Being a woman of color in Hollywood is kind of like, well, being a woman of color in any other business. Women of color statistically get paid less and have less opportunity than their white counterparts, and sadly, award shows like the Oscars have shown a similar bias against women of color. Since Halle Berry broke the glass ceiling and took home the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 2002, only 17 women of color have been nominated for a major acting award at the Oscars, out of 140 total nominees — and then there are the nine women of color below, who were snubbed for Oscars despite truly worthy work.
If you're thinking that nine is an exceptionally small number of snubs, there's a reason for it. A recent study from the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film found that of the top 100 films released in 2016, only 32 percent of speaking roles, both major and minor, went to women. Of that number, only three percent went to Latina characters, with six percent going to Asian women and 14 percent going to black female characters. 76 percent of speaking characters given to women in the films surveyed were white. The fact is that roles for women of color are few and far between. Parts for non-white women in films that appeal to the Academy are even fewer and even farther between. So for every major snub of women of color listed here, there are many more Oscar-worthy performers of color out there. We just haven't seen them yet.
1Ava DuVernay — 'Selma'
When DuVernay was snubbed for Best Director in 2015 for her film Selma, it became the peak example of #OscarsSoWhite. Selma also suffered a few other major snubs, most notably a missing nomination for star David Oyelowo.
2Octavia Spencer — 'Fruitvale Station'
Just because Spencer won an Oscar in 2011 doesn't mean she's not also at risk for being snubbed. Case in point: the lack of recognition for her heartbreaking performance in 2013's Fruitvale Station.
3Ruby Dee — 'Do The Right Thing'
Almost two decades before she earned her one and only nomination for Best Supporting Actress, Dee was passed over for her performance in Do the Right Thing (1989).
4Thandie Newton — 'Crash'
Crash was nothing if not Oscar bait, and it's surprising looking back that only one performer was nominated for an award — Matt Dillon. I can't be the only one thinking Newton, who was arguably the heart of the film, was snubbed.
5Ziyi Zhang — 'Memoirs Of A Geisha'
Memoirs of a Geisha was nominated for six Oscars in 2007, none of which were for the film's Asian cast. And if anyone deserved one, it was star Ziyi Zhang.
6Taraji P. Henson — 'Hustle & Flow' / 'Hidden Figures'
Henson's supporting work in Hustle & Flow was ignored by the Academy, and many consider her a major snub for this year's Lead Actress race. Henson might have the last laugh, however, as Hidden Figures continues to sneak up on the Best Picture race.
7Michelle Yeoh — 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, and, like Memoirs of a Geisha, received zero nominations for its actors, despite Yeoh's BAFTA nomination for Best Lead Actress.
8Regina King — 'Ray'
Ray was a movie beloved by the Academy, but the women of Ray, like King, who played Margie Hendricks, did not receive the same amount of praise.
9Kerry Washington — 'Ray'
Washington was another Ray standout snubbed by the Academy Awards.
The fact that two of the major Oscar snubs of women of color are from the same film — King and Washington — should not go unnoticed. As previously stated, the number of Oscar movies with roles for women of color are slim. The number of Oscar films with more than one role for women of color are even less common. And the only way to avoid more snubs for women of color at the Oscars in the future is for studios to start casting more non-white female stars. Keep doing it until the performances are so good and so numerous that they cannot be ignored. And, once they've hit that spot, keep going.