The singer and artist Anohni, who is nominated for an original song Oscar for her song “Manta Ray,” has issued a searing statement in which she announced that she will be boycotting the Sunday awards ceremony.
The artist, best known for her work with Antony and the Johnsons, is nominated (with collaborator J. Ralph) alongside artists including the Weeknd, Sam Smith, Lady Gaga and David Lang.
“Last night I tried to force myself to get on the plane to fly to LA for all the nominee events, but the feelings of embarrassment and anger knocked me back, and I couldn’t get on the plane,” she wrote in her statement. “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.”
Describing herself as “the only transgender performer ever to have been nominated for an Academy Award,” Anohni detailed a series of slights that led to her decision. Excited at the news of her nomination when it was announced, she returned from Asia to prepare a performance “in case the music nominees would be asked to perform.”
She continued: “A week later, Sam Smith, Lady Gaga and the Weekend (sic) 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.”
The statement continues, “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.”
So, she said, she decided to skip her flight: “As if to rub salt into the wound, the next morning the Oscars added that I was transgendered to the trivia page of their website.”
In the statement, Anohni clarified her frustrations: “I know that I wasn’t excluded from the performance directly because I am transgendered. I was not invited to perform because I am relatively unknown in the U.S., singing a song about ecocide, and that might not sell advertising space. It is not me that is picking the performers for the night, and I know that I don’t have an automatic right to be asked.
For those reasons and more, she said, she will skip the Oscars on Sunday. “I will not be lulled into submission with a few more well manufactured, feel-good ballads and a bit of good old fashioned T. and A. They are going to try to convince us that they have our best interests at heart by waving flags for identity politics and fake moral issues.”
She concluded with an indictment of the ceremony: “They have been paid to do a little tap dance to occupy you while Rome burns.”
The entire statement is available at the Antony and the Johnsons’ website.
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