How Jennifer Hudson and ‘Respect’ Could Set a Record for Black Women at the Oscars

Jennifer HudsonThe name of is already written in the Oscars history books. At 25, she became the youngest black woman to ever win an acting Oscar for her role as Effie White in “Dreamgirls” (2006). She is also the first to do so for a leading role. His work in the Aretha Franklin biopic »Respecthas her up for two possible Oscar nominations: Main actress and original song, for the track “Here I Am (Singing My Way Home)”, co-written by Carole King and Jamie Alexander Hartman. Already one Tony Award away from EGOT statusshe could break another record if she lands these two coveted names.

Hudson would be the first black woman to be nominated in three individual categories if she lands both nods. Only three black women were recognized in two individual categories: Viola Davis, Whoopi Goldberg (Actress and Supporting Actress) and Oprah Winfrey (Supporting Actress and Best Picture). For comparison, Warren Beatty and George Clooney were nominated in six. As for black men, Spike Lee was recognized in five, winning in the adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman” (2018).

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The double nominations for Hudson would also mark the third time a black woman has received multiple nominations in the same year. The first two were Mary J. Blige (nominated for supporting actress and for the song “Mighty River” from “Mudbound”) and Cynthia Erivo (nominated for lead actress and for the song “Stand Up” from “Harriet “). They are not only the first black women to achieve this feat, but also the first in the history of the Academy.

Hudson’s possible recognition isn’t just significant on its own; a Best Actress nod would represent a historic achievement for its “Respect” director Liesl Tommy. Tommy would only be the second black woman to lead a top black actor or actress to a nomination (behind Lemmons’ Erivo). Of note, if we add the double names of Leslie Odom Jr. for the song “Speak Now” and the supporting actor for his turn in “One Night in Miami” by Regina King last year, the three talents recognized for acting and song, were all directed by black women.

While we see improvements in the POC’s representation at the Academy, the representation of black women is among its most notable shortcomings. Just over 3,100 Oscar statuettes have been distributed in 93 years. Of these, only 17 were awarded to black women. Again, for comparison, one man, Walt Disney, was awarded 26 Oscars from 1932 to 1969, nine more than the total number of black women from 1929 to 2021. In addition, two black women received honorary statuettes (Winfrey and Cicely Tyson). Disney itself received four (even one that featured seven miniature Oscars for “Snow White”).

Jennifer Hudson Variety Cover Story

Jennifer Hudson Variety Cover Story

Hudson’s turn as Queen of Soul has many dedicated fans among the awards band. However, recency bias and mixed reviews have created significant roadblocks for “Respect” awards prospects. Opening in mid-August, three weeks before Venice and Telluride, positive buzz for the film was swallowed up by premieres of bigger titles. And with the releases of its MGM/United Artists Releasing counterparts “House of Gucci” and “Licorice Pizza,” both of which had better reviews and box office, “Respect” seemed to have become an awards season afterthought.

This fight for the buzz has changed with the Announcement of the pre-selection of the Oscars, where “Here I Am” was among the 15 songs still in the running for the original song. Earlier this month, Hudsons also scored a wink SAG surprise, securing a spot on presumptive Best Actress favorite Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”). With Hudson’s buzz and prospects reignited, she’s poised to make history. We’re days away from opening voting for the Oscar nomination, which begins Thursday, January 27 and ends Tuesday, February 1.

94 years later, black women are still the strongest beings on our planet, continually breaking ceilings despite the obstacles in front of them. Even if Hudson fails, to reference Halle Berry, the only black woman to win Best Actress, who said earlier this season“rewards do not define our value.”

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