Chloé Zhao Makes History as the First Woman of Color to Win a Best Director Oscar

She's only the second woman to take home the award.

Chloé Zhao's award-winning streak reached its peak at the Academy Awards tonight.

The Nomadland filmmaker won the Oscar for Best Director, making history as the first woman of color and the second woman ever to claim the title. Catherine Bigelow previously took home the trophy for The Hurt Locker in 2010. Zhao, who was born in China, is also the first woman to receive four Academy Awards nominations in the same year: Best Picture, Editing, and Best Adapted Screenplay are her other three.

In her acceptance speech, Zhao quoted a classic Chinese text that she and her father used to recite when she was young. It translates to, "People at birth are inherently good." Zhao explained that the quote "had such a great impact on me when I was a kid. And I still truly believe that today, even though sometimes it might seem like the opposite is true. But I have always found goodness in the people I've met everywhere I went in the world."

She continued, "So this is for anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold onto the goodness in themselves and to hold onto the goodness in each other, no matter how difficult it is to do that. This is for you. You inspire me to keep going. Thank you."

93rd annual academy awards
Zhao on the Oscars red carpet.
HandoutGetty Images

This marked the first time two women were nominated for Best Director, with Zhao and Emerald Fennell, who helmed Promising Young Woman, in the running. Before them, only five women had ever been nominated in the category in Oscars history: Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties, 1976), Jane Campion (The Piano, 1993), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, 2003), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, 2009), and Gerwig (Lady Bird, 2017).

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