The Oscars are widely considered to be Hollywood's biggest night, and the tone of the evening is typically celebratory. However, tension over the lack of diversity among nominees and winners of this prestigious event has cast a considerable pall coming into this year's ceremony — one which Scandal star Kerry Washington poignantly addressed on the red carpet.
Stopping on her way into the award show for a quick interview with ABC, Washington responded to correspondent Robin Roberts's line of questioning concerning diversity in entertainment.
"A lot of people have asked me why I'm here tonight," she said, referencing the boycott by many prominent people of color associated with the #OscarsSoWhite campaign.
"If you look at the history of movement, the history of change, a lot of voices are needed at the table," she continued. "So I really respect and actually admire some of the people who are not here tonight; I really get it. But for me, I felt like my voice and my heart are best used at the table. As a new member of the Academy — I joined the Academy about three years ago — I really want to be part of the conversation to ensure that there's institutional change, so that we never have another year like this again... so that we can be as inclusive as possible."
When Roberts commended Washington for her proactive approach, Washington reiterated all of the approaches to this insidious issue are relevant and important.
"It's how I feel! But we need everybody's feelings. We need all of those voices at the table. It's about women, it's about people of color, it's about age, it's about making sure that our films — and the awards we give for films — represent humanity," she said.
And clearly her perspective resonated with people. Twitter immediately lit up with support for Washington's statement.
@kerrywashington Also her mention of women too. The need for more women in addition to people of color— Amber Dever (@_AmberDever) February 29, 2016
Love Kerry Washington's comments on diversity. We'll said. It's about inclusion at every level - women, people of color, age. #Oscars— Kim Eberhardt (@kimeberhardt) February 29, 2016
Even Washington's Scandal costar, Katie Lowes, weighed in with her appreciation for Washington's point of view.
Of course, as she references, some of her peers felt their voices would best be heard by way of boycotting the Oscars this year. Jada Pinkett Smith led the movement, and others Hollywood heavy hitters, such as director Spike Lee, followed suit.
The Oscars boycott came in the wake of this year's nominations, in which, for the second year in a row, every acting nominee is white — overlooking favored contenders such as Beasts of No Nation's Idris Elba, Straight Outta Compton's Jason Mitchell, Creed's Michael B. Jordan and Concussion's Will Smith.
This led to both #OscarsBoycott and #OscarsSoWhite trending on Twitter, not to mention a flood of much needed dialogue on the subject of diversity in Hollywood.
Academy President Cheryl Boon Isaacs reiterated earlier in the evening on the red carpet that the organization has been focusing on more inclusion for "years now."
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