Golden Globes 2021: Historic Firsts Despite a Lack of Diversity in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Voting Body

The 78th Golden Globes on Feb. 28 was marred with controversy, with confounding nominations and a lack of diversity among the voting body in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. In the first-ever bi-coastal ceremony, hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler lampooned HFPA’s diversity issues in the opening monologue. “Everybody is understandably upset with the HFPA and their choices. A lot of flashy garbage got nominated, but that happens. That’s like their thing,” Poehler said. “But a number of Black actors and Black-led projects were overlooked.”

“We all know award shows are stupid,” Fey quipped. “But the point is, even with stupid things, inclusivity is important and there are no Black members of the Hollywood Foreign Press … you gotta change that, here’s to changing it.”

Despite the diversity and inclusion controversies (and the inevitable technical glitches stemming from a largely remote ceremony), the 2021 Golden Globes featured a number of historic and notable wins for underrepresented groups.


Chloé Zhao became the first woman of color and Asian woman to win the Golden Globe for best director (the second woman after Barbra Streisand won in 1984 for Yentl). The year’s best director category was also historic in itself, featuring three female directors for the first time in history (along with One Night In Miami’s Regina King and Promising Young Woman’s Emerald Fennell). Zhao’s film, Nomadland, also went on to win the Golden Globe for best motion picture (drama), becoming the first woman-directed film to win the category in its 78-year history.


Jodie Foster won the Golden Globe for best supporting actress in the legal drama, The Mauritanian. Dressed in pajamas, embracing her wife Alexandra Hedison with a kiss and sitting alongside their pet dog Ziggy, it was a stark contrast to the 2013 ceremony, when Foster used her acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award to address gossip about her sexuality.


Daniel Kaluuya won the Golden Globe for best supporting actor for his role as Black activist Fred Hampton in the film Judas and the Black Messiah. Grammy-nominated Andra Day won best leading actress in a motion picture (drama) for her role as Billie Holiday in The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Day becomes only the second Black actress to win the award, 35 years after Whoopi Goldberg won for The Color Purple.


Chadwick Boseman won best leading actor (drama) for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. His wife Taylor Simone Ledward accepted the posthumous award on his behalf, giving a tear-filled and impassioned speech about “[taking] all the moments to celebrate all those we love,” saying “[Boseman] would thank God, he would thank his parents, he would thank his ancestors for their guidance and their sacrifices.”


Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical Minari won the Golden Globe for best foreign-language film, but the film’s categorization was steeped in controversy. Despite the film being centered on an immigrant family in America, set in 1980s rural Arkansas, directed by an American director, filmed in the United States and was financed by American companies, Minari was categorized in the less visible “foreign language film” category because it didn’t meet HFPA’s 50% English language requirement (the characters in the film primarily speak Korean).

“She’s the reason I made this film,” Chung said in his acceptance speech, while his adorable young daughter hugged him and celebrated. “Minari is about a family. It’s a family trying to learn how to speak a language of its own. It goes deeper than any American language and any foreign language; it’s a language of the heart.”


In the television categories, HFPA continued its Anglophilic streak with big wins for Netflix’s The Crown and The Queen’s Gambit. Schitt’s Creek continued its victory lap for its critically acclaimed and LGBTQ-centric final season, which included Catherine O’Hara winning for best leading actress (comedy). The lone POC winner in the television categories was John Boyega, who won best supporting actor for his role in Small Axe, an anthology series by Steve McQueen centered on West Indian immigrants in London from the 1960s to the 1980s.

To see the full list of 2021 Golden Globe winners, click here.


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