Journalist Peter Ford, who claims to be “The best & most widely heard entertainment reporter in Australia & NZ” on his Twitter bio, has raised questions on Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’ credentials as Oscar nominations announcers. “No disrespect to these two but I’m not sure their contribution to the movies qualifies them to be announcing Oscar nominees,” he tweeted.
Expectedly the tweet sparked off outrage, with Priyanka and Nick’s angry supporters slamming Ford for taking aim at the power couple. “Do your research mate,” one fan wrote. Many also accused him of racism, which led to Ford eventually turning on the protected tweets mode. The actress herself tweeted her filmography to Ford. She also asked, “Would love your thoughts on what qualifies someone. Here are my 60+ film credentials for your adept consideration.”
Ford accepted that he wasn’t aware of the extent of Priyanka’s work in cinema, but that didn’t change his opinion. He repeated that someone more qualified should have been given the honour of announcing the nominees of an awards ceremony as prestigious as the Oscars.
Ford might just have voiced a thought that had crossed the minds of some in international media. After all, Priyanka and Nick are hardly Hollywood A-listers. She has starred in non-lead roles in a handful of Hollywood films, while Nick is more popular for his musical career than his acting chops.
So was this the Academy trying to appear progressive by hiring an interracial couple, and also cash in on the curiosity surrounding them in international media? Often accused of discrimination on the basis of colour and gender during nominations, the Academy has a history of mixing it up when it comes to announcers.
Last year actors John Cho and Issa Rae had announced the 92nd Oscar nominees. The former is a Korean-born American actor known for his roles as Harold Lee in the Harold & Kumar films, and Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek reboot film series. Rae is an American actress, writer, and producer, who first garnered attention for her work on the YouTube web series Awkward Black Girl. Her YouTube channel, features various short films, web series, and other content created by people of color.
The nominees for the 91st Academy Awards were announced by actors Kumail Nanjiani and Tracee Ellis Ross. Nanjiani is a Pakistani-American comedian, actor, screenwriter, and podcaster primarily known for his roles in Silicon Valley and The Big Sick. He is also an Oscar nominee for Best Original Screenplay. Ross, again a woman of colour, is an American actress and singer known for her lead roles in the television series Girlfriends and Black-ish.
The announcers for the Oscars 2018 were actors Tiffany Haddish and Andy Serkis. Haddish is a Grammy and Primetime Emmy winning African-American actress and comedian, while English actor Andy Serkis is best known for his role as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films.
Gabourey Sidibe and Ken Watanabe announced the Oscar nominations in 2017. Both of them are Oscar nominated actors – Harlem-raised Sidibe got a Best actress Oscar nod for Precious in 2009, while Watanabe got the Best Supporting Actor nod for The Last Samurai. The Japanese actor is a well-known face internationally for films like Batman Begins, Inception and Memoirs of a Geisha.
It is evident that the Academy has been more inclusive in choosing announcers, and it is not just about race or colour, either. Priyanka and Nick’s Hollywood film credentials might not be extensive, but she is among TIME’s 100 most influential people and Forbes’ World’s 100 most powerful women. In India, she has a National Film Award and a Padma Shri honour to her credit. Her latest film, The White Tiger, of which she is part producer, has secured a Bafta and an Oscar nomination this year. Her American filmography includes Baywatch, A Kid Like Jake, Isn’t It Romantic and We Can Be Heroes, and the upcoming films Matrix 4 and Text For You.
Nick has juggled singing and acting ever since he was a Disney star. The Jonas Brothers band appeared in the widely successful musical television film Camp Rock (2008) and its sequel Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam (2010) as well as two of their own series, Jonas Brothers: Living the Dream (2008–2010) and Jonas (2009–2010). He had a recurring role on the television series Smash. In 2017, Jonas appeared in the film Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
Many do believe that ‘Nickyanka’ are legit Hollywood frontrunners, given their immense popularity. E! Online published an article where Lindsay Weinberg wrote, “Imagine thinking Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas aren’t legitimate A-listers.” She also mentioned Nick’s “79 acting credits, including his recent projects Jumanji: The Next Level, Midway and Kingdom” and his Grammy nominations.
Despite protecting his tweets, Ford told 6PR Breakfast host Gareth Parker that the backlash “doesn’t phase” him but was on a much bigger scale than anything he’d dealt with before. “Suddenly you have 27 million people tweeting you about what a horrible person you are,” he said. Well, Priyanka and Nick’s combined force should be enough to shut up critics who question their eligibility anywhere, anymore.