The Everything, Everywhere All at Once cast celebrating their wins at the Dolby TheatreAcademy Awards

Backstage at the Oscars feels a bit like being at a celebrity auction mixed with a crowded bingo hall.

The newly-minted Academy Award winners step up to the mic and journalists frantically wave numbered placards in the vain hope that they will win the chance to ask what we all want to know: Where’s the afterparty going to be?

But jokes aside, on Hollywood’s biggest night it was the quieter moments that often stood out most backstage.

Whether it was best director Daniel Kwan’s touching tribute to his mother, or M.M. Keeravaani and Chandrabose – the duo behind Natuu Natuu – dedicating their award to aspiring filmmakers in India, the entire experience underscored a return to a more wholesome Oscars ceremony after the controversy that surrounded last year’s event.

Online, users observed that it seemed many of the night’s biggest winners were just theatre kids from school, all grown up

Here’s a few of the best moments from backstage.

1. Michelle Yeoh could be a motivational speaker

There were so many parts of Michelle Yeoh’s speech backstage that I wanted to scribble down and save for later. She could truly have a second career as a motivational speaker.

Yeoh made history on Sunday night when she became the first Asian woman to win best actress and only the second woman of colour to take home the award in the last 21 years.

Michelle Yeoah backstage following her Oscars win

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“We freaking broke that glass ceiling – I kung-fu’d it out and shattered it!” she said to cheers from the crowded room.

“There’s so many who felt unseen and unheard… it’s not just the Asian community. For anybody who has been identified as a minority we deserve to be heard, we deserve to be seen, we deserve to have the equal opportunity.”

2. Sometimes, it pays to meet your heroes

Anyone who says “never meet your heroes” has never had the pleasure of speaking to Brendan Fraser.

As a member of a generation that grew up in the 1990s, Fraser starred in many of my favourite childhood movies and tonight’s win for best actor solidified his comeback.

Brendan Fraser holding his Academy Award

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Fraser received a standing ovation when stepped up to the mic backstage, and he seemed so bowled over by his Academy Award he basically whispered his answers into the microphone.

Some members of the media watching on wiped away tears as Fraser spoke about how he hopes to live up to the best actor title.

“Making a film with this gravity reinforced how important it is to perform as if it’s the first and last time you ever will,” Fraser said. “I think it’s the film that’s going to change some hearts and minds and that feels good, that feels really good.”

3. Women are sick of asking for a seat at the table

Throughout the night, the women of Hollywood seemed united behind a single message: It’s about damn time!

From A-listers to newcomers, each woman who proudly held an Oscar took a moment to reflect on what it meant to work in an industry that can at times be sexist, ageist and even racist.

Sarah Polley celebrating her win

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This year, the women were talking, and I’ll let them speak for themselves:

  • “This is India’s first ever film to win – and it’s two women… You don’t need a seat at the table make your own table and sit on it.” – Guneet Monga, best documentary short film winner for The Elephant Whisperers
  • “First of all, I just want to thank the Academy for not being mortally offended by the words ‘Women’ and ‘Talking’ put so close together like that” – Sarah Polley, winner of best adapted screenplay for Women Talking
  • “Basically just more (expletive) women anywhere, anytime all at once.” – Jamie Lee Curtis, best supporting actress for Everything Everywhere All at Once

4. Ke Huy Quan is an infectious ball of energy

Ke Huy Quan practically skipped onto the stage as he received a standing ovation from the assembled press corps.

In person, his energy feels like standing next to an excitable kid who can’t believe they’re about to meet Santa Claus – and it’s contagious.

Ke Huy Quan kisses his Oscar award backstage

Academy Awards

“First of all can you believe I”m holding one of these?” the best supporting actor shouted.

Ke Huy Quan’s comeback was the feel-good story of this awards season and perhaps it’s because he was so relatable! But backstage he also grew serious when he shared that he lost his health insurance during the pandemic because he couldn’t find work as an actor.

At times, he said, he was afraid to “bother” his agents to ask if they had any jobs for him. But all that’s about to change, now that he’s taking home an Oscar.

“Hopefully when I call my agent tomorrow, we will get a different answer!”

5. Jamie Lee Curtis celebrates with some Hungarian tunes

Jamie Lee Curtis kept the whole room of journalists laughing throughout her post-Oscar interview.

But she did get serious for a moment, when she talked about accepting the Academy Award in honour of her parents, the late actors Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.

Jamie Lee Curtis accepting her Academy Award

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“Let me just be honest, I don’t believe in a world where there are a bunch of people looking down on us,” Curtis said.

“I think we are them in our actions and in our deeds and in our ideas. I am a proud product of them and I know they would be incredibly proud of me.”

Then, in true Jamie Lee-style, she burst into what she said was a Hungarian song – her grandparents were Hungarian immigrants to the US – before answering the next question in honour of her ancestry.

It wasn’t half bad.

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