On Tuesday, the list of nominees for the Oscar awards was released by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, including 35-year-old Negga who was nominated for her starring role in the movie “Loving.”
In “Loving,” Negga plays the role of “Mildred Loving,” a local Black woman who falls in love with “Richard Loving,” a White construction worker and family friend in Caroline County, Virginia. When the two lovers find out Mildred is pregnant, they decide to get married and make their union official, drawing the ire of city officials who frown on interracial unions.
The real-life couple of the same name were arrested in Virginia five weeks after their wedding in 1958 and thrown in jail, because their marriage violated the state’s strict segregation laws.
The movie follows the couple’s love life and legal battles to get their marriage recognized in the state of Virginia. Their case ultimately ends up in the Supreme Court, which unanimously declares that the Virginian law prohibiting interracial marriages is unconstitutional.
Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to an Ethiopian Father and Irish Mother. Her family would later move to the U.K., when she was 4, and Negga grew up in Limerick, Ireland. She studied acting at Trinity College in Dublin and then started her career with minor roles in theater and a number of BBC productions.
She landed a major role in the Oscar-winning movie “12 Years a Slave,” but sadly, her scenes were cut out during final editing.
A Racist Field
Negga is the only Black actress in the running for the 2017 Oscar “Best Actress” Award along with Meryl Streep, Emma Stone, Natalie Portman, and Isabelle Huppert.
Her inclusion is, however, an improvement from last year and 2015, when all 20 acting nominees were Caucasian, spurring the #OscarSoWhite campaign on social media where African Americans and other minority groups criticized the lack of diversity in the Oscars and proposed a boycott of the award ceremony.
In an interview with Indiewire, Negga admits that Hollywood can indeed be unforgiving to non-White artists.
“I’ve gone into auditions and I think they have an assumption about me when they see my photo and then I open my mouth and they say, ‘Where exactly are you from? And you were born in Ethiopia? But you’re Irish, but you also kind of sound English. That’s really strange. They want to put you in a box in L.A. That’s how they tend to do it there, so if you don’t fit in that box, it makes it more difficult,” Negga said.
In addition to the Oscar nomination, Negga’s performance in “Loving” has earned her a Golden Globe Award for “Best Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama,” the Independent Spirit Award for “Best Female Lead,” the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for “Best Actress,” and a BAFTA “Rising Star” Award.