10 Years an #OscarsSoWhite: Only 5 Actresses of Color Were Nominated for Lead Actress in the Entire Decade

Olivia Colman, winner for Best Actress in a Leading Role, attends the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones on Feb. 24, 2019, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Olivia Colman, winner for Best Actress in a Leading Role, attends the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones on Feb. 24, 2019, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Photo: Dia Dipasupil (Getty Images)

The stench of stagnant progression is in the air as we look back at the history of Oscar nominations in the 2010s.


The Hollywood Reporter recently highlighted every Oscar-winning actress (in both lead and supporting categories) in the 2010s and in doing so, found one glaring bit of news: only five actresses of color were recognized by the Academy in the lead actress category in the past decade. This bears repeating—of every single nomination under the Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (50 women total) category over this decade, only five of them were women of color.

Gabourey Sidibe (Precious, 2009), Viola Davis (The Help, 2011), Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild, 2013), Ruth Negga (Loving, 2017) and Yalitza Aparicio (Roma, 2019), who became the first Indigenous woman and second Mexican woman to be nominated in the lead actress category.

Of course, none of them took home the statuette, as Halle Berry is still the only black woman to have won the Best Actress Oscar in the Academy’s history (in 2001, for her performance in Monster’s Ball).

It’s one thing to engage in the trending hashtag in a single year (April Reign certainly got the people going every year with the creation of #OscarsSoWhite), but to see the entire summation right here in black…and white? Wow.

Of course, the past decade has been better to black actresses in the supporting category, such as Mo’Nique (Precious, 2010), Octavia Spencer (The Help, 2012), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave, 2014), Viola Davis (Fences, 2017) and Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk, 2019). I won’t even get into the frustrations I felt with Davis, whose film campaign decided to vie for the Supporting Actress category even though she was clearly the Lead Actress in Fences. Of course, it was a smart, strategic and surefire way for Davis to get her much-deserved Oscar (Emma Stone was the shoo-in that year, according to experts), but having to play those types of politics isn’t the least bit comforting.


THR adds:

Sandra Bullock, Natalie Portman, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Cate Blanchett lead the first half of the decade as the top actresses in Hollywood to bring home the highest acting honor of the Academy Award for best actress. Bullock, Portman and Lawrence each won their first Oscars, while Streep won her third (she has two for best actress and one for best supporting) and Blanchett won her second (she has one for best actress and one for best supporting).

Julianne Moore, Brie Larson, Emma Stone, Frances McDormand and Olivia Colman rounded out the decade with their best actress wins (McDormand won her second best actress honor), making the claim of #OscarsSoWhite highly relevant for the lead category.


So, not only were actresses of color being looked over for simple recognition, they were being looked over for individual white actresses to rack in multiple awards. Fabulous.

Nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards in 2020 will be announced on Jan. 13, 2020. Let’s see if we can kick off a new decade with some damn seasoning...

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.


Conde Nasty

IOW, women of color were nominated 50% of time over the last 10 years.