Belfast Telegraph

Jada Pinkett Smith praises Academy bosses after 2016 'Oscars So White' protest

The actress believes Hollywood still has "a ways to go" when it comes to addressing diversity issues.

Jada Pinkett Smith has commended Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bosses for promoting diversity at this year's (17) Oscars.

The actress and her husband Will Smith boycotted the annual prize-giving last year (16), along with several other Hollywood celebrities, as part of the 'Oscars So White' protest after minorities and actors of colour were shut out of all the major categories.

However, the forthcoming 89th Academy Awards is setting a historic precedent, with Viola Davis, Naomie Harris, and Octavia Spencer having all received nods for Best Supporting Actress, marking the first time African-American entertainers have held a majority in any Oscars category.

In total seven actors of colour landed leading nominations on Tuesday (24Jan17), and Jada tells Variety this year's selection makes her feel "really fantastic".

"It’s a beautiful thing to see," she says. "We had a lot of exceptional films this year. I’m glad to see that projects like (Spencer's) Hidden Figures, (Davis') Fences, and (Harris') Moonlight are getting recognition. I’m very proud this morning.”

The diverse nominations list arrived just days after controversial U.S. President Donald Trump took office last Friday (20Jan17) - a day before millions of people around the world took to the streets as part of the Women's March in protest of his presidency on Saturday (21Jan17).

The historic gathering was the largest protest in American history, and in a time when citizens are feeling alienated by Trump's insulting statements against Muslims, women, latino immigrants and other minority groups, Jada thinks celebrating cultural inclusion at the Oscars is more important than ever.

“Because of the state that our country is in, as artists, it’s so important we use our platform to help shine light on how we want to be identified as a country,” she explains. “I look at this (Oscar nominations) as a beautiful step towards that. Just our participation as artists in this time of how we want to represent our country, what is the messaging we want the world to see. As artists we have strong voices. We create strong imagery in regards to the identity of our country. It’s important that we take responsibility for that."

Jada adds, “I’m very proud to be part of the artistic community today. We have a ways to go, but we’ve also come a long way. We’ve come a long way as a country, and we’re going to keep stepping."

The 89th Academy Awards will take place on 26 February (17) at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

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