The activist who created the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, which brought attention to a lack of people of color being honored at the event, has been invited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to attend the Oscars Feb. 24, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed.
“After creating the hashtag and working for almost five years to turn it into a movement that not only changed the Academy but made its way into so many other industries, I feel immense pride and a sense of coming full circle, back to the where it all began,” April Reign said about her invitation. “The work continues, but I am thrilled to be able to celebrate the incremental progress that has been made, even if only for a night.”
The Academy drew criticism when a number of actors and filmmakers of color were snubbed at the 2015 ceremony.
Reign’s hashtag morphed into a movement that took the University of Texas School of Law grad across the nation to speak as an expert and consultant on diversity, inclusion and representation issues.
After the #OscarsSoWhite fallout, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has created its most diverse class ever. The honorary organization invited a total of 683 industry professionals to the 2016 class — 41 percent are people of color, and 46 percent are women. They invited 774 in 2017 and 928 in 2018.
“I’m going to give myself permission to think that the work that I and many who believe in issues of diversity, equity and inclusion have done is having an impact,” Reign tells THR.
Reign believes that her campaign may have even opened doors for Spike Lee, who has a Best Director nomination for BlacKkKlansman, his first ever in the category.
“Seeing Spike nominated is a very public validation of that work. Nevertheless, the daily work of [#OscarsSoWhite] is for all marginalized people, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, age, or disability, to have opportunities they didn’t before.”
Lee himself gave the campaign credit in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
“This would have not happened if there was not the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. What that campaign did, it made the Academy understand that they had to diversify their membership,” he said.
Reign is equally proud that she’ll be at the Oscars to not only support Lee but to support Ryan Coogler, the director of the blockbuster Black Panther which was nominated for seven awards including Best Picture.
“Black Panther was such a game-changing film in so many ways. Not only did it shift the culture, it put to rest tropes on which Hollywood has relied for far too long,” she says, listing debunked beliefs that include: films that reflect the black experience don’t do well overseas; there are only a few black leads who can open a film; and superhero movies aren’t Oscar-worthy.
“I’m thrilled that Black Panther, with its amazing production value and affirming message, has been nominated in several categories and I’m excited to be in the room to watch the results.”
Reign is planning on attending the ceremony with her 19-year-old son, so he can also have a front seat at the table on a special night.
“I’m bringing my son,” she says, noting that he is 19. “Because the whole point of #OscarsSoWhite is that children of any age should be able to see themselves reflected on screen.”