Chloé Zhao Becomes Second Woman, First Woman of Color to Win Best Director Oscar

“This is for anyone who has the faith and courage to hold onto the goodness in themselves."

Chloé Zhao just made history as the first woman of color and second woman ever to win Best Director at the 2021 Oscars. (Kathryn Bigelow was the first to win in 2010.) Zao won the award for her work on Nomadland, which is also nominated in the Best Film Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture categories. She was also the first woman to get four nominations in a single year—so she was already making history before the night even started.

Zhao accepted her historic award with an inspiring and profound speech, reflecting on how she persevered to get to where she is today. “I’ve been thinking a lot lately of how I keep going when things get hard, and I think it goes back to something I learned when I was a kid,” she said. Zhao recalled times when she and her dad would memorize classic Chinese poems, sharing a line from one that translated to “People at birth are inherently good.”

“Those six letters had such a big impact on me when I was a kid, and I still truly believe them today,” she said, referencing the Chinese translation. “Even though sometimes it might seem like the opposite is true, but I have always found goodness in the people I’ve met, everywhere I went in the world.”

Zhao held up her award and concluded the speech by saying, “This is for anyone who has the faith and courage to hold on to the goodness in themselves and to hold on to the goodness in each other, no matter how difficult it is to do that.”

Sandra Oh, who made major history with her Golden Globes wins in 2019, had a positive response to Zhao’s speech and win. “Congratulations Chloé Zhao for Best Director! @nomadland,” she wrote via Twitter. “Yes may we have faith in the goodness in ourselves and others.”

You can also watch Zhao open up about her experience working on Nomadland in the clip exclusively shared with HelloGiggles below.

“The way I can make it authentic is that you let these characters guide your casting choices and your location choices. You let their authentic human experience and them as individuals to guide it,” she explained in the clip.  

We wish Zhao the best of luck with her additional nominations throughout the night.

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