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The Oscars: A queer behind-the-scenes look

The Oscars: A queer behind-the-scenes look

The Oscars: A queer behind-the-scenes look
Instagram (@dnlreynolds); Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images

Out goes over the rainbow on Hollywood's biggest night.

For me, it was the most indelible moment from the Oscars: Nimona’s Eugene Lee Yang checking his reflection in the antechamber of the men’s restroom — his custom, floor-length red gown from Walter Mendez Atelier blossoming across the floor.

“You look fantastic,” marveled a man in a black tuxedo behind him. Which he did, particularly at an event where a black tuxedo is still the standard uniform for men. (I myself wore a black pleated skirt paired with a rose jacket from Sharpe Haus, which also popped among the penguin suits.)

Of course, heteronormativity is no surprise at the Academy Awards, the most buttoned-up event of the Hollywood awards season. But as an attendee, I could feel a queer shift in the festivities. Just prior to the ceremony, The Chi creator Lena Waithe and Cynthia Erivo, dressed in a Wicked-green gown, held hands as they walked through the first-floor lobby. This is in many ways where the real show takes place. It’s where the movie stars and show biz bigwigs grab a drink to toast a victory (or skip across to use the restroom during a commercial break). After John Cena stripped down onstage to mark the anniversary of the infamous Oscars streaker, I popped down to the bar to order an old-fashioned to find myself in line between Barbie’s Greta Gerwig and Past Lives’s Greta Lee.

It's a surreal experience to see so many stars in the flesh. I blinked a few times after seeing Nicholas Cage, Sally Field, and Dwayne
"The Rock" Johnson walk by, as well as the couple Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons, arm in arm. And the queer representation this year at the ceremony was notable. As out actors playing LGBTQ+ characters, Rustin's Colman Domingo and Nyad's Jodie Foster made history this year as nominees. The gay glass ceiling wasn’t shattered, however; neither took home the top prize. Nor did the Killers of the Flower Moon frontrunner Lily Gladstone, who uses she/they pronouns and would have become the first Indigenous person to win in their category. The attendees around me gasped when Emma Stone was announced for Best Actress; even the Poor Things star seemed undone, declaring onstage that her dress had “broken.”

But the queer spirit was definitely alive in the room, epitomized by the electrifying performance of Barbie’s “I’m Just Ken,” which in addition to being a homoerotic anthem made headlines when Scott Evans kissed Ryan Gosling. I spoke briefly with the jubilant-but-exhausted Evans at the Governors Ball after party. “I think I may go home early,” the Barbie actor (and Out cover star) said alongside his boyfriend, sharing he had been up early for rehearsals of the Oscar-nominated number. Barbie brought many of the night’s best queer moments. The performance — and win — by Billie Eilish for “What Was I Made For?” was another highlight of the show.

The Governors Ball, held upstairs at the Dolby Theatre, is where most of the honorees gather for at least one celebratory toast before departing for the ancillary parties thrown by studios, celebrities, and media outlets like Vanity Fair. One needed to ride several escalators to reach the room, and each had its own checkpoint. Ahead of me, Everything Everywhere All at Once’s Ke Huy Quan had some trouble scanning his ticket; clearly, they let the Oscar winner through after a few minutes.

Other than a pretzel tucked in a box under the Dolby seats, and a few snacks in the lobby, there also isn’t much food at the Oscars ceremony. So this is the first opportunity for guests to eat real food, with stations of sliders, sushi, steak, and desserts stationed throughout. Over French fries, I found myself chatting with an Italian woman; she turned out to be the wife of Andrea Bocelli, who sang during the in memoriam. He wasn’t at the party, she revealed, because the room was too loud for his sensitive ears.

Across the bar, I could see Poor Things’ Willem Dafoe chatting with a man in Indigenous attire. Entering the room, I picked my way across a throng gathered around his castmate Mark Ruffalo, whose over-the-top performance of toxic male agony in Poor Things was a favorite this awards season. At the bar, I ordered another old-fashioned. “Did you mean an Oscars old-fashioned?” winked the bartender, who materialized a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label. At the Governors Ball, there is also an engraving station where winners, golden statues in hand, lined up to engrave their trophies.

They say it’s an honor just to be nominated. But for most of the guests, it is an honor just to be there in the room where it happens for cultural history. The vibe was overwhelmingly kind and gracious. And even the celebrities, I suspect, had to contend with some imposter syndrome. “Can you take us with you?” asked a tourist as I first prepared to enter the event on Hollywood Boulevard on Sunday afternoon. “If only!” I laughed, producing my ticket at the gate. I marveled that it actually scanned, and a friendly woman at the door declared, “Welcome to the Oscars.”

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor-in-chief of Out and an award-winning journalist who focuses on the intersection between entertainment and politics. This Jersey boy has now lived in Los Angeles for more than a decade.

Daniel Reynolds is the editor-in-chief of Out and an award-winning journalist who focuses on the intersection between entertainment and politics. This Jersey boy has now lived in Los Angeles for more than a decade.