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Renée Zellweger Makes Her Oscars Comeback With Judy Win & Celebrates the Ways ‘Our Heroes Unite Us’

Closing out the 92nd Annual Academy Awards on Sunday night, Renée Zellweger rounded out a successful awards season and a successful comeback with a win for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of Judy Garland in Rupert Gold’s Judy.

In her acceptance speech, Zellweger talked at length about how much it meant to her to get to play Garland and that the award was another chance to celebrate the legendary performer’s legacy.

“Judy Garland did not receive this honor in her time,” Zellweger said. “I am certain that this moment is an extension of the celebration of her legacy that began on our film set and is also representative of the fact that her legacy of unique exceptionalism and inclusivity and generosity of spirit, it transcends any one artistic achievement. Ms. Garland, you are certainly among the heroes who unite and define us and this is certainly for you. I am so grateful.”

She went on to note how certain cultural heroes, Garland included, have a profound unifying power for those of us who admire their work: “This past year of conversations celebrating Judy Garland across generations and across cultures has been a really cool reminder that our heroes unite us,” Zellweger said. “The best among us, who inspire us to find the best in ourselves, when they unite us, when we look to our heroes, we agree, you know? And that matters.”

Citing other cultural icons like Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride, Venus and Serena Williams, Selena, Bob Dylan, Fred Rogers, Harriet Tubman and Martin Scorsese (who was in the room), she added “when we celebrate our heroes, we’re reminded who we are — as one people united.”

This is the second Oscar for the actress, who’d returned from a six-year break from acting in 2016 and was last recognized by the academy sixteen years ago for her supporting role in Cold Mountain. In a 2016 cover story for British Vogue, the actress explained her decision to step away: “I was fatigued and wasn’t taking the time I needed to recover between projects, and it caught up with me. I got sick of the sound of my own voice: It was time to go away and grow up a bit.”

She told the magazine that she took that time to say “no” to a more projects and reconnect with what it means to take care of herself and what it means to be happy.

“I found anonymity, so I could have exchanges with people on a human level and be seen and heard, not be defined by this image that precedes me when I walk into a room. You cannot be a good storyteller if you don’t have life experiences, and you can’t relate to people,” she said.

Plus, she was able to focus more on becoming healthy again. “For a long time I wasn’t doing such a good job with that. I took on a schedule that is not realistically sustainable and didn’t allow for taking care of myself. Rather than stopping to recalibrate, I kept running until I was depleted and made bad choices about how to conceal the exhaustion. I was aware of the chaos and finally chose different things.”

If her recognition for Judy is any indication, she’s made the right choices lately.

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