Karen Rupert Toliver, lead producer of Hair Love, the animated short capturing hearts everywhere, just became the first Black woman to win an Oscar for an animation, The Atlanta Voice reports.
The film’s meteoric rise has been captured worldwide. Inspired by videos of Black fathers doing their daughters’ hair, filmmaker Matthew Cherry launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2017 to fund the short film. The response was overwhelming and broke records for crowdfunding on the site, with Cherry and his team raising nearly $300,000, 3 times more than their initial funding goal.
Two years later, the film went on to debut in theaters last summer alongside Sony’s Angry Birds 2 movie. Jordan Peele, Yara Shahidi, Gabrielle Union, Dwayne Wade and Gabourey Sidibe all served as producers with Issa Rae lending her voice to the film as the mother.
Shortly after releasing the film online for everyone to see, it was announced that Hair Love was up for an Oscar nomination. Even with all the praise and acclaim, the NFL player turned filmmaker maintained that his sole purpose was representation. “Media is impressionable and when little kids see shows, movies and magazines and don’t see people who look like them in a heroic place or complex place or don’t see themselves at all it makes them seem abnormal or an exception to the rule. And we’re trying to make them feel normal and have a little Black girl with maybe kinky hair feel like she’s represented,” Cherry told Because Of Them We Can.
Cherry and Toliver accepted the award last night to much fanfare, taking representation to another level on the historic night, inviting Texas senior DeAndre Arnold as his guest for the Academy Awards. Arnold has been suspended from school for not cutting his locs and told that he won’t be able to walk at graduation. During their Oscar acceptance speech, the two highlighted so many reasons why this conversation about Black hair is so important.
“Thank you so much to the Academy and everybody out there that supported this film, there were lots of you, we share this award with you. There were so many filmmakers that worked so hard on this and it was a labor of love. It was because we have a firm belief that representation matters deeply, especially in cartoons because in cartoons that’s when we first see our movies and it’s how we shape our lives and think about how we see the world,” Toliver said.
Cherry used his moment to honor Kobe Bryant and to highlight legislation that impacts hair discrimination.
“We wanted to normalize Black hair. There’s a very important issue that’s out there, the CROWN Act, and if we can help to get this passed in all 50 states it will help stories like DeAndre Arnold’s who’s our special guest tonight...This award is dedicated to Kobe Bryant. May we all have a second act as great as his was,” Cherry said.
Toliver is the Executive Vice President of Creative at Sony Pictures Animation. Prior to her new appointment, she spent a decade at Fox Animation, developing projects like Rio and Ice Age. At the time of her appointment Kristine Belson, president of the company said, “Karen is an outstanding and deeply experienced executive with a unique ability to bring out the best in our storytellers,” Deadline reports. This is her second nomination, also receiving one for Best Animated Feature for her work on the 2017 film Ferdinand featuring John Cena.
Photo Courtesy of Vanity Fair