Mary J. Blige, Dee Rees, and Octavia Spencer not only heard their names called during Tuesday morning’s Academy Award nominations announcement, each one made Oscar history for black women in the process.
A nine-time Grammy winning singer, Blige is used to hearing her name called at award shows, but now she has been recognized not once but twice by en entirely different academy. She earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her subtle performance as a sharecropper protecting her family in “Mudbound,” as well as Best Song alongside co-writers Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson for “Mighty River” from that film. With these two nominations Blige becomes the first person to earn bids for both acting and songwriting in the same year. She also becomes the first black woman to earn multiple Oscar nominations in a single year.
Also making history in her own right is Blige’s “Mudbound” director Dee Rees. Though Rees missed out on a well-deserved Best Director nomination, she was still able to receive some love as a nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay with co-writer Virgil Williams. This makes Rees the first black woman to be nominated in this category and only the second to earn a screenwriting nomination in either category. Previously Suzanne de Passe earned a bid for Best Original Screenplay for the Billie Holiday biopic “Lady Sings the Blues” (1972). Another fun fact: Rees is also now the first black woman to direct an Oscar nominated performance.
Last but certainly not least, Octavia Spencer continues to prove that she’s no one-hit wonder at the Oscars. After winning her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for “The Help” (2011) and returning as a nominee in the same category last year for “Hidden Figures” (2016), Spencer has now earned her third Supporting Actress nomination for “The Shape of Water.” With this third bid Spencer ties with Viola Davis as the most nominated black actress in Oscar history. She’s also the only black actress to be nominated again after winning — and now she’s done it twice. Not bad for someone who 10 years ago was still being underutilized in roles like “Nurse,” “Bank Co-Worker,” and “Troubled Woman.”
Could all three ladies continue to make history by winning at this year’s Oscars?
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