#EnvelopeGate: How the Oscars Screwed Up Moonlight’s Moment

Scene on the Oscars stage Feb. 26, 2017, during the mix-up in announcing Moonlight’s win for best picture (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Scene on the Oscars stage Feb. 26, 2017, during the mix-up in announcing Moonlight’s win for best picture (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

As those involved with the movies up for the best picture award at Sunday’s Oscars were sitting on pins and needles, most people at home were just ready for the show to finally end. And, boy, did it end with a bang.


Presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway read that La La Land was the winner in the category—even though the real winner was Moonlight. As La La Land’s people gathered onstage to accept the award, you knew something was wrong by the middle of the third acceptance speech as a person with accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, which oversees the ballot count, and ceremony host Jimmy Kimmel huddled with the incorrect winners.

“The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope, and when discovered, was immediately corrected,”PwC said in a statement. “We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred.”

La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz showed the correct card that read “Moonlight.”

Backstage, someone went, “Oh ... oh my God, he got the wrong envelope,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

The two people in charge of holding on to the envelopes and their secrets are PwC partners Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz. In a profile last week, Ruiz spoke about how meticulous they are when it comes to the results.


“It’s up to Brian and I to fully count everything together once, twice, and sometimes multiple times to make sure it’s correct,” Ruiz told the BBC.

As for Barry Jenkins, Moonlight’s director, it’s safe to say it was one of the craziest moments of his life.


“Even in my dreams this cannot be true,” said an astonished Jenkins once he reached the stage.

Backstage, Jenkins explained what he saw and how the mix-up could have happened.

“I will say, I saw two cards, and so things just happen. I wanted to see the card, to see the card, and Warren refused to show the card to anybody before he showed it to me. And so he did. He came upstairs, and he walked over to me and he showed the card. Everyone was asking, ‘Can I see the card?’ And he was like, ‘No, Barry Jenkins has to see the card, I need him to know.’ And I felt better about what had happened,” Jenkins explained.


“I will say, the folks from La La Land were so gracious. I can’t imagine being in their position and having to do that. We spent a lot of time together over the last six months, and I can’t imagine being in their position. It’s why I was speechless—I wasn’t speechless because I won, I was so speechless that they had to do that,” Jenkins said.

But let’s be honest.

The bigger story isn’t the fact that there was a mix-up; it’s the fact that a coming-of-age story about a young, black, gay man dealing with poverty and homophobia was made with $1.5 million. And not only did it win best picture, but one of its stars, Mahershala Ali, became the first Muslim actor to ever win an Oscar.


Moonlight deserved the award, and it’s safe to say people are now watching for Jenkins’ next movie.



Yay!!!! I didn’t watch but I’m glad to know that Moonlight won, even if after a mixup.

Alsoooooo, THE BACK OF JANELLE MONAE’S DRESS. WUT. *faints* I mean, it was beautiful from the front but the back detailing is gorgeous.