Yuh-Jung Youn has made history at the 2021 Oscars.
The Minari star won best supporting actress at the annual awards ceremony on Sunday night and, in doing so, became the first Korean actor or actress to win an Oscar in the show’s 93-year history.
“Usually, when I’m living in the other part of the world, I just watch the television and there is the Oscar,” said the 73-year-old actress in her acceptance speech. “But me, being here, myself. I cannot believe I’m here. OK, let me pull myself together.”
In thanking her Minari “family,” she called director Lee Isaac Chung “my captain,” and joked of her fellow nominees, “I’m luckier than you,” crediting “American hospitality” for her win, to big laughs. She then held up her trophy — which she dedicated to her first director, Kim Ki-young — and spoke of her two sons, who “made me work,” adding, “This is the result. Because mommy works so hard.”
When first taking the stage, Youn shared the proper pronunciation of her name (“Tonight, you are all forgiven,” she noted) and thanked presenter Brad Pitt, whose Plan B produced A24 film Minari. “Mr. Pitt, finally. Nice to meet you. Where were you while we were filming in person?”
He escorted her backstage after her speech, where she told reporters of the actor’s introduction, “I could tell he practiced a lot. He didn’t mispronounce my name. The moment when I got there, I lost what I was supposed to say.” She also said the following when asked about telling diverse stories: “It is very nice to understand each other. We should embrace each other. People [shouldn’t be] categorized — that is not a nice way to divide just like that. If we put color together that makes it prettier. Even a rainbow has seven colors.”
A first-time Academy Award nominee, Youn has dominated this year’s COVID-era awards season, also making history by picking up trophies at the recent SAG Awards and BAFTA Awards. The Hollywood Reporter noted her “unstoppable momentum” in its Oscar predictions.
Minari, a drama about a Korean immigrant family in America, was nominated in six categories heading into Sunday night. Youn, a Korean screen legend, plays a pivotal role in the film as the unconventional grandmother, Soonja, who is visiting her family in Arkansas from Korea.
“I’ve been through much difficulty in my lifetime, so I felt like it was nothing,” the South Korean star recently told THR of her acting journey and Minari‘s awards attention. “I’m just playing somebody else. I became a very daring woman myself.”
Going into the night, Youn noted the groundbreaking potential of her nomination, which was also historic. “In Korea, I’m the first nominee for the Oscars so it’s a very historical moment for us, so we are very excited,” she said on the red carpet to E!’s Giuliana Rancic. “It’s very strange to me, actually.”
She beat out Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm), Olivia Colman (The Father) Amanda Seyfried (Mank) and eight-time nominee Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy).
This year’s telecast aired without a host and adapted to the pandemic-era awards season, as had been promised by producers Steven Soderbergh, Jesse Collins and Stacey Sher. Regina King kicked off the cinematic, live event with an opening title sequence that named the presenters as the night’s starring cast.
The 93rd Oscars aired live Sunday, April 25, on ABC from Union Station and the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.