Mya Taylor took home the first major film award ever won by a trans actress at the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards Saturday night, the night before the Oscars kicks off in a cloud of controversy surrounding its systemic lack of diversity.
"What I want to leave with you guys today is, there is transgender talent," Taylor said while accepting the award for best supporting female actress for her role in Tangerine. "There is very beautiful transgender talent, so you better get out there and put it in your next movie."
"I have had a long journey through my 2015 because I had come from almost nothing, and then got this role, and this movie and my life has just did a total 360," Taylor said.
Tangerine initially opened at Sundance Film Festival before premiering in theaters across Los Angeles and New York. The film focuses on trans lives, specifically women, and the facets of society through which they navigate. Taylor's role was critical to the film's success — from her stellar performance to the realism found in the script. "In the beginning, I told Sean if I'm gonna do this movie — I know what the storyline is, it's sad as fuck — but I don't want a theater full of crying people," Taylor told Mic. "That's just not my personality."
In her acceptance speech, Taylor even addressed the film's avant-garde use of iPhones to capture its surreal and entrancing aesthetic. "Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch said, 'We're going to film this movie on iPhones, yeah. The first thing I thought is, 'This movie ain't gone be shit," she said, laughing. "But it turned out to be amazing."
"I'm hoping that it opens up more doors for artists like me and Laverne [Cox] and Janet Mock and Ts Madison and Carmen Carrera," Taylor told Mic of Tangerine. "I hope it opens up doors for other girls other than us too."
The Independent Spirit Awards was founded in 1984 to honor the best of the independent film industry each year. Idris Elba, who also wasn't nominated for an Oscar, won the award for best supporting actor. Spotlight was one of the biggest winners of the night, taking home several awards.
Check out Taylor's full acceptance speech below: