“I see you.” With those three words, Sandra Oh cemented her place in Hollywood history. Oh was already going to make history at the Golden Globes as soon as she opened her mouth — she’s first Asian person to co-host the awards show — but she achieved another first by winning Best Actress in a TV Drama Series and becoming the only Asian woman to win multiple Golden Globes. From the opening monologue, Oh showed that she understood the gravitas of the moment with a refreshing sincerity that self-congratulatory Hollywood ceremonies like these usually lack:
“I said yes to the fear of being on this stage tonight because I wanted to be here to look out onto this audience and witness this moment of change. And I’m not fooling myself. I’m not fooling myself. Next year could be different. It probably will be. But right now, this moment is real. Trust me, it is real. Because I see you. And I see you. All these faces of change. And now, so will everyone else."
As Sandra Oh tearfully pledged that she could “see” the people looking to her for hope, for inspiration and as proof that representation does indeed matter, I thought of the hashtag #FirstTimeISawMe. Through it, people share the stories of the first time they saw themselves represented on television. For many young women of colour, seeing yourself onscreen is so rare, you stop looking for it. You stop trying to find yourself in a sea of whiteness. For some of the “faces of change” Sandra was looking out at, she was the first time they saw themselves, maybe as Dr. Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy or on the Golden Globes stage standing next to Andy Samberg. She is their face of change.
It’s easy to get swept up in the emotion of Oh’s speech but what about those who finally saw themselves in her? And what happens next in an industry that continues to promise diversity and inclusion but never really seems to commit to change? I reached out to Asian-Canadian women in the entertainment industry to find out what watching Oh host the Golden Globes meant to them.
“I didn’t get to watch the whole show, but I did see her speech! I’m not a public crier but when they cut to her parents and she screamed, ‘Oh Dad!’ and she thanked her parents in Korean and bowed to them, I lost it. We almost never see Asians as leading ladies on TV, yet alone winning an award for it. I think I got so emotional because as someone who’s been in front of the camera, I grew up having to imagine what it would be like to see someone like me up there, and it’s such an explosion of emotions when you finally see it and you don’t have to imagine it anymore.” — Sharlene Chiu, Producer, Writer, Host
“I had so much gratitude for Sandra Oh when she spoke about this moment of change. The act of being seen is so simple yet poignant. Even if things change next year, that moment can never go unseen. It's a mark in the sand. That array of diverse talent with proven success gives us a foundation to build on.” — Samantha Wan, Director, Producer, Actress, and Co-Creator of Second Jen
“I always feel a bit bizarre watching awards shows. Sure, I love the fashion and the viral moments, but often times, I don't feel like they cater to me, a Chinese-Canadian woman, as they tend to be white-washed in terms of the actors nominated and the celebrities gracing the main stage. But watching Sandra Oh host last night's Golden Globes made me finally feel included. I felt seen and heard. For the first time, I could relate to the host, not only appearance-wise, but I also understood what she was saying. I mean, there were jokes about Asian moms and getting the Asian flush! When have we ever seen or heard that on the main stage of one of the biggest night's in Hollywood?
A lot of people feared that the hype surrounding Crazy Rich Asians and everything it did for Asian representation might have been a one-time thing, but it's clear that Asians are here to stay in the spotlight. Sandra Oh's historic night is proof of that.” — Madelyn Chung, Writer
“Having an Asian Canadian host the Golden Globes was monumental! I've been a die-hard Sandra Oh fan since Double Happiness! I particularly loved the way in which she incorporated relatable jokes about Asian culture into her monologue and acceptance speech. Asian culture has played two roles in media for as long as I can remember: We have been used as the butt of jokes basically since we started participating in film and television. Our accents are used as comedy. Our lived experienced about tough parents have been mocked and used as punch lines. Our men are seen as not men at all. Our women are seen as a fetish. Racist narratives about our food persist. The other role we've played historically has been as nameless friend of the white protagonist. Oh has never played these roles, as Cristina Yang on Grey's Anatomy or as Eve Polastri in Killing Eve. Sandra Oh defied all of this, and turned all of the stereotypes on their head last night. She made Asian jokes FOR the Asian audience, as opposed to making Asian jokes for white people! BECAUSE SHE SEES US!
The only thing I take issue with is Andy Samberg. It's like they needed to have a safe, boring, white hetero guy to make up for having such a groundbreaking host with Oh, to make the whole thing palatable for the white audience.” — Andrea Hoang, Daytime Television Producer
“I’ve always admired Sandra Oh. I think she’s an extremely talented actress. I enjoyed her being pretty straightforward and prompt at calling out the instances of white-washing recently in Hollywood, like Emma Stone in Aloha and [Scarlett Johansson in] Ghost in the Shell. A lot us in the community have been working hard to stop white-washing. I caution to say that the world is suddenly different and more diverse. I think a lot of people are taking it as a sign that we’re done, we’re post racial, and we don’t need to try anymore. We definitely do still need to work on creating more parity in the industry and more inclusion of stories in front of and behind the camera.” — Amanda Joy, Screenwriter, Producer, Actor, and Co-Creator of Second Jen