Diamonds and Dior. Glitz and gowns. As a person who takes real pleasure in dressing up for the occasional swanky do, I’ve watched the Golden Globe Awards a number of times over the years. An event routinely lauded for its party atmosphere and lavish red carpet fashion, it’s always a spectacle. This year, however, it wasn’t glamour but politics that prompted me to tune in.
I, like many, devoured articles and social media posts in the preceding days as female actors, many of whom are heroes of mine, called time on the discrimination, harassment and abuse suffered by women working in film, TV and theatre at the hands of powerful and deplorable men. It felt to me like a bubbling pot gaining in intensity as people shared messages of support and vows to wear black. Sunday night was the boiling point, culminating in a huge gathering of stars using their influence for positive change and one woman in particular delivering the most significant speech I’ve heard in recent years.
Oprah is inspirational in so many ways but when she became the first black woman to receive the Golden Globes’ Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement, she empowered black girls and women all over the world, including me.
In 1982, Sidney (Poitier) received the Cecil B. DeMille award right here at the Golden Globes and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award.
– Oprah Winfrey, The Golden Globes, January 2018 –
Representation of women of colour in entertainment is an issue close to my heart and I won’t be the only one affected by her words that evening. Speaking on how she felt upon seeing Sidney Poitier win the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards, she recollected that “his tie was white, and (..) his skin was black.” To see a black person win such a celebrated accolade was clearly a revelation to her and an awakening followed, which will be echoed in many others today.
Oprah’s acceptance speech wasn’t only powerful because of its implications for diversity, it was powerful because of how it addressed the abuses of power within the industry. It was a rousing cry to men and women to rally against perpetrators of abuse and a warning, in no uncertain terms, to the Weinsteins of the world.
Oprah applauded women who, following the activism of Tarana Burke, said #metoo. Women who have endured so much. Women like Recy Taylor who, when she sadly died just days ago, still hadn’t seen justice for her abuse. I surprised myself by tearing up as Oprah, to rapturous cheers and applause, explained that “for too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth (…) but their [the perpetrators’] time is up.”
“Their time is up” – at once a beacon of hope and a call to arms. The scale of support for victims was clear to see. The audience in their uniforms of solidarity, a sea of black. People in every industry signalling that now, finally, women can speak and will be heard. They must be heard.
So, as the last Champagne glass is cleared from the Beverly Hilton Hotel ballroom, I can’t help but feel that the Golden Globes’ 75th year was historic. A turning point. And now it seems, “a new day is on the horizon”.
I encourage you to watch Oprah’s speech here if you haven’t already (if not, why not?) and may we all have the strength to continue to, as Oprah would say, speak our truth. You might also want to visit the timesupnow.com website.
Lead image via Time.com