Rachel plays the leading role of Maria in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the 1957 stage musical, alongside Ansel Elgort, who portrays Tony.
Ever since its release, West Side Story has been met with large critical acclaim and glowing reviews. It was no surprise to fans that it bagged seven nominations at this year’s Oscars, in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, and Best Sound.
However, fans were shocked to learn that despite playing one of the leading characters in the movie, Rachel hadn’t actually been invited to attend the prestigious award show.
Revealing the news herself, Rachel directly responded to an Instagram user who asked what she was planning on wearing to the event. “i’m not invited so sweatpants and my boyfriend’s flannel,” she wrote, before elaborating in a second comment: “i have tried it all but it doesn't seem to be happening.”
“i will root for West Side Story from my couch and be proud of the work we so tirelessly did 3 years ago,” she wrote. “i hope some last-minute miracle occurs and i can celebrate our film in person but hey, that's how it goes sometimes, i guess.”
She also thanked fans for their “shock and outrage,” before noting that she too was “disappointed” at the lack of invite.
Many users quickly voiced their anger at the apparent snub, immediately taking to Twitter to question why the leading actor hadn’t been asked to attend.
“rachel zegler being the *lead* in a film that has seven oscar nominations yet not being invited to the ceremony... make it make sense,” one person tweeted.
“Rachel Zegler not invited to the Oscars even tho she’s the leading lady in a best picture nominated movie??? Tf,” another echoed.
Journalist Ernest Owens wrote: “For those trying to understand why this is so concerning: Previous Best Picture Oscar musical nominees La La Land, Les Misérables, Chicago had leads who were all invited to the #Oscars. For Rachel Zegler, a rising Hollywood actress, to be snubbed is a disgrace. #AcademyAwards.”
With the outrage quickly blowing up across social media, Rachel hopped onto Twitter on Sunday to thank fans for their support.
“my goodness, folks!! appreciate all the support, i really really do,” she wrote.
“we live in such unprecedented times, and a lot of work behind the scenes goes into making movie magic happen,” she continued. “that goes for film productions (like the one I am so lucky to be currently shooting in london) ... and awards shows alike. let’s all just respect the process and i’ll get off my phone x R.”
But despite keeping her cool and urging her followers to “respect the process,” eagle-eyed fans noticed that Rachel had liked a couple of tweets calling the Academy out.
“@rachelzegler was snubbed and no one can tell me otherwise,” read a tweet that Rachel quietly hit the heart button on.
She went on to like another user’s commentary about the wider lack of Latinx representation at the Oscars. “Wait… what?! How the hell is @rachelzegler NOT invited to the #Oscars? For the first time in like EVER, 2021 had a multiple of amazing Latino-led films and here’s an opportunity to showcase our people in awards shows. I really hope @TheAcademy makes this right!” read the tweet in question, shared by a fan.
Shortly afterward, the same user posted, “Officially a Rachel approved tweet,” alongside a screenshot showing that Rachel had hit the like button.
Rachel, if you didn’t know, is of Colombian descent, and previously told BuzzFeed about her aim to increase Latinx representation in Hollywood, with her leading role in West Side Story being a prime example. “Our movie is a step in the right direction,” she said. “There's still so much work to be done when it comes to representation in Hollywood for all minorities.”
Meanwhile, the Oscars has long faced controversy around the lack of representation and diversity with its award winners. In fact, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was widely popularized due to the Academy’s repeated history of “snubbing” Black and Latinx actors from their show, several of whom have spokenout about the movement directly, as well as the Academy’s need for wider representation.
With this in mind, Rachel’s revelation that she’d not been invited sparked a growing conversation around the Academy’s history of lacking diversity, with several Twitter users calling it “a white man’s award show” while reusing the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag.
“Oh so the Latina lead in [an] Oscar nominated movie isn’t invited?! Ffs. Fix this @TheAcademy,” tweeted one outraged fan.
“This is why I say Fck the #oscars every year...still a white man’s award show,” another posted.
“#OscarsSoWhite strikes yet again,” one wrote. “Why anyone watches #TheAcademyAwards as they used to be known baffles me. They are an extension of the elite & are class warfare.”
As the conversation evolved, actor and writer Gloria Calderón Kellett noted that ABC — the network that airs the Oscars — recently moved its only Latinx-focused show, Promised Land, over to streaming service Hulu, garnering criticism from fans who felt they’d finally had representation with the program.
“Hey @ABCNetwork You moved the ONE Latine show you have to Hulu and @TheAcademy claims to want to embrace diversity. How about the rare time that Latine people have a movie nominated for an OSCAR you invite the lead. Latine people are 18.5% of this country. ENOUGH!” she wrote.
Others urged the Academy to issue a formal apology to Rachel, maintaining that she “deserves to be there.” “Please invite #RACHELZEGLER to the Oscars with a full apology,” one tweet read. “#WestSideStory would not have been as good a film without her. She deserves to be there.”
While it’s unclear why the Academy didn’t invite Rachel to the Oscars, this unfortunately isn’t the first time that a leading actor of color has been excluded from an event focused on highlighting and celebrating the success of their film.
Last year, Get Out actor Daniel Kaluuya shocked fans after revealing he’d not been invited to the movie’s premiere in 2017 — despite playing the main character with an incredible performance, which saw him nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars and Golden Globes.
“On the Sundance world premiere, I was in Atlanta because I was shooting [Black] Panther,” he recalled on The Graham Norton Show last February. “I was chilling, I cleared my schedule. I was like, ‘I really wanna do it.’ And then just didn't get the invite. I wasn't invited, so I was just in my bed – someone texted me, ‘It’s done really well.’”
“I don't ask questions,” Daniel added. “You don't wanna be in a place that you don't feel wanted.”
With Daniel and Rachel’s respective situations seemingly paralleling one another, some Twitter users drew comparisons between the two apparent snubs.
“rachel zegler not being invited to the oscar’s despite being the lead actress of one of the most nominated films reminds me of when daniel kaluuya wasn’t invited to the world premiere of get out,” one person tweeted.
But, much like Daniel was, Rachel has been praised by fans for handling the lack of invite with “so much grace.”
“You deserved an invite,” one fan tweeted in response to Rachel. “You're handling this with so much grace, but no. You should've been extended an invitation, whether or not you're filming. There's no excuse for this disrespect.”
“You deserve an invite, but I know you’re working super hard to bring us another fantastic film! I’m so proud of you and your dedication, Rachel,” another wrote.