In Acting Categories 92 Percent of Oscar Winners are White

By: Julien Assouline | Documentation

With more attention being paid to diversity, this year's Oscars were generally praised as more diverse than in the past with nominations of Jordan Pelee, Greta Gerwig for Best Director, and Rachel Morrison for Best Cinematography.

Pelee went on to become the first black director to win an Oscar, and Morrison was the first female nominee, for Best Cinematography. But, while those are good signs, as both the cinematography and director category are typically won by white males, the 2017 Oscars fell down an all too familiar path, especially in the acting categories.

Every winner this year for acting was white, with very few minority groups being represented and nominated.

Some categories continue to underrepresented minority groups at an alarming rate. The Best Actress in a leading role category being by far the worst, and giving no chance to underrepresented racial groups this year as only white women were nominated.

Mixed is defined as an actor or actress whose background is of two or more different racial groups.

Best Actress in a leading role

Out of the 91 women who have won an Oscar for Best Actress only one of them was not white. The only minority group winner was Halle Berry for her performance in Monster’s Ball back in 2001. Since then only white women have won Oscars for Best Actress.

Best Actor in a leading role

The Best Actor in a leading role is also heavily underrepresented by racial minorities as 92% of winners are white. Along with only having four black men win the award, no Hispanic or Latino has won the award since José Ferrer in 1950.

Asians are also severely underrepresented in both the Best Actor and Best Actress categories. No Asian actress has ever won an Oscar for Best Actress. No actor whose parents were both Asian has won an Oscar for Best Actor.

Best Actor in a supporting role

The Best Actor in a supporting role category is the most diverse, but by a small amount, and shouldn’t feel too good about its racial diversity with 88% of winners being white.

Best Actress in a supporting role

The Best Actress in a supporting role had the biggest representation of black actresses with seven winning an Oscar. That said, black actresses are still underrepresented in this category, and other racial groups are barely represented.

Miyoshi Umeki is the only Asian actress to win an Oscar for acting, and she won her award back in 1954. Since then there hasn’t been a single Asian actress to win an Oscar for acting. In general, the Asian community is dramatically underrepresented by the Academy Awards.

While there are more efforts being made for inclusion in Hollywood, with #MeToo, #OscarsSoWhite , and increased diversity in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, there is still a lot of work to be done. The acting culture is still being dominated by white male actors and even white actresses at the Academy Awards.


Data for Academy Awards winners came from the Academy Awards Database. The cleaning, and analysis was all done in Python. I manually added the race of the actors. The race was determined after doing background research on the actors. Some of the sites include IMDB, Ethnicity of Celebs, Wikipedia , Vanity Fair.

I used D3.js to create the charts.