The 86th Annual Academy Awards took place on March 2, 2014, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Here is what this Oscar winner said backstage in the Academy Awards press room.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
(“12 Years a Slave”)
You had mentioned in a recent interview that only you could dream for yourself. Did you ever dream this big?
No. No. No.
And how are you feeling now?
I’m a little dazed. I can’t believe this is in my hands. I can’t believe this is real life. Yeah, I don’t know. I’m really overwhelmed.
You mentioned the spirit of the dead in your acceptance speech. Can you explain what you meant by that?
It was something I said with regards to [“12 Years a Slave” director/producer] Steve McQueen. I think that he’s really honored a people that really have been unsung for a really long time through doing this film, and I just feel that their spirits have been honored is what I meant.
Maya Angelou says that we are more alike than we are different. And you have been the “it girl” on this entire award-season journey and have met a whole lot of people. What on this journey that you’ve been on are you going to take and understand about the human spirit?
Hmm. That’s a tough one. Oh, that’s tough. I don’t know whether I can answer that question. What I will say is that what I have learned for myself is that I don’t have to be anybody else, and that myself is good enough, and that when I am being true to that self.
I can avail myself to extraordinary things such as this … I didn’t think was necessarily possible, but I didn’t cancel it out of my realm of possibility, and I think that’s the thing. You have to allow for the impossible to be possible.
You had a “good luck” message from the Kenyan president earlier this week. What reaction have you had in Kenya, and what message do you have for people there?
Well, yeah. I know that my country has been extremely proud of me. I stumbled upon a big, big, big, like, good luck. I don’t even know what to call it, but something at the rugby sevens in Las Vegas, and they created this big, big canvas saying thank you to me. And I stumbled upon it on Instagram.
And that was just amazing to see all of these hundreds of people holding up this thing saying good luck to me, and so I know I mean a lot to my countrymen, and I am so grateful for that kind of support from the entire world actually, that the entire world did not have a say in whether I got this or not, but the fact that I won in so many people’s hearts, that is incredible, and I am so grateful for that.
At the 2013 Telluride Film Festival, you said you didn’t believe you’d win an Oscar for “12 Years a Slave.” You said, “Don’t be stupid.” What do you feel now at this moment? Congratulations, by the way.
Thank you. Thank you. I don’t think it has sunk in that I’m holding this thing, and it’s in my hands, but I haven’t wrapped my mind around it yet. You hear people wanting you to win and predicting you’ll win and everything, but it’s just not real until you hear Christoph Waltz say your name, and it’s just very perplexing. But I’m so happy to be holding this golden man.
What goes through your mind when Liza Minnelli comes at you with a bear hug before you accept your Oscar?
Oh, dear. I felt quite fabulous.
And we wanted to know what’s the most encouraging thing someone has said to you during this whole Oscar ride?
I think the message that I’ve gotten from many people who have been in this position is that they’ve said from their hearts that the outcome doesn’t matter, that you’ve already won. The work has been done. And remembering that has kept me hopeful and positive and relaxed.
You were born in Mexico. The Mexican Academy mentions you as one of their own, as a Mexican nominee. How much of this triumph belongs to Mexico?
I think it belongs to me.
You’ve been known for your incredible acting and your fashion on the red carpet, but you’ve also been really known for your poised attitude. You’re very humble. What has led you to become this way and will continue to be such a humble lady in this industry?
I think credit must be given to my parents. I have phenomenal parents. My father is famous in his own right, has done amazing things for our country, Kenya, and my mother, too. She’s a trailblazer. She’s a pioneer.
And to watch those two people do so much and mean so much to everyone, but at the end of the day still have the humility to serve, I think, their example because at the end of the day, I just feel it is my deeds that are more important than my fame.
How are you going to be celebrating this Oscar victory?
I’m going to the Governors Ball, and I’m going to be doing all things Oscar related. This is my first time here, and … I don’t know. It’s like I feel like Willy Wonka in the chocolate factory.
Earlier on you mentioned your father was kind of like, “Oh, just what is this? You’re in a film?” What do you think your dad is going to say now after tonight?
Well, I saw him after I got this young man, and he hugged me, and he said, “Thank you.”
For more info: Academy Awards website
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