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March is Women’s History Month, an opportunity to celebtrate the vital role that women play in American history. March is also Oscars month, so we’ve compiled 10 inspiring quotes from some of the incredible women who have picked up an Oscar over the decades. Exercising perserverance, equality, and inspiration, they achieved something great which we can emulate in our own professional and personal lives.
1. Julia Roberts, 2001
“I want to thank everyone I ever met. I’m so happy — I love the world!”
When Julia Roberts picked up Oscar gold for her role as Erin Brockovich her speech went down as one of the funniest in Oscar history. “Sir, you’re so quick with that stick so why don’t you sit” she quipped to the conductor to prevent him playing her off the stage. Her thrill at winning, both as small-time lawyer on screen and actress in real life, was compelling. Indeed, Brockovich’s and Roberts’ passion and perseverance teaches us that if you fight hard enough, great things can happen.
2. Lupita Nyong'o, 2014
“It doesn’t escape me for one second that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s.”
Lupita Nyong’o won an Academy Award for best actress in a supporting role for her portrayal of defiant enslaved woman Patsey in 12 Years a Slave. In an emotional acceptance speech, she honored the memory of the real-life Patsey who suffered so much at the hands of her enslavers. Nyong’o’s speech is a powerful reminder that success does not happen in a vacuum and it is important to acknowledge the people and communities who enable you to thrive.
3. Olivia Colman, 2019
“Any little girl who’s practicing her speech on the telly, you never know. I used to work as a cleaner and I loved that job, but I did spend quite a lot of my time imagining this.”
Olivia Colman rose to prominence as a talented comedic actress with roles in hit UK comedies. But when she made the switch to serious drama the accolades began pouring in. Her role as a depressed Queen Anne in The Favourite marked her arrival on the acting world stage and garnered her an Oscar. Colman’s reference to her humble origins as a cleaner is a reminder that our professional destiny is not set in stone, and we can chart our own path to success.
4. Frances McDormand, 2018
“I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: ‘inclusion rider.’”
Frances McDormand picked up her Oscar for best actress for her role in 2018’s tragicomedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. She used her platform to advocate a contract clause actors can demand, to ensure a production’s cast and crew meets a certain level of diversity. She called on all female nominees in every category to support the cause and encouraged Hollywood executives to finance more women-led projects. This is an important lesson that professionals can use their platforms to help create a more inclusive industry, whatever line of work you’re in.
5. Patricia Arquette, 2015
“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
Patricia Arquette won an Oscar in 2015 for her supporting role in Richard Linklater’s groundbreaking epic Boyhood, which was shot over a 12-year period. Her passionate appeal for workplace equality was an inspiring Oscar moment and a reminder that employers can play a key role in building equitable workplaces and rewarding hard work.
6. Viola Davis, 2017
“People ask me all the time: ‘What kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola?’ And I say, exhume those bodies, exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition, people who fell in love and lost. I became an artist because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”
Viola Davis used her Oscar acceptance speech for her performance in 2016’s Fences to acknowledge the unsung heroes of everyday life who lived, loved, and struggled without recognition. It was a poignant reminder that life is not just about winning, it can also be about taking your best shot at success and persevering, even if you fail.
7. Halle Berry, 2002
“This moment is so much bigger than me. It’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.”
In 2002, Halle Berry accepted the best actress award for her moving role in Monster’s Ball. In doing so she became the first Black woman to ever win in this category. In her acceptance speech she acknowledged that she was building a path to success despite being sidelined for many years in smaller roles. Her speech was an inspiring moment for all those who never give up despite the deck being stacked against them. And a reminder that it is possible to build your own career on a foundation of ambition and resilience.
8. Reese Witherspoon, 2006
“I want to thank my grandmother who taught me how to be a real woman, to have strength and self-respect, and to never give those things away.”
When Reese Witherspoon collected her best actress Oscar in 2006 for her role as June Carter in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, she took the opportunity to thank her grandmother for teaching her to be strong and self-reliant. She also thanked her parents for telling her they were proud of her, and how important it is for children to have the love of their parents. It is a reminder of the importance of family connections and of the many ways we can support our family and loved ones, like taking out life insurance.
9. Elizabeth Taylor, 1993
“I call upon you to draw from the depths of your being to prove that we are a human race. And that at the end of each of our lives, we can look back and be proud that we have treated others with the kindness, dignity, and respect that every human being deserves.”
When two-time Oscar winning actress Elizabeth Taylor accepted the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 1993 Academy Awards ceremony, she brought a moving message of compassion and humanity to the Oscar stage. She was one of the first celebrities to speak out on behalf of those suffering from HIV/AIDS. Her words inspire us to be less selfish and to care for the lives of others through generous acts of love.
10. Jessica Chastain, 2022
“In times like this, I think of Tammy and I’m inspired by her radical acts of love. I’m inspired by her passion. I see it as a guiding principle that leads us forward, and it connects us all in the desire that we want to be accepted for who we are, accepted for who we love, and to live a life without the fear of violence or terror.”
Jessica Chastain used her Oscar acceptance speech to champion the LGBTQ+ community and celebrate the life of televangelist Tammy Faye Messner, who she portrayed in 2021’s The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Messner was a complicated figure who supported the LGBTQ+ community during the AIDS pandemic despite the disapproval of her more conservative peers. Chastain’s speech is an inspiring call for inclusivity and a reminder that we can use our own success to help improve the lives of others.
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