Oscars: Sam Smith Isn't the First Openly Gay Man to Win
The best original song winner cited an article from Ian McKellen in which the actor claimed, "No openly gay man has ever won the Oscar," but there are several gay winners in non-acting categories.
During his acceptance speech for the best original song Oscar, Sam Smith suggested that he might be the first openly gay man to win an Academy Award.
"I read an article a few months ago by Sir Ian McKellen and he said that no openly gay man had ever won an Oscar, and if this is the case, even if it isn’t the case, I want to dedicate this to the LGBT community all around the world," Smith said. "I stand here tonight as a proud gay man, and I hope we can all stand together as equals one day."
While Smith's win is certainly worth celebrating, he's not the first openly gay Oscar winner. Elton John, Dustin Lance Black, Howard Ashman and Scott Rudin were all openly gay when they accepted their Oscars.
John and Ashman both won best original song Oscars, as have fellow openly gay artists Melissa Etheridge (in 2007 for "I Need To Wake Up" from An Inconvenient Truth) and Stephen Sondheim.
Furthermore, the quote from McKellen that Smith cited seemed to be referring to acting winners. McKellen, an openly gay actor himself, was answering a question about diversity at the Oscars in light of the fact that zero nonwhite actors were nominated for acting awards for the second year in a row.
"As a representative of the industry they're in, it's receiving complaints which I fully sympathize with," McKellen told the U.K.'s Sky News. "It's not only black people who've been disregarded by the film industry. It used to be women. It's certainly gay people to this day."
Speaking to The Guardian, with the publication indicating he was referring to actors, McKellen added: "No openly gay man has ever won the Oscar. I wonder if that is prejudice or chance."
McKellen, who's received two Oscar nominations, said he had speeches prepared in which he said, "I'm proud to be the first openly gay man to win the Oscar. I've had to put it back in my pocket twice."
Indeed, McKellen tweeted in the wake of Smith's comments that he was indeed referring to actors.
Regardless, Smith's win can be added to the tally of openly gay Oscar winners, a list longer than one.
When a reporter backstage informed Smith that he was not the first openly gay winner, he exclaimed, "Shit! F— that!" The singer asked the room who else had won, and a reporter pointed out Howard Ashman, who won in his category. "I should have known that," he conceded.
Black, who won the best original screenplay Oscar in 2009 for Milk, also tweeted to inform Smith of his error.
THE POINT: knowing our LGBTQ history is important. We stand on the shoulders of countless brave men and women who paved the way for us.— Dustin Lance Black (@DLanceBlack) February 29, 2016
Smith apologized for not acknowledging Black's win and to reiterate the message he was trying to get across.
Second openly gay man to win an oscar or third or fourth or 100th, It wasn't my point.— Sam Smith (@samsmithworld) February 29, 2016
My point was to shine some light on the LGBT community who i love so dearly.— Sam Smith (@samsmithworld) February 29, 2016
Apologies for the mix up @DLanceBlack I'll be sure to check out your films now x Belated Congrats on the Oscar x— Sam Smith (@samsmithworld) February 29, 2016
Feb. 29, 9:11 a.m. This story has been updated to include Dustin Lance Black's tweets.
Feb. 29, 2 p.m. This story has been updated to include Sam Smith and Ian McKellen's tweets.