Singer and artist Anohni, the first transgender artist ever to be nominated for an Academy Award, will boycott this year’s ceremony, explaining the reason in a lengthy essay.
The Mercury Award-winning singer, whose song “Manta Ray” from the eco-documentary Racing Extinction earned a Best Original Song nomination this year, was scheduled to perform at the Oscars on Sunday night before the performance was reportedly cut due to time constraints. Fellow Original Song nominees The Weeknd, Sam Smith, and Lady Gaga are still set to perform.
“I am the only transgendered performer ever to have been nominated for an Academy Award, and for that I thank the artists who nominated me,” the singer began in an essay for Pitchfork.
I was in Asia when I found out the news. I rushed home to prepare something, in case the music nominees would be asked to perform. Everyone was calling with excited congratulations. A week later, Sam Smith, Lady Gaga, and the Weeknd were rolled out as the evening’s entertainment with more performers “soon to be announced.” Confused, I sat and waited. Would someone be in touch? But as time bore on I heard nothing. I was besieged with people asking me if I was going to perform.
My anxiety increased as weeks passed. I slowly realized that the positive implication of this nomination was being retracted. The producers seemed to have decided to stage performances only by the singers who were deemed commercially viable. Composer David Lang’s song “Simple Song #3” performed by South Korean soprano Sumi Jo was also omitted.
The singer added that “feelings of embarrassment and anger” kept him from boarding a plane to Los Angeles to attend the Oscars nominee events.
“I imagined how it would feel for me to sit amongst all those Hollywood stars, some of the brave ones approaching me with sad faces and condolences. There I was, feeling a sting of shame that reminded me of America’s earliest affirmations of my inadequacy as a transperson. I turned around at the airport and went back home,” Anohni added.
The singer also accused the awards ceremony of “waving flags for identity politics and fake moral issues,” adding:
But don’t forget that many of these celebrities are the trophies of billionaire corporations whose only intention it is to manipulate you into giving them your consent and the last of your money. They have been paid to do a little tap dance to occupy you while Rome burns. These are the last days of a great American fake-out sponsored by ExxonMobil, Walmart, Amazon, Google, and Philip Morris. America, a country that is no longer contained by physical borders, aspires only for more power and control. I want to maximize my usefulness and advocate for the preservation of biodiversity and the pursuit of human decency within my sphere of influence.
Anohni joins several other stars who have pledged to boycott this year’s Oscars, including actors Will and Jada Pinkett Smith and filmmaker Spike Lee. Calls for a boycott of the Oscars first began after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated exclusively white actors for a second consecutive year.
Read Anohni’s full essay for Pitchfork here.