Spirit Awards Honor Black Actors, 1st Transgender Woman

On the eve of the Academy Awards, people of color get their due for their work in independent films.

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Yo, Academy Awards, this is how it’s done.

At Saturday night’s Film Independent Spirit Awards, which recognize the best in indie films, three of the four acting awards went to black people, with Beasts of No Nation stars Abraham Attah (Best Male Lead) and Idris Elba (Best Supporting Male) winning alongside Tangerine breakout Mya Taylor (Best Supporting Female), who became the first transgender actress to win a major film award. What makes Taylor’s win all the more impressive is that this was her first film role after she was discovered on the streets of Los Angeles by Tangerine director Sean Baker, who shot the film entirely on iPhones.

“What I want to leave with you guys today is, there is transgender talent. There’s very beautiful transgender talent, so you better get out there and put it in your next movie,” Taylor said in her acceptance speech. You hear that, Hollywood?

The Best Female Lead went to Brie Larson (Room), who is also up for best actress at Sunday night’s Academy Awards, which, you may have heard, didn’t feature any people of color in the 20 acting categories for a second year in a row.

The studio system, which largely runs Hollywood and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, could take a lesson from the passionate indie filmmakers who clearly are better at finding and recognizing talent, mainly because they have to be, given their often limited resources.

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