This Sunday night will be historic for Will Packer Media. It’s the 94th Oscars, produced by none other than Will Packer and Shayla Cowan – the first all-Black producing team in Oscars’ history.
And xoNecole, a WPM brand, will also be in the building for the first time at Hollywood’s famous Dolby Theater and on the red carpet with Content Queen Danielle Young chatting up your fave nominees, presenters and guests.
Danielle caught up with Shayla earlier this week to get the scoop on what we can expect, so we know that for the first time in history there will be three women hosting the Oscars: Regina Hall, Wanda Sykes and Amy Schumer.
We also know that BEYONCÉ is going to shut the stage down, as she always does, with a performance of her Oscar-nominated song from King Richard, “Be Alive.” The Black presenters at the Oscars include Serena and Venus, Ruth E. Carter, Diddy, Tiffany Haddish, H.E.R., Samuel L. Jackson, Daniel Kaluuya, Zoë Kravitz, Lupita Nyong’o, Tracee Ellis Ross, Tyler Perry and more. It’s safe to say that we can expect some heavy Blackness at the 2022 Oscars.
But who will be in the winners’ circle by the end of the night? Black Hollywood is only up for a few awards, with only four Black actors nominated in the acting category, two films nominated in documentary categories, one in costume design, two in make-up and hairstyling and one for the night’s biggest award: Best Picture. Let’s take a look at their chances.
I appeared on the UK's Sky News to offer up some predictions of the night. Watch below:
Best Actor: Will Smith
It’s been twenty years since Will Smith and Denzel Washington faced off in the Best Actor category at the Oscars. In 2002, Denzel took home the statue for Training Day over Will’s Ali performance. This year, it’s Will’s turn. As the titular character in King Richard, Will shines as Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena and the visionary architect of their careers since before they were born. Denzel is fantastic as MacBeth in The Tragedy of MacBeth, but based on how awards season is shaking out, with Will racking up awards at every ceremony from the NAACP Image Awards to the BAFTAs and Critics Choice Awards, it would be a major upset if Will didn’t take home the gold. Here's a clip from his performance which you can watch in full on HBOMax:
Best Actress: No One Black
20 years ago, halle berry won the oscar for 'best actress' becoming the first black woman to win in said category pic.twitter.com/ePEbkTSh9o
— old MTV (@notgwendalupe) March 23, 2022
Also at the 2002 Oscars, Halle Berry made history as the first Black woman to win Best Actress. She tearfully accepted the award and celebrated that “this door tonight has been opened” for Black women. Twenty years later, Halle remains the only Black woman to win the award. Zero Black women were nominated this year, when Jennifer Hudson’s outstanding performance as Aretha Franklin in Respect and Tessa Thompson’s compelling performance in Passing were right there. Of the five white women nominated, my bet is on Jessica Chastain for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, but Kristen Stewart’s transformation into Lady Diana in Spencer should win.
Best Supporting Actress: Ariana DeBose
The always incredible Aunjanue Ellis is up for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Oracene Price, Venus and Serena’s formidable mother, in King Richard. Even with all of her excellence, she still had to fight to be paid fairly for her Oscar-nominated role. I hope this nomination solidifies the respect she’s long-since deserved. But the win is going to Ariana DeBose. The Afro-Latina star of West Side Story sang, danced and acted her way into every major award this season, picking up a BAFTA and a Critics Choice award in the same night just a few weeks ago. Ariana is the brightest part of Steven Spielberg’s remake and she’ll make history by winning the same award Rita Moreno won in the 1961 original West Side Story for the same role of Maria. Here's a clip of Ariana as Maria:
Best Song: Not Beyoncé
The first time I heard Beyoncé’s “Be Alive” as the credits rolled on King Richard, I had chills. The transition from minor to major chords, the lyrics of pride in our Blackness, all over a montage of the real Richard coaching the real Venus and Serena into becoming the greatest athletes of all time, embodied their triumph over every obstacle put in their path. It’s such a moving, beautiful song that was made for us. But while Beyoncé has forever won my heart, the Oscar will probably go to Lin-Manuel Miranda for Encanto’s “Dos Oruguitas,” making him the youngest EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner in history. Listen to "Be Alive" here:
Best Documentary Feature: Summer of Soul
?uestlove, in his directorial debut, Summer of Soul, has been racking up the wins all season for his documentary on the six-week summer concert series in 1969 Harlem remembered as "Black Woodstock". On Oscars night, that trend will likely continue, with The Roots' drummer bringing home his first Oscar.
But iconic director Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry are also up for the award for their heartbreaking documentary Attica, which covers the 1971 uprising in Attica, NY state prison. It draws much needed attention to the consequences of mass incarceration and the broken prison system today. Attica is truly Oscar-worthy as well. You can watch the documentary in full for free on Showtime.
Best Costume Design: Dune
Famous designer Paul Tazewell is up for his first Oscar nomination for West Side Story. His immaculate designs are worthy of the praise beyond this nomination. But based on how the awards season has been shaking out so far, the front-runner going into Oscars night is Dune, though the team from Cruella did take the award at the Critics Choice Awards a few weeks back. Here's a look at Paul's work which you can watch in full on HBOMax:
Best Make-up and Hair-Styling: The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Two Black women are a part of Coming 2 America’s Oscar-nominated hair and make-up team, Stacey Morris and Carla Farmer, along with prosthetics expert Mike Marino. While the hair and make-up, alongside Ruth Carter’s costume designs, were the best part about that film, the Oscars love a biopic and a full-on transformation, so the statue will likely go to the team behind Jessica Chastain’s redemptive transformation into (in)famous televangelist Tammy Faye for The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Here's a look at Stacey and Carla's work, which you can watch in full on Prime Video:
Best Picture: CODA
Will Smith’s King Richard is up for Best Picture but the heartwarming film has only a slight chance of winning. The Producers Guild Awards Best Picture winners have predicted the Oscars Best Picture winners for the past 22 years, and another heartwarming coming of age film about a child of deaf adults CODA just won the PGA. If AppleTV+’s CODA wins it will be quite the upset, as Netflix’s The Power of the Dog has been racking up the win all season. But either way, it’s likely a streamer will take home the Best Picture win.
Will you be tuning in?
How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
I’m willing to bet that this is not the first time you’ve seen this couple. Dalen Spratt is a television producer, owner of a tailored men's suit line, and creator of Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests, which is currently streaming on Destination America. Stacey Spratt is also a serial entrepreneur, focusing mostly on events and the nonprofit world, and she is the owner of two award-winning craft beer bars called Harlem Hops. But their accolades are not what united them.
The couple met years ago at their alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, when they were still working to create the life they have now, and if you had told them then that they’d eventually tie the knot, the pair probably would’ve laughed in your face.
Today, they’re new parents, flourishing in their careers, and each others’ “teammates.” When desiring love, Dalen recommends not looking to other couples for advice. And Stacey advises staying true to what you want. “Don’t put age or limitations on love and children. If God could do it for me, why can’t he do it for you?”
Here's How We Met.
How did you meet?
Dalen: We met in 2005 when she was advising the Greek sororities and fraternities in college. She was old as hell in college, and I was a young buck (laughs). Everybody had a crush on her, but I didn’t think much of it. Then, in 2007, we were in the same grad school class, but she still wasn’t trying to see me then either. I had to catch her five years ago; I was very patient.
Stacey: Yeah, everybody in our grad school class called him Young, Fresh to Death because he was always dressed in B-school (what CAU affectionately refers to as business major classes), and we’d just wear sweatpants (laughs).
So, I know Dalen was always attracted to you. But what about you? Did your attraction to him develop over time?
Stacey: So 2006-2008 – all the years went by. I don’t think we were really thinking about each other at all back then. Years later, I had an event in Dallas, and I booked him to be a speaker. Then, a few years ago, Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: "If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you." But I still thought he was too young at the time, and he started pulling receipts. Taraji P. Henson was dating someone young at the time, Gabrielle Union–
Dalen: First of all, I didn’t do that. You did that.
Stacey: Okay, I did. I thought he was a cutie pie, but that age thing was on my mind!
"Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: 'If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you.'"
Talk to me about the first date. How did he change your mind?
Stacey: Our first date was at Tin Lizzy's in Atlanta. During that time, he was living in Dallas, so it was long-distance. But he came into town, and we just had a good time. We talked a lot, which we still do. It wasn’t anything fantastic.
Dalen: Don’t downplay our first date.
Then, walk me through your courtship. How did you get to the next level? What was that conversation like?
Stacey: I think he knew at age 43 or 44 I wasn’t playing around. But also, I think it just naturally progressed.
Dalen: Yeah, it just happened naturally. And I’m going to be honest, I don’t think initially either one of us thought it would be as serious as it was. She thought I was too young and I wasn’t ready for marriage, kids, and all that. I think we both thought we were just hanging out. But after spending so much time together, a lot of stuff started happening. Like, she had to have surgery early on. It wasn’t just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That’s why we still don’t have an anniversary date because we never really asked.
"It wasn't just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That's why we still don't have an anniversary date because we never really asked."
What made you want to commit to each other?
Dalen: The moment I knew Stacey was for me was from a phone call. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and I can be really blunt sometimes. But we were talking, and I said, ‘I don’t really feel like talking anymore.’ And she was just like, okay, and hung up. I wasn’t trying to be rude, and she understood that. It sounds bad, but that’s how I knew she just got me. I felt like she could get my random awkward moments, and she does to this day.
Stacey: For me, I liked him as a person. Even when times get rough and tough, I could still like him as a human. He is my best friend. We have time. We laugh until we cry, and it’s just always like that. Even when we get pissed at each other, something happens, and we fix it. Also, how he treats his mother. That’s a momma’s boy, but I’m a daddy’s girl – so I get it. I know how I want to be treated, and I see how he is with her and that’s beautiful.
What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourself through loving your partner in this relationship?
Dalen: I grew up an only child and she grew up with siblings. So, when you have someone who is used to doing things by themselves, there is definitely a learning curve when you get into a serious relationship. It’s funny now, but it was definitely a process.
Stacey: I agree – definitely the only child thing. There’s times I look at him like, did you ever live with anyone else? That comes from being momma's baby, too. I have to say, my “mother-in-love” spoiled him. But also with Axel (their daughter), that brings another level of patience.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images
What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome together?
Dalen: We’ve gone through a lot within the years we’ve been together. We suffered two miscarriages – I’d say that’s the biggest.
Stacey: Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me. I was wondering if I can’t carry [a child] what that looks like for us. We had very real conversations pretty early in our relationship.
"Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me."
What do you fight the most about?
Dalen: Nagging. Stacey nags; she’s a complainer. She’s that momma that will look in a room and just hunt for something to complain about. Like, I’m worried for Axel when she's in high school.
Stacey: It’s because I like things to be in place. He leaves stuff all over the place. I can tell where he’s been in the house because something is left around. So he says I’m nagging – but it’s like, just get your stuff.
What are your love languages?
Dalen: Stacey is gifts all day.
Dalen: We’ve talked about this. xoNecole is about to cause problems in our home (laughs).
Stacey: Obviously I love you. *thinks again* It’s words of affirmation.
Dalen: That’s it.
What’s your favorite thing about each other?
Dalen: I’ve always respected her business-mindedness. That may sound superficial, but it’s not because I’ve never been with someone who thinks like me. It’s one of my most treasured things about her. I remember one day, I was just running through ideas with her, and each time Stacey had a suggestion on how I could make it better. It’s just very comforting. She takes whatever I’m doing and elevates it – including me.
Stacey: I love Dalen’s hustle and creativity. He’s been on multiple shows, and he continues to create, produce, and reinvent himself and the product he’s putting out. I love that we can create together and bounce things off each other. Even though we may be in different arenas, there’s nothing he can’t offer me great advice about. I love that drive.
Finally, how did you know it was love?
Dalen: Well – she said it – first. (laughs)
Stacey: And he looked at me and smiled! He didn’t say it back. We were on a trip, out of the country.
Dalen: We were arguing when she said it, and she just threw it out.
Stacey: But we continue to do that. We’ve spent holidays and everything outside of the country.
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Black women’s natural hair is constantly a topic of conversation. Whether it’s in the workplace, on the red carpet, or in everyday life, how Black women choose to style their hair will always be a topic. This constant bombardment of opinions, both inside and outside of the Black community, about the way Black women’s hair is presented to the rest of the world can be a lot to manage and process at times.
Though we sang along with India.Arie, as she serenaded us with her classic “I Am Not My Hair,” Black women’s hair is indeed a statement of who they choose to be when they show up in the world each day. Valencia Carillo of Perfect Hair says, “We like to say we aren't our hair, but we also are. It changes how we feel and how we view ourselves.”
“I wear protective styles because it's not only convenient to manage, but I love it," shares Bobbie Riley, celebrity hair and makeup artist. As a Black woman who is constantly on various sets throughout Los Angeles, I’m always aware of my hair and the lack of knowledge some have about it. I want to feel confident when doing shoots, but know there’s always a chance that the HMU on set won’t be prepared to style me accordingly. This is why I choose protective styles so frequently when shooting. However, when I’m not booked, I enjoy having my natural hair free.
Today, more Black women are embracing their natural hair and protective styles while pushing boundaries they wouldn’t have been able to less than a decade ago. Abena Afrane, a licensed celebrity cosmetologist, says, “There's a noticeable shift, even among news anchors, who now confidently wear hairstyles like braids on TV.” Yet, even with this shift, a new conversation is emerging about Black women and protective styles.
Though we see many Black women wearing their natural hair publicly, there is also a new lingering question, “Is Black women’s ‘reliance’ on protective styles simply another way we’ve found to hide a piece of ourselves in order to be deemed more presentable?”
WHY WE DO NOT LIKE OUR OWN HAIRwww.youtube.com
The truth of it all lies somewhere much deeper than that.
The History of Hair Discrimination
To fully understand where the stigma and desire to assimilate comes from, we have to venture to the origin of hair discrimination in America. Black women’s hair has been used as a weapon against them since the inception of this country. The coils of our hair are one of the most prominent features that distinguishes Black people from other races, and because of this, it’s been used to make us feel inferior.
One example of this would be the origins of the term “nappy.” It’s believed that the origin of the term comes from the word nap, which described the frizzled thread that came apart from a piece of fabric. The term “nappy” was used to describe African slaves’ hair to demean and dehumanize them.
Likewise, because of the intricate braiding styles and designs our ancestors brought to America from the continent, Black women were often forced to hide their hair. This was used as a tool to shame Black women, create a racial hierarchy, and hide our culture.
An example of this was the Tignon Laws of 1786. When the Spanish took control of Louisiana, there was a population of free Black people living in the state. To display a cultural hierarchy, the governor mandated that free Black women wear tignon, head scarves historically worn by slaves, as a means to display their inferiority to white women.
Cabinet Card of Sarah Ann Blunt Crozley wearing a tignon in the 1800s.
Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images
Though they complied, they began to use them not only as a fashion statement, making them out of colorful and expensive fabrics and adding feathers and jewels to them, but also as a means of rebellion against their colonial ruling powers.
As time went on, Black women began to attempt to assimilate into white culture by straightening their hair. The famous Madame C.J. Walker made her fortune helping Black women manage and permanently straighten their hair. Though Walker’s business thrived and enabled other Black women to build wealth, today, many Black women are moving away from relaxers and consistently straightening their hair.
Black women are now embracing their natural hair with each passing year, but this emergence of unapologetic Blackness is often met with pushback.
Where Do Protective Styles Come From?
Protective styles are not a new phenomenon within the Black community or our African ancestry. The texture of most Black women’s hair easily gets tangled and knotted and can succumb to breakage if not well cared for properly. This reality has led centuries of Black women to find ways to protect and maintain their crowns. There are Stone Age paintings dating back to 3000 BC of North African women wearing braids in their hair.
What we call cornrows – named by enslaved Africans in the American South because they looked like rows of corn – are also known as irun didi by Yoruba people. The intricate nature of this style was not only practical but easier to maintain for an extended amount of time.
Similarly, Fulani braids – named after the Fulani people of West Africa – were used as a symbol of a woman’s marital status, career, or socio-economic class in pre-slave trade Africa. Likewise, Bantu knots – named after the Bantu group of the Zulu people – were used as a heatless curling technique for Black women centuries before it gained popularity in mainstream America.
Delmaine Donson/Getty Images
As chronicled in Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America by Ayana D. Byrd and Lori L. Tharps, the everchanging and cyclical relationship Black people have with their hair is often a reflection of their desire for freedom or connection to their ancestral roots. Growing up in the 90s, braids, twists, ponytails, wigs, etc. were commonplace in my and my mother’s friend groups.
Black women looking for ways to manage and care for their hair isn’t a new concept, but protective styles transition into the mainstream arena has created new conversations centered around whether Black women are using it as a mechanism to hide their natural hair.
Instead of acknowledging that Black women are becoming more comfortable with embracing themselves and their heritage, their choice of hairstyle is yet another sector where individuals have been allowed to over-police and analyze them.
Hair Discrimination Today
Global Head of DEI for Ferguson Partners Dionna Johnson Sallis admits she has experienced and witnessed hair discrimination towards Black women multiple times during her 13-year tenure in corporate America. She says, “wearing straight wigs or getting sew-ins that mirror the Eurocentric form of beauty can be a form of fitting in.” Sallis continues, “But I think many of us lean toward the more Afrocentric forms of a protective styling such as braids, twists, faux locs, and things that are more textured.”
I agree with Sallis and often use protective styles that still fully display my “Blackness,” because my goal is never to make any believe I’m ashamed of my culture or ancestry. However, there was a time when wearing my natural hair to work, whether it be in front of or behind the camera, was seen as unkempt or unprofessional.
I was told to make sure my hair was “neat” when I came into the office or was a prominent topic of discussion whenever I wore my fro out.
Luckily, I have always had older Black women around to remind my white coworkers not to touch my hair or make a big deal out of a new style I had. Nonetheless, these constant microaggressions can weigh on a person while begging the question: “Should I just cover my natural hair so they’ll shut up already?”
Sallis believes experiences like the ones I describe are less prominent today; “Because of the CROWN Act, it is made it more difficult to be discriminated against because there is a very blatant law in place to prevent this discrimination and microaggressions compared to 10 or 15 years ago.”
Strides like these have come as a result of Black women mobilizing to pursue true equity for themselves and future generations. Afrane adds, “I've observed a significant change where we're boldly advocating for equality and inclusivity in professional spaces. It's inspiring to witness us standing up and speaking out for ourselves.”
Black Women’s Rights to Their Individuality
Depending on what your daily life looks like, protective styles can be an easy way to manage and maintain your natural hair in a healthy manner. Carillo has been doing my protective styles for years, and we often talk about our busy lives managing businesses, being mothers, and still wanting to feel like ourselves. Like many Black women, we use our hair as a form of expression and style. Carillo says, “At the end of it all, I think most Black women choose what we want and what makes us feel good.” Afrane agrees, “It feels like we're collectively embracing hairstyles that bring us joy and align with our lifestyles.”
Though there will always be podcast conversations on whether or not natural hair is appropriate for formal events and people trying to create a divide between Black women who mainly wear weave and wigs versus the ones who wear their afro regularly, the one consensus I found among the women I interviewed is there is some level of awareness, whether positive or negative, Black women experience in relationship to their hair and how others perceive them.
Delmaine Donson/Getty Images
Riley shared a recent experience on set with one of her clients where the brand wanted a fiber fill to give her client a more “hair-like look.” Riley and her client both agreed it wasn’t the direction they wanted to go and continued with their original aesthetic for the shoot. “I loved her facial structure and her hair how it was, and I wanted her to feel just as beautiful embracing it,” Riley says.
Carillo adds, “Insecurities are real, and while we love to do what we need to for us, I'd be lying to say some women don't consider what others think.”
As we all know, existing in the intersectionality of Black womanhood comes with a slew of challenges, disparities, and dangers. However, just as the women of Louisiana in 1786 used their tignons as a form of expression, creativity, and rebellion, Black women today embrace our crowns the same way. One of the greatest joys many of us experience as Black women are switching up our hairstyles to match our mood, occasion, or season.
We find liberation in changing our styles to express who we are in the current moment we’re existing in. Though there are some who may use protective styles as a means to assimilate into Eurocentric culture, far more of us change our hairstyles to match our vibe. Afrane says, “The joy lies in the freedom to explore various looks, and it feels like we're collectively embracing hairstyles that bring us joy.”
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