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Where were all the nominations for women of colour at the SAG Awards?

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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This is disappointing, especially in a year where there are so many deserving performances.

Regina King, who is heartbreaking as the mother of a young pregnant woman in Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk, has long been considered the frontrunner to take home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar next year.

The 47-year-old, who was last Oscar-nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category for Jerry Maguire, has swept the precursor critics awards. Last week, she picked up two nominations at the Golden Globes alone, one in Best Supporting Actress and the other for her work in Television on Netflix’s Seven Seconds.

And yet at this morning’s SAG nominations King was shut out. The Best Supporting Actress category ended up rewarding Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz from The Favourite, Amy Adams for Vice and then two surprise, shock nominations: Emily Blunt for A Quiet Place and Margot Robbie in Mary Queen of Scots.

Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk

King’s snub was the canary in the coalmine for a worryingly un-diverse spread of nominations for women at the SAGs. The only woman of colour nominated across any individual category was Sandra Oh, who picked up yet another nod for her turn in Killing Eve

There was no nomination for Constance Wu in Best Actress (she had only last week been named a Golden Globe nominee for Crazy Rich Asians) or Regina Hall in the same category for Support The Girls, a performance that won her the prize from the New York Film Critics Circle.

No nomination for Michelle Yeoh in Crazy Rich Asians. Once again, there was no nomination for Viola Davis in Widows, mirroring the film’s absence from the Golden Globes. Or, indeed, no collective nomination for Best Ensemble for that same film, a snub so egregious considering that it is impossible not to watch that film and recognise that, objectively, this ensemble - Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Michelle Rodriguez, Jackie Weaver, Liam Neeson, Bryan Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Colin Farrell, Robert freakin’ Duvall - is the year’s best cast. No contest. This is not even mentioning the work done by actresses in Roma, Shoplifters and The Hate U Give.

Though the nominations showed diversity across the board, naming Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians and BlacKKKlansman as three of their Best Ensembles, as well as acting nominations for John David Washington, Mahershala Ali and Sterling K. Brown, the lack of recognition for women of colour points to something rotten in the Screen Actors Guild Union.

Viola Davis with Colin Farrell in Widows

As film writer Karthik Shankar wrote on Twitter, this was a year in which so many women of colour were deserving of a nomination. “In years where WOC don’t get nominated, the narrative peddled is that the industry needs to do better at giving opportunities to WOC,” he wrote. “Then when WOC actually impress in films that are both critically acclaimed and box office successes, they go for ‘indie’ choices with white women.”

As with the Golden Globes’ complete blindspot when it comes to female directors, the inability of the SAGs this year to recognise and reward the superb work done by women of colour feels like we are rehashing the same conversation over and over again. We’re all sick of having it. We all know that there is no reason for every acting nomination for women in film to go to white women. And yet, here we are.

The Oscar nominations are announced in just over a month’s time on January 22. Let’s hope we don’t have to have this conversation again. 

Images: Getty

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer, podcaster and recent Australian transplant in London. You can find her on the internet talking about pop culture, food and travel. Follow her on Twitter

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