In a category with four first-time nominees, Octavia Spencer brought home the Best Actress in a Supporting Role Oscar for her role in “The Help.” Spencer beat out Berenice Bejo in “The Artist,” Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids,” Janet McTeer in “Albert Nobbs,” and “Help” costar Jessica Chastain for the statue.
Spencer, overcome with emotion, could barely give her acceptance speech.
“Thank you Academy for putting me with the hottest guy in the room,” she told the audience, who gave her a standing ovation.
The win makes Spencer the fifth African-American woman to take home the supporting actress award. Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to ever win an Oscar in “Gone With the Wind” for her supporting role as Mammy. No one else took home the prize till Whoopi Goldberg won in 1991 for “Ghost.” The last two African-American women to win Best Supporting Actress were Jennifer Hudson in 2006’s “Dreamgirls” and Mo’Nique in 2009 for “Precious.”
In the Best Actress category, African-American women have had a much harder time gaining industry recognition: Halle Berry remains the only winner in that category for her 2001 performance in “Monster’s Ball.” That trend didn’t change last night, when Spencer’s costar Viola Davis lost the category to Oscar heavyweight Meryl Streep for “The Iron Lady.”
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