BAFTAs 2020: the important reason why Cynthia Erivo will not be performing tonight

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Cynthia Erivo declined an invitation to perform her Golden Globe nominated song ‘Stand Up’ at the 2020 BAFTAs after their nominations failed to recognise any actors of colour. 

When the BAFTA award nominations were announced in January, there was one very glaring problem with the line-up: every single actor nominated was white.

In response, in what was an inspirational stand against the lack of diversity in the line-up, Cynthia Erivo – one of the actors snubbed for her incredible performance in Harriet – spoke out about her decision to turn down the show’s request for her to perform the film’s musical anthem ‘Stand Up’ at the ceremony on the 2 February. 

“I felt like [the invitation] didn’t represent people of colour in the right light,” Erivo told Extra on the red carpet at the premiere of HBO’s The Outsider in L.A. 

“It felt like it was calling on me as an entertainer as opposed to a person who was a part of the world of film, and I think that it’s important to make it known that it’s not something you throw in as a party trick, you know?”

Although the BAFTAs does not have a best original song category in which to nominate Erivo’s song (unlike at the Golden Globes, where she was nominated for Stand Up), it failed to nominate Harriet for any awards at all.

Erivo’s stand against this kind of “party trick” inclusivity is an important one, especially when people of colour and women continue to be left out of nominee line-ups. Criticising the BAFTAs for their lack of diversity – and additional failure to nominate any women in the best director category – Erivo added:

“I work hard and every single person of colour who is working in these films this year has worked really hard, and there are many of them who deserve to be celebrated… and no women directors?”

Cynthia Erivo
Cynthia Erivo: “I felt like [the invitation] didn’t represent people of colour in the right light.”

It’s notable to add that Erivo has since been recognised with an Oscar nomination for Harriet – but she’s the sole black actor to be recognised by the prestigious organisation. It’s yet another disappointing line-up to add to all the others being criticised for their lack of representation; the Golden Globes was called out for not nominating any women in the best director category, and the Brit Awards’ failure to nominate more than a handful of women in their four mixed-gender categories did not go unnoticed.

While BAFTA says on its website that “diversity and inclusion are incredibly important” to the organisation, it’s clear that its efforts to promote this policy are not working.

In December 2019, the organisation expanded its voting pool to increase diversity, but still, the likes of Lupita Nyong’o, Awkwafina and Jennifer Lopez missed out on a nomination (it’s important to note that all three were nominated for the Golden Globes, with Awkwafina making history as the first Asian woman to win the award for best actress in a musical or comedy motion picture).

In December 2019, the organisation expanded its voting pool to increase diversity, but still, the likes of Lupita Nyong’o, Awkwafina and Jennifer Lopez missed out on a nomination (it’s important to note that all three were nominated for the Golden Globes, with Awkwafina making history as the first Asian woman to win the award for best actress in a musical or comedy motion picture).

Speaking to the Associated Press on 10 January, Erivo added: “I have a responsibility to represent women of colour and people of colour in film and TV. To perform… to celebrate something like that, that way, didn’t feel right.”

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This article was originally published on 13 January and has been updated throughout.

Images: Getty

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