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Da’Vine Joy Randolph Breaks Down in Tears During Emotional Oscars Acceptance Speech: ‘Thank You for Seeing Me’

Da’Vine Joy Randolph won the first Oscar of her career for “The Holdovers,” a 1970s-set dramedy about a trio that’s stuck at a New England prep school over the holidays.

She took home the trophy for best supporting actress on her first nomination. But in her acceptance speech, she revealed that she didn’t always see herself becoming an actor. That is, until her mother encouraged her to seek out the local theater department.

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“I didn’t think I was supposed to be doing this as a career,” Randolph said from the mic. “I thank my mother for doing that. I thank all the people who have been there for me, ushered me and guided me.”

She tearfully reflected on her path in Hollywood before landing on the biggest stage in show business. “I always wanted to be different, but now I realize that I just need to be myself,” she said. “Thank you for seeing me.”

Randolph, who was escorted up the steps by her co-star Paul Giamatti, also spoke emotionally about a particularly impactful teacher from earlier in her career.

“When I was the only Black girl in class, you saw me and told me I was enough,” she said, referring to her former acting coach. “When I told you, ‘I don’t see myself,’ you said, ‘That’s fine. We’re going to forge our own path.'”

Before exiting the stage, Randolph threw praise to her team for helping her navigate the inevitable stresses that came with the glitz and glam of awards season.

“I have to give a special shoutout to my publicist. I know you said, ‘Don’t say anything about your publicist!’ — but you don’t have a publicist like mine,” she said, prompting laughter from the crowd. “I’m forever grateful.”

Randolph’s portrayal of a boarding school cafeteria manager grieving the loss of her son has been widely celebrated on the awards circuit. The 37-year-old had already been lauded at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs. In the Oscar race, Randolph was nominated against Emily Blunt in “Oppenheimer,” Danielle Brooks in “The Color Purple,” America Ferrera in “Barbie” and Jodie Foster in “Nyad.”

Alexander Payne directed “The Holdovers,” which also received nominations for best picture, actor (Paul Giamatti), original screenplay (David Hemingson) and editing (Kevin Tent). The story follows Giamatti as a strict professor who is forced to chaperone students (including newcomer Dominic Sessa) with nowhere to go on Christmas break. It premiered to acclaim at the Telluride Film Festival and has grossed $42 million at the global box office.

Outside of “The Holdovers,” Randolph is best known for her Tony-nominated performance in “Ghost,” the Eddie Murphy comedy “Dolemite Is My Name” and the HBO series “The Idol.” She said she was drawn to play Mary Lamb in “The Holdovers” because she wanted to shed light on the specialness of seemingly “average” women.

“It’s important, especially for women of color, because those women rarely get credit,” Randolph told Variety on Oscar nominations morning. “Though she is a Black woman, people from all walks of life have come up to me and said ‘I see myself in Mary.'”

See the full list of this year’s Oscar winners here.

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