 movie follows the story of Evelyn Wang, a Chinese-American immigrant and laundromat owner, as she embarks on a multiversal adventure to save reality from a powerful and evil being. Also navigating a complex relationship with her family and facing an audit by the IRS, Evelyn’s story is one of a whimsical yet heartwarming nature. Describing the movie, Salla Grigor ‘25 commented, “As an Asian American myself, it was so cool to see a narrative of an Asian American family in a story that was fantastical and also so wholesome and sweet, without shying away from themes of trauma and loss.” 

Winning best director(s) for Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert delivered humble and sincere speeches, crediting their win to the support of their family and cast. In addition to winning film editing and original screenplay categories, the cast of the movie secured three acting awards: Ke Huy Quan as Best Supporting Actor, Jamie Lee Curtis as Best Supporting Actress, and Michele Yeoh as Best Actress. 

On this historic night, Michele Yeoh became the first Asian performer to win Best Actress. In a heartwarming speech, she spoke of dreams coming true, saying “for all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities.” When asked about their favorite moment from the show in a school-wide survey, many SHC students spoke about Yeoh’s win. “It was fulfilling to see so much Asian representation at the Oscars this year. Michelle Yoeh’s line in her speech, ‘Don’t let anyone say you are ever past your prime’ truly touched me,” commented Scarlett Goh ‘23. 

Both Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis, the recipients of the best supporting roles, won their first Oscar in this year’s show (as did Brendan Fraser for Best Actor in the Whale). Ke Huy Quan became the first Vietnamese-born actor to win an Oscar, and the combined wins of Michele Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan marked the first time more than one Asian performer has won an Oscar in any given year. 

In an emotional and joyous speech, Ke Huy Quan touched the hearts of many people in the audience. He reflected on his life’s story that led him to that stage, stating, “They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it’s happening to me. This is the American dream!” Much of the SHC community also described his win and speech as their favorite moment. Sam Wai ‘25 remarked, “It was really wholesome and exciting!” 

Showing further strides for diversity, Ruth Carter became the first black woman to win two Oscars, receiving the Best Costume Design award for her work in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Her first Oscar was for the same award in 2019, for the first Black Panther movie. 

Overall, the 2023 Oscars marked a historic and uplifting night for the Academy, as large strides were made for Asian representation in the movie industry and new talent was recognized in several acting categories. While the Academy still has work ahead to celebrate the many diverse acting and artistic voices in Hollywood, the 95th annual show signified a promising future ahead for representation and respect in the film industry.