Hollywood's biggest night found its stars speaking out for the many different issues facing the world today when they took to the stage on Sunday at the 2023 Oscars.

Here are the moments that made the night, from historic wins, to moving speeches, and stars using the platform to speak up for people experiencing suffering around the world. 

1. 'Everything Everywhere All at Once' became the most awarded film of all time.

Who would have guessed that a comparably low-budget production by independent entertainment studio A24 would dominate the 95th Academy Awards, winning seven Oscars on Sunday night?

Well, even before its Oscar accolades, Everything Everywhere All at Once was actually already the world’s most awarded film of all time, awarded 158 recognitions from major ceremonies and organizations this award season. 

The multiverse comedy-drama about an immigrant family contending with intergenerational conflict, financial strain, and a threat that travels through multiple universes capped its triumphant awards season with seven Oscars wins including Best Picture, Best Director (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), Best Actress (Michelle Yeoh), Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan), Best Supporting Actress (Jamie Lee Curtis), and Best Film Editing. 

2. Ke Huy Quan delivered a moving speech about being a refugee.

After quitting acting three decades ago over lack of opportunity, Ke Huy Quan returned to the limelight to give a breathtaking performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once as the husband to Michelle Yeoh’s Chinese immigrant who stumbles across a “multiverse” of alternate realities. Despite this 30-year sabbatical, Quan’s acting skills certainly hadn’t rusted and he triumphed at the Academy Awards, winning Best Supporting Actor.

Visibly emotional, Quan said: “Recently, I was told that if I were to win tonight, I would become the very first Asian actor to win in this category. When I heard this, I quickly realized that this moment no longer belongs to just me. It belongs to everyone who has asked for change. When I stepped away from acting, it’s because there were so few opportunities. Now tonight, here we are.”

He continued: “My journey started on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp. Somehow I ended up on Hollywood’s biggest stage. They say stories like that only happen in the movies; I can’t believe it’s happening to me.”

3. 'Drag is a threat to nobody,' said Daniel Scheinert. 

It was a subtle comment, but it had strong and poignant implications. When Daniel Scheinert, who won Best Director for Everything Everywhere All at Once, took to the stage he chose to defend drag. 

Just weeks earlier, Tennessee became the first American state to ban drag shows in public spaces under the pretext that they are “harmful to minors.”

British trans activist, Munroe Bergdorf, spoke out against the bans, writing: “Whilst they are an attack on the LGBTQIA community at large, it is specifically about upholding traditional GENDER ideals. These fascists do not care about the difference between a gay man in drag and a trans woman living her life. This is about upholding cisgender heteronormative ideology, which is oppressive to both LGB and transgender people… Banning drag means they can target anyone they interpret as doing drag. Which means that trans people who do not fit within the visual ideas and standards of cisgender womanhood or manhood will be singled out.”

4. ‘Naatu Naatu’ made history as the first Indian and Telugu song to win Best Original Song. 

When composer MM Keeravani and writer Chandrabose took the stage to accept the Oscar for Best Original Song, Keeravani made a special tribute to the music of The Carpenters, whose music had inspired him in his career, and sang his own take on their classic "Top of the World" song.

The song appears in RRR, the fictitious story of the lives of two real-life Indian revolutionaries, Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem, who fought against the British colonial rule in India. 

It was the second win for an Indian film — The Elephant Whisperers won Best Documentary Short Subject. All That Breathes was also nominated for Best Documentary Feature Film but the Oscar went to Navalny.

5. Women of color slayed. 

This year, films with Black leads and directors — The Woman King, Till, and Nope — were shut out from the 2023 nominations prompting many to question improvements in representation, diversity, and the glass ceiling at the Oscars.

Indeed, there’s a way to go to end #OscarsSoWhite, but these women of color deserve their flowers. 

Angela Bassett looked as regal as her Oscar-nominated role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Michelle Yeoh arrived in a dreamy white cloud. Halle Bailey, who stars in the coming The Little Mermaid reboot, floated in with a baby blue sheer gown. And Hong Chau told her own story of how she asked Prada to add a Mandarin collar to her dress, a nod to her heritage. Check out every look from the not-so-red carpet.

6. The new trailer for 'The Little Mermaid'remake premiered.

When young Black girls saw a short teaser of the The Little Mermaid live-action reboot back in September 2022 and saw Halle Bailey cast in the lead role, their reactions were everything.

For the first time ever and after decades of being presented with blatantly racist imagery, these little Black girls were seeing themselves represented on screen in a positive light. 

So it was a very special moment when the full trailer was shown at the most prestigious acting event on the calendar.

7. Ruth E. Carter became the first Black woman to win 2 Academy Awards.

Ruth E. Carter, who previously won an Oscar in 2019 for Black Panther, became the first Black woman to win two Oscars and the first designer to win for both an original film and its sequel. 

Taking home the statuette for her imaginative costume work on the futuristic Marvel film, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Carter said: “Thank you to the Academy for recognizing the superhero that is a Black woman. She endures. She loves. She overcomes. She is every woman in this film.” 

8. Rihanna’s performance of ‘Lift Me Up’ received a standing ovation. 

Written as a poignant tribute to the late Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, who died from colon cancer in 2020 at age 43, "Lift Me Up" has Rihanna, TEMS, Ludwig Göransson, and Ryan Coogler on its writing credits. 

Earning the singer her first Oscar nod, Rihanna took to the stage to perform the ballad from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and stunned the audience. 

9. Michelle Yeoh made history with Best Actress win.

In a huge win for representation, Michelle Yeoh became the first woman of Asian descent to win the Best Actress.

Yeoh, who earned the trophy for her acclaimed performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once has also entered the history books for becoming the first Malaysian-born performer to be honored with a Best Actress Oscar.

“For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities. This is proof to dream big and dreams do come true,” Yeoh said when accepting her award.

Nodding to Hollywood’s ageism when it comes to women, she added: “Ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you’re ever past your prime.”

10. Sofia Carson urged the women of the world to 'give yourselves some applause.'

Global Citizen and singer-actor Sofia Carson and 14-time Oscar nominee songwriter Diane Warren performed the song "Applause" from Tell It Like a Woman at the ceremony.

Carson encouraged the women of the world to "give yourselves some applause" during a minimalist yet powerful performance. 

“Our song is an anthem for women,” Carson had previously written in November 2022. “A beautiful and deeply timely reminder to applaud ourselves for how far we’ve come, and to applaud ourselves for how far we will go. Because we fight like women, we survive like women, and we do it together.”

11. Cate Blanchett supported sustainable fashion.

The Oscars aren’t usually a big one for sustainable fashion. But this year, Cate Blanchett flew the repurposed clothing flag by opting for a gown from the archives instead of a brand new one

The fashion industry has a lot to answer for in the climate change conversation — from fast fashion ending up in landfills, to the sheer scale of the textile beast generating 10% of annual global carbon emissions (compare that to the 2.5% that accounts for global aviation).

The Tár actress commanded the 2023 Oscars red carpet wearing an archival Louis Vuitton two-color gown complete with a silk teal capelet top with statement shoulder pads, as well as a sleek black skirt with a train. 

12. Jamie Lee Curtis, Bill Nighy, and others wore blue ribbons for refugees.

You might have noticed some of the celebs at the Oscars wearing a blue ribbon. But why?

The symbolic blue ribbon was created by refugees in a partnership with the UN Refugee Agency. Jamie Lee Curtis, Bill Nighy, and Cate Blanchett, along with others on the Oscars carpet, wore the #WithRefugees ribbon as an emblem of compassion and solidarity for those who have been forced to flee their homes because of war, conflict, and persecution.

The year 2022 brought unprecedented humanitarian challenges, mainly driven by climate change, the war in Ukraine, conflict, and disease, and the number of refugees skyrocketed, according to the UN. At least 117.2 million people will be forcibly displaced or stateless in 2023, according to UNHCR's estimations.

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Oscars 2023: 12 Iconic Moments Where Social Justice Won at the Academy Awards

By Tess Lowery