Award ceremonies often carry the stigma of being frivolous as critiques point to the excesses that are typically associated with entertainment. The elaborate gowns, the flowing champagne, but if you look beyond the obvious and listen closely, there is much that can be learnt. Here’s our pick of some of the most inspiring speeches by award recipients.
Oprah Winfrey when accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award (2018)
Amidst a sea of black that engulfed the normally glittering 2018 Golden Globes Awards, Oprah Winfrey, when receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, declared that the “time is up,” to a culture that has for far too long been dominated by “powerful men,” resulting in women not being “heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men.” The world’s most well-known woman moved the audience to their feet as Winfrey, appearing more presidential than the president, paid tribute to the women who “have endured years of abuse and assault because they had children to feed, bills to pay and dreams to pursue,” while also acknowledging the women who felt empowered enough to “speak up and share personal stories.” Winfrey, who is the first African-American woman to receive the award ended her speech to rousing applause, reassuring young girls that “a new day is on the horizon.”
Meryl Streep when accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award (2017)
It was while receiving the same award in 2017 that Meryl Streep called out President Trump in the early days of his presidency for propagating a culture of hate. Amidst the backdrop of his anti-immigration rhetoric, the actress quoted actor Hugh Laurie, and referred to those present at the Golden Globes as belonging to the “most vilified segments in American society – Hollywood, foreigners and the press.” An actor’s only job, she said, is to enter the lives of people who are different and let others know what it feels like. Yet, it wasn’t the work of an actor that she highlighted during the speech. Instead, she used the platform to criticise President Trump for his controversial mimicking of a disabled reporter while campaigning. “It broke my heart”, she said, “this instinct to humiliate when it is modelled by someone in a public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s lives because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”
Halle Berry when accepting the Best Actress Academy Award (2002)
When she made history by becoming the first African American woman to win a best actress Oscar at the 74th Academy Awards for her performance in Monster’s Ball, Halle Berry paid tribute to actresses Dorothy Dandrige, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll, Jada Pinkett, Vivica Fox as well as “every nameless, faceless women of colour that now has a chance because that door has been opened.” A visibly overwhelmed Berry went on to say that she was “honoured” and thanked the Academy for choosing her to be the “vessel from which this blessing might flow.”
Patricia Arquette when accepting the Best Supporting Actress Award (2015)
Way before #metoo emerged, Patricia Arquette raised the issue of equal rights for women when accepting the best supporting actress Oscar for her performance in Boyhood. “To every woman who gave birth, every tax payer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody’s equal rights, it is our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” Her words prompted an immediate applause, most visibly from Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez.
Lupito Nyong’ o when accepting the Best Supporting Actress Oscar (2014)
Nominated for the first time for her role in 12 Years A Slave, Nyong’o said, “when I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.” She also paid tribute to the enslaved Patsey, the character she played in film based on the book of the same name. “It doesn’t escape me that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance.”
Oprah Winfrey when accepting the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award at The Emmy Awards (2002)
The iconic talkshow host absolutely deserves a second mention in this list when she became the voice of the disenfranchised after she accepted the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award. The first to receive the award, Winfrey said “the greatest pain in life is to be invisible, what I have learnt is that we all just want to be heard.The guy on the street, the woman in the classroom, the Israeli, the Afghani, the Zuni, the Apachi, the Irish, the Protestant, the Catholic, the gay, the straight, you, me, we all just want to know we matter, we want validation.”