Awards Shows & Diversity: From The Grammys To The Oscars, Which Awards Show Recognizes The Most Minority Artists?

If there’s one big topic of conversation surrounding this year’s awards season, it’s diversity. After the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ oversight of major awards hopefuls like Selma director Ava DuVernay and the film's star, David Oyelowo — both exemplary talents — accusations of racism hit not only the Oscars but organizations of the like across the map. 

This scenario, sadly, was hardly an outlier. For decades, the academies, guilds, and associations that reign supreme over the scope of American pop culture have failed to dole equal favor toward artists of color. Case-in-point: DuVernay would have been the first black female to earn a Best Director nod (and, if she had won, only the second woman in history to snag the trophy after The Hurt Locker helmer Kathryn Bigelow). It's a sad reality, an all too common occurrence in many awards shows — and one that it's absolutely time be changed. 

But, with the latter half of awards season — including this year's telecasts of the Grammy and Academy awards — fast approaching in the next few weeks, the question is worth asking: Though the Oscars may have overlooked diversity and artists of color involved in filmmaking this year, is the music industry any better? How about television? 

While there is undoubtedly no facet of the pop culture world that couldn’t stand to broaden its horizons, it’s worth delving back into the histories of these varied art forms’ respective awards circuits to determine which has done the best job of acknowledging a diverse collection of outstanding artists over the past 20 years…and, most importantly, why it's doing the best job of that.

The Oscars

The biggest culprit of the 2015 awards circuit's adherence to white performers, filmmakers, and films, the Academy Awards has waxed and waned over the past 20 years in its representation of racial minority artists. More interestingly, however, is the organization's disproportionate recognition of black and Latino figures in its supporting acting categories. Here are the stats:

TOTAL MINORITY ACTORS NOMINATED OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS: 45
TOTAL MINORITY ACTORS TO WIN OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS: 16

Best Actor
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 17
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 3 (Jamie Foxx, Denzel Washington, and Forest Whitaker)

Best Actress
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 9
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 1 (Halle Berry)

Best Supporting Actor
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 11
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 4 (Javier Bardem, Benicio del Toro, Morgan Freeman, and Cuba Gooding Jr.)

Best Supporting Actress
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 16
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 5 (Penélope Cruz, Jennifer Hudson, Mo'Nique, Lupita Nyong'o, and Octavia Spencer)

Best Director
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 9
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 3 (Alfonso Cuarón and Ang Lee, twice)

Why is it that the Academy seems significantly more inclined to award minority actors in supporting categories than in the lead categories? Following his highly questionable snub, Selma star Oyelowo chastised the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for, as The Hollywood Reporter notes, favoring "subservient" black characters over powerful ones like his (he plays Martin Luther King Jr. in the film), and suggesting perhaps that the organization is more comfortable with racial minorities as background players charged principally with abetting the narrative and thematic journeys of white stars.

The Grammys

The Grammys, unlike the Oscar awards, present a different kind of curiosity. A great deal more artists of color are nominated for the top Grammy Awards, but a very small percentage of these men and women actually walk away with trophies.

TOTAL MINORITY ARTISTS & PROJECTS NOMINATED OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS: 151
TOTAL MINORITY ARTISTS & PROJECTS TO WIN OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS: 20

Album of the Year
Albums by minority artists nominated in the past 20 years: 35
Albums by minority artists to win in the past 20 years: 5 (Genius Loves CompanyThe Miseducation of Lauryn HillRiver: The Joni LettersSpeakerboxxx/The Love Below, and Supernatural)

Record of the Year
Records by or featuring minority artists nominated in the past 20 years: 45
Records by or featuring minority artists to win in the past 20 years: 4 ("Get Lucky," "Here We Go Again," "Kiss from a Rose," and "Smooth")

Song of the Year
Songs performed or written by minority artists nominated in the past 20 years: 39
Songs performed or written by minority artists to win in the past 20 years: 6 ("Dance with My Father," "Fallin'," "Kiss from a Rose," "Single Ladies," "Smooth," and "We Are Young")

Best New Artist
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 32
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 5 (Lauryn Hill, Hootie & the Blowfish, Alicia Keys, John Legend, and Esperanza Spalding)

How can it be that artists of color wind up taking home Grammys at such a remarkably low rate? As the mainstream music world is more tapped into the representation of black and Latin artists than the realm of cinema is, this data is much more surprising (and massively alarming) than the yieldings of our Oscar research. 

But, now that we've looked at movies and music, what about television?

The Emmys

Unfortunately, the Emmys turned out to be the worst we've seen yet: television showcases absolutely dismal numbers both in terms of nomination and ultimate victory. Its supporting categories boast a greater sum of nods, but, ultimately yield just as few wins as their other awards show counterparts — even less than.

TOTAL MINORITY ACTORS NOMINATED OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS: 66
TOTAL MINORITY ACTORS TO WIN OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS: 3 (...seriously.)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 5
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 0

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 2
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 1 (America Ferrera)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 8
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 1 (Andre Braugher)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 3
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 0

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 2
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 0

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 10
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 0

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 18
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 1 (Héctor Elizondo)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 18
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 0

That only three people of color have won an acting Emmy of any kind in the past 20 years is a pretty embarrassing fact. But, does this lie on the Emmys themselves, or on TV in general? Let's look to other organizations devoted to TV (as well as film) to find the answer.

The Golden Globes

First, the Golden Globes, which is slightly more optimistic a vantage point of television than the Emmys is, though a bleaker state of affairs than the Oscars when it comes to film.

TOTAL MINORITY FILM ACTORS NOMINATED OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS: 66
TOTAL MINORITY FILM ACTORS TO WIN OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS: 12

Best Actor - Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 8
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 1 (Jamie Foxx)

Best Actress - Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 5
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 0

Best Actor - Motion Picture, Drama
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 18
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 2 (Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker)

Best Actress - Motion Picture, Drama
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 8
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 0

Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 12
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 3 (Javier Bardem, Benicio del Toro, Eddie Murphy)

Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 15
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 3 (Jennifer Hudson, Mo'Nique, and Octavia Spencer)

Best Directing - Motion Picture
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 10
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 3 (Alfonso Cuarón and Ang Lee twice)

And for the television side...

TOTAL MINORITY TV ACTORS NOMINATED OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS: 33
TOTAL MINORITY TV ACTORS TO WIN OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS: 6

Best Actor - Television Series, Comedy
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 5
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 1 (Don Cheadle)

Best Actress - Television Series, Comedy
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 4
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 1 (Gina Rodriguez)

Best Actor - Television Series, Drama
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 4
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 1 (Jimmy Smits)

Best Actress - Television Series, Drama
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 2
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 0

Best Supporting Actor - Television Series
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 6
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 2 (Edward James Almos, Don Cheadle, and Jeffrey Wright)

Best Supporting Actress - Television Series
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 12
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 1 (Sandra Oh)

The Screen Actors Guild Awards

And finally, the SAGs: arguably the strongest purveyor of diversity of the lot.

TOTAL MINORITY FILM ACTORS & PROJECTS NOMINATED OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS: 80
TOTAL MINORITY FILM ACTORS & PROJECTS TO WIN OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS: 19

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Casts that feature prominent minority players nominated in the past 20 years: 25
Casts that feature prominent minority players to win in the past 20 years: 5 (Argo, CrashThe HelpSlumdog Millionaire, and Traffic)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 14
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 3 (Benicio del Toro, Jamie Foxx, and Forest Whitaker)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 10
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 2 (Halle Berry and Viola Davis)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 15
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 4 (Javier Bardem, Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Eddie Murphy)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 16
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 5 (Ruby Dee, Jennifer Hudson, Mo'Nique, Lupita Nyong'o, and Octavia Spencer)

And as for the SAGs' TV side...

TOTAL MINORITY TV ACTORS & PROJECTS NOMINATED OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS: 100
TOTAL MINORITY TV ACTORS & PROJECTS TO WIN OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS: 24

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Casts that feature prominent minority players nominated in the past 20 years: 32
Casts that feature prominent minority players to win in the past 20 years: 10 (30 Rock, Aly McBealDesperate Housewives twice, GleeModern Family four times, and Orange Is the New Black)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Casts that feature prominent minority players nominated in the past 20 years: 45
Casts that feature prominent minority players to win in the past 20 years: 9 (ER four times, Grey's AnatomyLostNYPD Blue, and The West Wing twice)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 2
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 0

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 9
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 2 (Uzo Adoba and America Ferrera)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 5
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 0

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Minority nominees in the past 20 years: 7
Minority winners in the past 20 years: 3 (Viola Davis, Sandra Oh, and Chandra Wilson)

While the Screen Actors Guild might showcase the greatest attention to minority actors and actresses, it cannot go unstated that this organization is also the one yielding the least attention from American viewers: For instance, the 2013 telecast of the SAG awards only nabbed 4.6 million viewers, while, according to Deadline, the 2013 Oscars recorded 40.3 million viewers. Does the sort of mass viewership undertaken by the Oscars, Grammys, and Emmys abet to these award shows' proclivities to lean white (reflecting, perhaps, the assumed population tuning in to each ceremony)?

Or is it, perhaps, the other way around? While it's easy to place all of the blame on faceless organizations like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (and blame for lack of diversity in nominations does lie with them, as voters are the ones actually choosing the nominees), the fact that movies like Selma make only modest headway at the box offices is for the most part on us

Yes, part of an award show's merit is to get the word out about movies that we wouldn't otherwise hear of — but at present, there's no escaping conversation about Selma (thanks, ironically, to the Oscars after all). We might not see DuVernay and Oyelowo come home with trophies, but that doesn't mean we can't afford this movie, and others like it, a far more important victory: our viewership. With that, hopefully the awards and attention projects like this deserve will eventually follow.

Images: Paramount Pictures; Fox Searchlight Pictures; Getty; Fox; DreamWorks Pictures; ABC

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