Winning an Oscar is a momentous point in any lucky actor’s career. Sometimes the award is bestowed on an established actor as an acknowledgement of a full and versatile career (ie Peggy Ashcroft, Melissa Leo, Judy Dench). Sometimes, the Oscar heralds a particularly surprising and not expected to be repeated performance (ie Monique, Jennifer Hudson, Brenda Fricker, Linda Hunt). And sometimes, particularly for young women, the Oscar is the industry’s investment in the future. It’s a sign that Hollywood insiders are putting their stamp of approval on a new star (ie Jessica Lange for Tootsie, Marisa Tomei, Goldie Hawn, Mary Steenburgen, Mira Sorvino, Anna Paquin, Anne Baxter, Jennifer Connolly, Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep in Kramer vs. Kramer).
After winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, Jennifer Connolly, Mira Sorvino, Angelina Jolie and other similarly talented and relatively young actresses were offered more lead roles than before their wins. Do you remember Jennifer Connolly in Dark Water and The House of Sand and Fog? Mira in Mimic and The Replacement Killers? Angelina in every movie from the late 90s to early 2000s ( 2 Tomb Raider movies, Taking Lives, Beyond Borders) The Oscar win in a supporting category brought them leading roles in major studio films. Will the same hold for Lupita? Is there a place in Hollywood for a young, black leading lady? Only time will tell, but I’m an optimist and I’m betting that Lupita is set to break down some barriers.
Twelve years ago, Best Actress winner Halle Berry, definitely saw an uptick in her career in the aftermath of her Oscar win. Interestingly, Berry often stars in roles that are not ethnically specific, for example, Gothika and Catwoman could have starred an actress of any race. Will Lupita get those same kind of offers or will her offers be relegated to specifically black roles in period films? Personally, I hope Hollywood embraces her fully and gives her at least the chance to play a few diverse roles. Why not a romantic comedy or a spy thriller for Ms. Nyong’o? Maybe an action movie? She’s on your screens now in the Liam Neeson juggernaut Non-Stop. Let’s hope the roles keep coming non-stop for her!