The 2021 Grammy Awards were a historic night for Black women. On Sunday, March 14, Mickey Guyton was the first Black female country singer to perform on the Grammys while Megan Thee Stallion won Best New Artist — and was the first female rapper to do so since Lauryn Hill took home the award in 1999 for her album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Beyoncé led the night with nine nominations (the most of any artist in 2021), taking home four Grammy wins: Best Video For “Brown Skin Girl,” — which also earned her 9-year-old daughter Blue Ivy, who has a writing credit, a statue — Best Rap Performance and Best Rap song for “Savage” with Megan Thee Stallion but it was Best R&B Performance for “Black Parade,” that earned the singer her 28th Grammy win.
Just minutes before Beyoncé won her 27th Grammy, she was tied with Bluegrass singer Alison Krauss’ previous record. “This is so overwhelming,” Beyoncé said in her acceptance speech after a standing ovation. “I’ve been working my whole life, since I was 9 years old. I can’t believe this happened. This is such a magical night, thank you so much.” “Blue, congratulations! She won a Grammy tonight,” added Beyoncé. “I’m so proud of you, and I’m so honored to be your mommy.” She is now tied with Quincy Jones as the living person with the most Grammys.
And the momentum keeps building, specifically for Black women artists. On Monday, the Academy Awards announced its 2021 Oscar nominations. For the first time ever, Black women were nominated for hair and makeup styling: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom hair department head Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson, Viola Davis’ hair stylist. “The recognition of my art and talent by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is bigger than me,” Wilson told Variety. “It is for every young hairstylist who dreams beyond the salon chair to work on a motion picture set. It is for the young child who tells their parents they want to be a hairstylist to receive a response of ‘That’s not a real career.’ The nomination is validation that hair styling is an art form, a craft and a skill. It also shows every Black woman or man doing hair that we can achieve, and importantly that our talent and skill is equal and exceptional.”
Viola Davis, Best Actress nominee for Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, just made Oscar history with her 4th nomination. Davis is now the most-nominated Black actress ever, and the only Black woman with two Best Actress nominations. Andra Day is also nominated for Best Actress for her role in Hulu’s The United States vs. Billie Holiday. It’s the first time in 48 years that two Black women have been nominated in the Best Actress category since Diana Ross and Cicely Tyson were both nominated in 1973. Tyson was nominated for her role in Sounder, while Ross was nominated for playing Billie Holiday in Lady Sings The Blues. Liza Minnelli won for Cabaret.
It’s worth noting both Davis and Day are nominated for roles portraying Black women who fought for their legacies. Ma Rainey and Billie Holiday were glamorous but they weren’t considered docile or submissive (and wouldn’t water themselves down) to the white gaze. Before the Oscar nominations on Monday, Davis was tied with actress Octavia Spencer as the most Oscar-nominated Black actress in history. Spencer was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her roles in The Help, Hidden Figures, and The Shape of Water. Spencer took home the Oscar for The Help.
“For me, it’s a reflection of the lack of opportunities and access to opportunities people of color have had in this business. If me, going back to the Oscars four times in 2021, makes me the most nominated Black actress in history, that’s a testament to the sheer lack of material there has been out there for artists of color,” Davis told Variety in February. “There are a lot of white actresses out there, who are fairly young — in their 20s or 30s, who have been to the Academy Awards just as many times as me or more than me,” Davis continued. “It is a reflection of their talent — but it’s also a reflection of their opportunities. That’s what it is. It’s a reflection of how they had the chance — those three, four or five roles that were so good that brought them to that place. [Being a Black actress] is like having a fabulous body, but not having the right clothes to show it off.”
The 2021 Academy Awards will take place Sunday, April 25.