The Legacy of #OscarsSoWhite

Examining whether the prevalence of underrepresented nominees and winners has changed over time

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The History of #OscarsSoWhite

In January 2015, April Reign hit send on a tweet that would reverberate around the world: “#OscarsSoWhite they asked to touch my hair.” The tweet was a reaction to the lack of a single nomination for a person of color in any of the four acting categories that year. The hashtag served as a match to the kindling laid after years of seeing very few or no nominations for people of color at the Academy Awards.® The rebuke was clear.

Our goal in this section is to determine whether and how #OscarsSoWhite has created change in terms of underrepresented winners and nominees. To do so, we examine the nominations and wins for people of color in the 9 years since #OscarsSoWhite was launched (2016-2024). We compare those figures to the 9 years prior (2007-2015). This updates our analysis from last year covering the 8 years preceding and following the launch of #OscarsSoWhite. 

The results are clear: there have been notable increases in nominations for people of color across 13 of 19 categories examined– this is more than two-thirds or 68% of the categories assessed. Additionally, the overall percentage of underrepresented nominees nearly doubled, from 9.5% to  17%. The largest gains occurred in the categories of Best Documentary Feature, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor. In each of these categories, nominations increased by at least 13 percentage points. Six categories exhibited no significant change: Best Makeup and Hair Styling, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Editing, Best Score, and Best Sound. This is a slight change from last year, as nominations in 2024 resulted in the Best Visual Effects category becoming one area where there has been significant improvement.

Despite these gains, there is still a need for proportional representation in terms of nominations– even in 2024. According to the U.S. Census, roughly 40% of the U.S. population identifies with an underrepresented racial/ethnic group. In 2024, three categories met or exceeded proportional representation for underrepresented nominees: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (60%), Best Animated Film (47%), Best Documentary Feature (42%). Two other categories reached the 40% mark: Best Cinematography (40%) and Best Actor in a Leading Role (40%). However, this represents only one year. Looking at all nine years since #OscarsSoWhite reveals that proportional representation across years has still not been achieved. Additionally, the change observed has been notable but has certainly not occurred at a breakneck pace, as there were years in the post-#OscarsSoWhite era when certain categories had no nominees of color.

#OscarsSoWhite also focused on other historically marginalized communities– namely, those who identify as LGBTQIA+ and people with disabilities– and it is important to understand whether there has been progress in these areas. This is something we plan to do in future analyses, focusing on the acting categories in particular. Still, the results here demonstrate the impact that even hashtag activism can have to move institutions, to make exclusion a crisis worthy of public debate, and to create change for marginalized communities. The danger now is in believing that the problem is solved and lapsing into complacency. As long as activists and advocates continue to shine a spotlight on the lack of people of color at the Oscars,® there is hope that change will continue to occur, and at a much faster pace.

Impact of #OscarSoWhite

View the table below to see the impact of #OscarSoWhite.

Best Supporting Actor9%20%+11%
Best Supporting Actress29%36%+7%
Best Actor16%29%+13%
Best Actress9%20%+11%
Best Director15%24%+9%
Best Cinematography9%18%+9%
Best Original Screenplay10%19%+9%
Best Adapted Screenplay5%22%+17%
Best Film Editing8%8%0
Best Picture6%11%+5%
Best Visual Effects2%8%+6%
Best Animated Feature13%24%+11%
Best Production Design4%7%+3%
Best Costume Design9%10%+1%
Best Documentary Feature14%32%+18%
Best Makeup & Hairstyling10%13%+3%
Best Score12%14%+1%
Best Song24%36%+12%
Best Sound7%9%+1%

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1โ€“20 of 20

ยฉ 2024 Dr. Stacy L. Smith & the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. All Rights Reserved.