Oscar Rewind: 8 Black Actresses & The Roles That Deserved an Oscar

February 23, 2012  |  
4 of 8

The Academy Awards are on Sunday! With Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer getting a lot of love for their work in The Help, we hope that it will be an easy win from them on the big day (but you know how the Academy can play folks). While we’re happy for their accolades, we’d also like to acknowledge a few other actresses whose roles should have garnered a lot more love from the allegedly majority white, male, old guys in the Academy. Just on a side note, some of these ladies weren’t even nominated, but their performances deserved some recognition in our eyes. These are just a few of our favorite picks, but feel free to share your own faves in the comments.

Source: neebeep.com

Whoopi Goldberg as Celie in The Color Purple

Lost to: Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful

Not to stereotype, but I’m pretty sure most black folks have seen The Color Purple. While we can all attest to the fact that Steven Spielberg’s attempt to bring Alice Walker’s book to life was masterful, it got no love from the Academy, folks. It did rack up 11 nominations, but wound up being the “India Arie” (as Common would say) of the ’85 ceremonies, going home empty handed. While Oprah did transform big time in front of our eyes, presenting herself in a way we hadn’t seen before, I felt as though Whoopi gave a consistent and courageous performance as Celie. She went from a meek, abused an unloved wife, to an outspoken, pants wearing free woman. Whoopi would go on later to win an Academy Award for her work in the film Ghost, so I’m sure she’s not too pissed about this robbery.

Source: guardian.co.uk

Gabourey Sidibe as Claireece “Precious” Jones in Precious

Lost to: Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side

As much as this film made me want to curl up in the fetal position and cry at the idea of such a wave of hardships occurring to one person (one young woman at that), I think Precious was definitely a film everyone needed to see. And you can thank a lot of its success and awesome-ness to Sidibe. We were happy when she was happy, we were downtrodden and miserable when she was, and we were ready to strike a mofo when she was. A newbie on the acting scene, you wouldn’t have believed Sidibe just started acting when watching Precious. Mo’Nique did win for her turn as crazy a** mother Mary Lee Johnston, and screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher won for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2009, but no gold (or whatever metal that is) for Sidibe. She will have to just be happy with the fact that for her first real time on film, she ended up going for an award versus Meryl Streep of all people!

Source: imdb.com

Regina King as Margie Hendricks in Ray

Lost to: Wasn’t even nominated…smh

Uh, can I ask where Regina King’s nomination for Best Supporting Actress went to? Her turn as Margie Hendricks, Ray Charles’ background singing, drug addicted, and love obsessed mistress was almost as magnifying as Jamie Foxx playing Ray, himself. Foxx won Oscar gold for Best Actor, and the film received an Oscar for sound mixing…but that was it. I loved every minute of King’s performance (the good, the bad and the ugly) and wished she would have been recognized. A truly underrated actress.

Source: blackthespian.com

Kim Wayans as Audrey in Pariah

Lost to: Wasn’t even nominated…smh

Sure, actress Adepero Oduye was pretty amazing as protagonist Alike, but Keenan’s little sister was killing the game as the stuck in denial mother, Audrey. In an attempt to help her daughter move out of a “stage” that included hanging with people she found suspect, Wayans was at times nurturing but also pretty brutal as Audrey. Her character did this while at the same time, attempting to make sense of her up-in-the-air marriage and putting on a front for the community. I was truly captivated by Wayans’ performance, and was pretty disappointed to see that the film in general and all its players were ignored by the Academy for this year’s awards.

Source: ew.com

Angela Bassett as Anna Mae Bullock/Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With?

Lost to: Holly Hunter in The Piano

C’mon, ’93 was supposed to be Angela’s year! And it still was, but she still should have picked up best actress for her role in What’s Love Got to Do With It?  This was another film I’m pretty sure black folks know every line to–must I do the “Eat the cake” scene for you? Angela mastered the dance moves, the mannerisms of Tina, and also the damn legs and arms of that woman! She was absolutely amazing in this role and should have walked away with a little golden man in her hand. However, I’m hoping Bassett will get her just dues soon, because she’s too incredible to keep getting ignored like this.

Source: availableimages.com

Thandie Newton as Christine in Crash

Lost to: Wasn’t even nominated…smh

Sure, no one was on-screen in this film for enough time for you to fully praise their performances, but if Matt Dillon could garner a nomination for his turn as a shady and racist cop in Crash, so could our sista-girl. Newton shined oh-so bright in her turn as the wife of a TV director whose world is turned upside down after being assaulted by a police officer. Her flip from pure rage at her husband (played by Terence Howard) for not doing enough to help her and her sadness and paranoia about the whole situation provided some truly captivating scenes to watch. Another very underrated lady, so I wasn’t THAT surprised when her performance was overlooked.

Source: articles.philly.com

Kimberly Elise as Crystal Wallace/Lady in Brown in For Colored Girls

Lost to: Wasn’t even nominated…smh

Talk about a chick going through some heavy stuff. Crystal’s story damn near rivaled Precious’ for most sorrowful. And I believed her pain, which is definitely the sign of a pretty powerful actress. I’ve always been a fan of Elise’s work, but I felt this was possibly her deepest role in a while, and in a huge ensemble cast who gave pretty stirring performances, it’s very telling when you can stand out like she did. Nobody can turn up her face and do pain like Ms. Elise, ya’ll!

Source: today.msnbc.msn.com


Taraji P. Henson as Shug in Hustle & Flow

Lost to: Wasn’t even nominated…smh

Truth be told, Henson isn’t as underrated as she thinks she is. She’s been recognized for her work and applauded more than most black actresses of this time, and even garnered an Academy Award nomination for her work as Queenie in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. However, I really loved the Howard University grad as Shug in the movie about a pimp and his dream–to be a rapper (yikes!). Pregnant with…well, somebody’s baby, Shug was very friendly, an all around sweet woman and at times, heartbreaking. The fact that she cared so much for DJay, her pimp, and also the fact that she was pretty much stuck in a less than ideal situation with her baby (and her pimp) just made her so much more beguiling. No nomination for this work, but if the Academy needed a sixth nominee in 2006, she should have been an easy pick.

Whose performance would you add to the list?

More on Madame Noire!

Trending on MadameNoire

View Comments
Comment Disclaimer: Comments that contain profane or derogatory language, video links or exceed 200 words will require approval by a moderator before appearing in the comment section. XOXO-MN
  • Pingback: animated emoticons()

  • laj_111

    I believe Diana Ross playing Billie Holiday should have won an Oscar. Her performance was outstanding in each role as a i.e. young girl, singer, heroin addict, woman in love etc. The movie displayed i.e. black discrimination in the entertainment industry, her moms struggle as a maid not having the luxury of raising her daughter, the introduction of drugs to entertainers to maintain the rigid schedule of a performaner, the unforgiving attitude of the industry at that time if you were convicted of a felony as a entertainer, the love and support by her lover etc.   

  • Funny how none of these women started out as nothing but broken. Why would the Academy award such stereotypical negativity? Of course it helps if she sleeps with a white man. Just ask Halle.

  • J720

    Whoopi Goldberg without a doubt this was her
    debut and she nailed the part. Whoopi deserved to have won an Oscar.
    Twenty-seven years later The Color Purple is still as powerful as it was when it
    first hit the big screen.

  • J720

    I agree she should have been nominated, hell she should have won an Oscar. Regina King is an excellent actress. I just love her work.

  • P

    When The Color Purple was passed over for the English Patient I was undone.  The English Patient was a good movie but didn’t hold a candle to the performances of Whoppie, Oprah, Danny and the rest of the cast of The Color Purple.  

  • Pingback: 8 black actresses and roles that should have won Oscar()

  • I’m gonna go a little old school with some of these:
    Louise Beavers in “Imitation of Life”
    Cicely Tyson in “Sounder”
    Dorothy Dandridge in “Carmen Jones”
    Angela Bassett in “Waiting to Exhale” & “Malcolm X”
    Jada Pinkett in “Bamboozled”
    Viola Davis in “Doubt”
    Alfre Woodard in “Holiday Heart”
    Diahann Carroll in “Claudine”
    Ruby Dee in “A Raisin In The Sun”
    Sanaa Lathan in “Love & Basketball”
    and Anika Noni Rose should have gotten something for “The Princess and The Frog”
        I agree with most of the people here, with the exception of Thandie Newton.  I’ve never been all that crazy about her acting skills.  She’s either too intense or too mellow. 

  • I’m gonna go a little old school with some of these:
    Louise Beavers in “Imitation of Life”
    Cicely Tyson in “Sounder”
    Dorothy Dandridge in “Carmen Jones”
    Angela Bassett in “Waiting to Exhale” & “Malcolm X”
    Jada Pinkett in “Bamboozled”
    Viola Davis in “Doubt”
    Alfre Woodard in “Holiday Heart”
    Diahann Carroll in “Claudine”
    Ruby Dee in “A Raisin In The Sun”
    Sanaa Lathan in “Love & Basketball”
    and Anika Noni Rose should have gotten something for “The Princess and The Frog”
        I agree with most of the people here, with the exception of Thandie Newton.  I’ve never been all that crazy about her acting skills.  She’s either too intense or too mellow. 

  • Orleanas

    Thandie Newton is not an effective actress. I find her bland and one note, really, so I don’t think she was robbed by not getting nominated for Crash. That movie does not hold up well, actually.

  • prissa

    She PLAYED that role honey!!!

  • cake211

    I’ve ALWAYS felt that Regina King got shafted! She was PHENOMENAL, some of the best acting ever. 
    Also, I find it so hard to believe that Angela Bassett has STILL not won an Oscar. She is one of the best actresses ever IMO. Yall were on point with this. 

  • What got me was that the song from Hustle & Flow got a Grammy, but Henson didn’t. Talk about slap in the face.

  • LoveObama

    Lynn Whitfield or Jurnee Smollet for the movie Eve’s Bayou. 
    Great movie!!!



  • Pingback: Essence Under Fire for Evelyn Lozada Wedding Shoot | WEDDING PORTAL()

  • Pingback: Love in Black: Beautiful Wedding Photos | WEDDING PORTAL()

  • Coco

    Halle Berry, Losing Isiah

    • cake211

      YES!!!!! I think it’s a SHAME that her role in that film is rarely ever mentioned!! I never believed she could act until I saw Losing Isaiah (and Queenie). I think she gets shafted because she is a beautiful woman, and that seems to be the only reason she is ever recognized in the film industry. She is more than just a beautiful woman, but I guess Hollywood only wants vixens and mammies.

  • NikkitaMichelle

    I think the only reason Whoopi got an Oscar for Ghost is because they looked her over for the Color Purple. She was wonderful in the picture and pretty unknown back then.

  • Awycoff

    The performances awarded are typically mammies, maids and prostitutes.  Multi-dimensional characters with depth, intelligence, strength are completely ignored.  All of the women in For Colored Girls were phenomenal.

  • Mailbox88

    Oprah was actually the better actress to me in Color Purple. Thandie is NOT a great actress to me. Sandra Bullock should’ve won for being a racist b*ch in Crash instead of Blind Side. Blind Side was just a little too cheesy of a movie for me and her blond hair didn’t work for me either. 

  • mello

    Lisa Raye as Diamond in Player’s Club..lol..j/p

  • li

    If Viola Davis winner this year, the Academy us assuaging their gully of robbing her for Doubt.

    It is sad that black women can only win for playing doormats/props/the help (Goldberg, though making up for The Color Purple), the help (likely Davis, McDaniel), whores (Berry), and terribly cruel (Mo’Nique).

  • IllyPhilly

    Sorry, but Kimberly Elise plays the same damn character over and over from Set It Off to For Colored Girls. A damn victim.

  • 10333rd

    The whole Color Purple thing is still a shock.  Even so, I read just this year in a news piece that the majority of Academy voters are white men.  I think that has a lot to do with it.  (I am a white man, by the way).  I also think it has a lot to do with why Brokeback Mountain was denied Best Picture in 2005 after winning every single other major award (Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA, etc.).  The only award it did NOT receive was the Oscar.  A fluke?  I don’t think so.  Hollywood, at least behind the scenes, is no nearly as open-minded and progressive as we’d like to think.  It’s sad.  I also believe Viola Davis and Angela Bassett were totally robbed.  Just saying.  

  • Samantha

    Denzel in John Q

  • Darling

     I agree! Too bad they weren’t playing maids.    Diana Ross in Mahogany is missing.

  • Indya Jackson

    What about Viola Davis in Doubt? Anybody????

    • Goddess8281

      Yes, Doubt was excellent.

  • Hello,  Diana Ross and Cicely Tyson !!

    • NikkitaMichelle

      Diana Ross in Lady Sings the Blues.

  • Squeezablechic

    Angela Bassett also in Waiting to Exhale. She’s a phenomenal actress.

  • Janee

    I agree with this post so much!! It throws me back every time I think about the fact Angela Bassett still does not have an Oscar! The fact that The Color Purple got that many noms and walked away with nothing still makes me mad! That’s like a huge slap in the face. Also, For Colored Girls and Precious were brilliant! It’s a shame Precious didn’t win and an even bigger shame that NO ONE in For Colored Girls was even nominated for an Oscar. Rude!