The Durham native is the first gay presenter at the Oscars


Durham’s Janora McDuffie will voice the 94th Academy Awards.

Sabrina Childress Enterprises

Sunday night, when the stars shine on the Oscars stage, the voice announcing their famous names will come from a proud Durham native: actress Janora McDuffie.

Acting as the official welcoming voice at Hollywood’s biggest night counts not only as a coup for North Carolina, but also as a breakthrough for the queer community that McDuffie represents.

“At one time, Wanda Sykes was the only openly gay black female performer in the entertainment industry, and that number has increased slightly over the past decade-plus,” McDuffie said in a press release. “I feel a responsibility to be my authentic self publicly.”

The 94th Academy Awards features Sykes, Amy Schumer and Regina Hall as hosts.

As announcer, McDuffie succeeds Randy Thomas, who for the past decade has provided the show’s first female voice.

Breaking stereotypes and increasing compassion

McDuffie, who came out in 2009, her appearance offers a chance to break stereotypes and increase compassion and understanding.

“Game changers like Lena Waithe are giving the green light to other black and queer people who can continue to tell their stories,” McDuffie said, noting the actress and producer who won an Emmy for Writing for an Episode. of “Master of None” based on his story. .

“There’s this whole hierarchy in the Hollywood industry when it comes to black gay people,” McDuffie said. “It’s not just the actors. It’s not just the writers. But who gives the green light? Who produces it? Who says “yes” for this story to be shared on Netflix or ABC, or however people consume their content? There are gatekeepers to this process, and I am honored, honored, and excited about this new opportunity.

Durham’s Janora McDuffie will voice the 94th Academy Awards. Sabrina Childress Enterprises

A leader at UNC-Chapel Hill

Born in Durham, McDuffie graduated from the NC School of Science and Mathematics and later from UNC-Chapel Hill, where she was an active volunteer.

For a 1998 charity walk to benefit the Sonja Haynes Stone Black Cultural Center, she told the N&O, “The center is a unifying force in the community, and we want to make students and community members more aware of its regional activities. and national. recognized as an exceptional academic and cultural resource.

Upon graduating in 1999 as vice president of the senior class, she received more applause than anyone but retired basketball coach Dean Smith.

She has appeared in TV shows, movies and video games such as ‘New Girl’, ‘Speechless’, ‘NCIS: Los Angeles’, ‘Waiting for Tomorrow’ and ‘Criminal Minds’.

This image released by 20th Century Studios shows, from left, Ilda Mason as Luz, Ariana DeBose as Anita, and Ana Isabelle as Rosalia in “West Side Story.” (Niko Tavernise/20th Century Studios via AP) Niko Tavernise PA

An Oscar-nominated Tar Heel

Another North Carolina native is up for an Oscar on Sunday night. Ariana DeBose is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Anita in the remake of “West Side Story.” She has already won many other awards for the role on her way to the Oscar.

DeBose is Afro-Latina and became the first latin performer to win an individual film award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards this year.

If she wins the Oscar, she will be the first openly queer woman of color to receive an acting Oscar.

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Josh Shaffer is a general-assignment reporter on the lookout for “talkers,” which are stories you might discuss over a water cooler. He has worked for The News & Observer since 2004 and previously wrote a column about unusual people and places.

James C. Tibbs