Moonlight Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney explains AIDS ribbon tribute
Tarell Alvin McCraney earned his first Academy Award on Sunday, winning Best Adapted Screenplay for co-writing Moonlight. McCraney accepted the award alongside his co-writer and director Barry Jenkins, and he took the stage in an all-white tux with a red AIDS awareness ribbon pinned to his lapel. Now, he’s opening up about the personal and political significance of that ribbon, as well as its storied Hollywood history.
McCraney wrote on Instagram that his mother died of AIDS-related complications when he was only 22, about a month before he wrote his play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. (The play served as the basis for the film.) He paid tribute to his mother by wearing the red ribbon to raise awareness of the ongoing AIDS epidemic — the exact same ribbon that Elizabeth Taylor wore to the Oscars 25 years ago.
Taylor and Paul Newman presented the award for Best Picture at the 1992 Oscars, where they each wore a ribbon to pay tribute to those living with HIV and AIDS. More than two decades later, McCraney wore Taylor’s same ribbon and emulated her all-white outfit to continue the fight.
“I had the great honor of representing my mother and Mrs. Taylor by wearing that same 25-year-old Red Ribbon on my white suit to continue to bring awareness and solidarity to the fight against AIDS,” he wrote.
In addition to McCraney and Jenkins’ win for Best Adapted Screenplay, Moonlight also won Best Picture (after that now-infamous mix-up where La La Land was erroneously announced as the winner). Per GLAAD, Moonlight marks the first time that a LGBTQ film has won Best Picture.
McCraney wasn’t the only one wearing a ribbon on the red carpet: A number of stars also donned blue ribbons in support of the ACLU — including Jenkins, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ruth Negga, and Karlie Kloss.