For three hours on Sunday night (February 28), the entertainment world took part in one of its time-honored awards-season traditions: enjoying the self-aware celeb fest that is the Golden Globes. This year, though, via a hybrid East Coast-West Coast broadcast that featured a live audience as well as a fleet of Hollywood big-timers calling in via Zoom, the show was less about ego-puncturing jokes and instead more concerned with pointing out the systemic failures of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which has had no Black members in nearly 20 years.
This elephant in the gilded room was brought up multiple times, including by winner Sacha Baron Cohen and co-host Tina Fey during her monologue with fellow show anchor Amy Poehler. It was even acknowledged by HFPA members themselves at a key moment during the show when they vowed to “create an environment where diversity is the norm, not the exception.”
And though things got off to a rocky start when Best Supporting Performance in a Motion Picture, Drama winner Daniel Kaluuya’s mic was initially muted during his acceptance speech — prompting the Judas and the Black Messiah star to exclaim, “You’re doing me dirty!” when finally given the floor — things resumed as much normalcy as they could’ve, given the dystopian breakout rooms actors, writers, and directors were placed in alongside their fellow nominees. That led to some highly meme-able moments: a hoodied Jason Sudeikis rambling on (to Ramy Youssef’s puzzlement), pet cameos courtesy of Sarah Paulson and Emma Corrin, normcore Jeff Daniels. It also lent itself to moments both touching and celebratory, as winners like The United States vs. Billie Holiday‘s Andra Day, Nomadland director Chloé Zhao, and the late Chadwick Boseman reached key milestones in Globes history.
At the end of the night, Day picked up the award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama for her portrayal of jazz legend Holiday, beating out heavyweights like Viola Davis, Frances McDormand, and more. The moment was seismic, with her loved ones around her exploding into cheers and Day herself choking up through a litany of thank yous. “God bless y’all. Thank y’all so much,” she said, marking what was a milestone victory. For her take on Holiday, Day became only the second Black woman to win in that category and the first since Whoopi Goldberg for 1985’s The Color Purple.
Earlier in the night, another actor was honored for his commitment to telling the tale of a Black musician, albeit a fictional one, on the screen. Boseman, who died in August 2020 of colon cancer, won for Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama, making him the first Black actor to ever receive the honor posthumously. His wife, Simone Ledward Boseman, accepted on his behalf in an extremely moving moment that paid tribute to both her late husband’s accomplishments and the work of his coworkers.
“He would say something beautiful, something inspiring, something that would amplify that little voice inside of all of you that tells you you can, that tells you to keep going, that calls you back to what you are meant to be doing at this moment in history,” she said.
One of the night’s other key victories was for Zhao, whose Nomadland is a moving and often desolate portrait of Americans on the fringe. The film took the night’s top honor of Best Motion Picture, Drama, and Zhao herself became the first Asian woman to win Best Director. In that category, she faced two other women — Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman and Regina King for One Night in Miami — for the first time in the awards’ history.
Zhao was also the first woman to clinch the award since Barbra Streisand won for 1983’s Yentl. In her speech, she incorporated words from one of the film’s real-life nomads, Bob Wells, and spoke about what they mean to her career. “This is why I fell in love with making movies and telling stories, ’cause they give us a chance to laugh and cry together,” Zhao said, “and they give us a chance to learn from each other and to have more compassion for each other.”