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Women rule at the Oscars 2021

Plain English


The Academy Awards are commonly known as the Oscars. They are the best-known movie awards in the United States. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has given these awards since 1929.


This year at the Oscars:

  • An Asian women won the Oscar for Best Direction.

  • Two Black women won the Oscar for Hairstyling and Makeup.

  • It was the first time ever that a Black women with a disability was on the Oscars red carpet.


Oscar for Best Director: Chloé Zhao

Chloé Zhao accepting the Oscar for Best Director.


Chloé Zhao won the Oscar for Best Director for “Nomadland”. She's only the second woman in Oscar history to receive this award. She is also the first Asian woman to be nominated for and to win the Oscar for Best Director.


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Nomadland also won the Best Picture award.


Nomadland won the Best Picture award too. The movie is about a woman in her sixties. She loses everything in the Great Recession. She then sets out on a journey in her van through the American West. She experiences the life of nomads in our times. Nomads are people who choose to not live in one place. They keep moving from place to place.


Watch the Nomadland trailer.


“I tried to focus on the human experience. The things that I feel are universal: the loss of a loved one, searching for home,” Chloé Zhao told IndieWire last year about her movie. It is  based on the 2017 non-fiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century” by Jessica Bruder.


Chloé Zhao at the Drive-In Premiere of "Nomadland" last year.


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In 93 years only seven women have ever been nominated in the Best Director category:

  • Lina Wertmüller for “Seven Beauties” in 1976

  • Jane Campion for “The Piano” in 1993

  • Sofia Coppola for “Lost in Translation” in 2003

  • Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” in 2009 Kathryn Bigelow was the only female winner of the Best Director award till this year.

  • Greta Gerwig for “Lady Bird” in 2017

  • Emerald Fennell for “Promising Young Woman” in 2021

  • Chloé Zhao for “Nomadland”


Oscar for Best Hairstyling and Makeup:

Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson

Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson, and Sergio Lopez-Rivera accepting the Oscar for Best Hairstyling and Makeup


Jamika Wilson


Jamika Wilson and Mia Neal are the first Black women to win the Oscar for Hairstyling and Makeup. The award for this category was introduced 30 years ago. They won the award for their work in Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The film is about one of the few openly lesbian, Black performers in America in the 1920s.


Mia Neal


“Jamika and I stand here with so much excitement for the future. I know that one day it won’t be unusual. It will just be normal for Black women, trans women, and Latinas to be claiming Oscars,” Mia Neal said while accepting the award.


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Watch the Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom trailer.


Mia Neal had designed Oprah Winfrey’s wigs for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. For Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, she created 100 wigs in less than three weeks. She had seen fewer than 10 photographs of Ma Rainey.

The film’s costume designer is Ann Roth. She is 89 years old. She too made history as the oldest woman to win an Oscar.


Andraéa Lavant Is the First Black Woman With a Disability on the Oscars Red Carpet.

Andraéa LaVant with service dog Goji and the Crip Camp crew.


Andraéa LaVant is the impact producer of the documentary Crip Camp. It was nominated for the Oscar in the Best Documentary category.

An impact producer is responsible for the impact or result a movie wants to create. Crip Camp’s team provided audio descriptions in 90-plus languages. It's the first movie on Netflix to have a transcript.


Judith Heumann, Nicole Newnham, James LeBrecht, Sara Bolder with Andraéa LaVant and Goji


Andraéa LaVant wrote about being the first Black women with a disability on the Oscars red carpet in ESSENCE:

"As I reflect on my monumental Oscars moment, I think about pre-teen Andraéa. I was afraid to go anywhere by myself for fear of drawing attention to my disability. I chuckle thinking about my full-sequin Oscars gown with a thigh-high split, bejeweled from head-to-toe, complete with a bedazzled wheelchair joystick and rims.


Crip Camp - No one at Camp Jened could’ve imagined that those summers in the woods together would be the beginnings of a revolution.

Watch the Crip Camp trailer.


Crip Camp is a documentary about Camp Jened. It was a summer camp for teens with disabilities in the 1970s in New York state.

Andraéa LaVant says, “This film challenges how disabled people are usually seen as broken charity cases. Instead, it shows us more truthfully as fun, active, and even sexual beings.”


Crip Camp is available on Netflix and its channel on YouTube.

Follow Andraéa LaVant on Instagram: @andraealavant


Sources: ESSENCE , NBC News

*Quotes are edited to Plain English.*


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