Kaluuya won best supporting actor for his role as Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton in the film Judas and the Black Messiah, making him the first Black British actor to win an Oscar in the acting category.
While in the midst of celebrating his victory, South African journalist Margaret Gardiner asked Kaluuya how he feels about starring in a film directed by Regina King. Judas and the Black Messiah was directed by Shaka King.
“I want to congratulate you on this, I’ve been following you since the beginning of your career,” she said. “I was wondering what it meant to you to be directed by Regina, what this means for you at this time, with the world in the state that it’s in?”
Daniel Kaluuya responds to a journalist who mistook him for Leslie Odom Jr. at the #Oscars and asked him: “What was it like being directed by Regina [King]?”
— Film Updates (@TheFilmUpdates) April 26, 2021
Confused, Kaluuya asked the reporter to repeat the question, to which she then dropped the Regina inquiry.
Regina King directed the film One Night In Miami, a drama that focuses on a meeting between Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Malcolm X and Odom’s character, Sam Cooke. The Get Out star was competing with Odom, who was also nominated for best supporting actor.
In a series of tweets on her private Twitter page, Gardiner, a reporter for The Sunday Times of South Africa and member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, (HFPA) clarified that she did not mix up the two Black actors.
“#DanielKaluuya I did not mistake you for Leslie Odom Jr,” she tweeted, according to Teen Vogue. “I’m sorry if it seemed that way. I had wanted to ask about Regina King not being nominated as a director for One Night in Miami, and your win for Judas and the Black Messiah for the community at this time.”
“There was a sound issue so I dropped the part about Regina King and restated my question,” she continued. “‘What does it mean for the community at this time?’ When I listed [sic] to the audio, I do understand, but there was no confusion […] This is my last tweet on my mistake. I apologize to Daniel Kaluuya for my words. I apologize to anyone else who was offended by them.”
This is not the first time the Oscars were guilty of mistaking a Black celebrity for another. In 2016, beauty advice website Total Beauty tweeted a red carpet photo of Whoopi Goldberg rocking her shoulder tattoo, assuming that she was Oprah Winfrey.
“We had no idea @Oprah was #tatted, and we love it…” Total Beauty tweeted before apologizing for the gaffe.
“We’d like to apologize to Oprah and Whoopi, as well as everyone we’ve offended. It was our error, and there are no excuses. We’re sorry,” the company wrote, according to People.
The company also offered to pay $10,000 to a company of both Goldberg and Winfrey’s choice.
“They don’t need to do that. It just – it happens,” Goldberg said. “People make mistakes all the time. We do it on [The View] it was an honest mistake. We both look good, Oprah and I!”
As Blavity previously reported, a homogeneity effects study revealed that some white people cannot tell the difference between Black people. Within that study, 19 out of 20 white participants showed greater brain activity when shown a white face compared to a Black one.
While Goldberg was seemingly unfazed by her celebrity mix-up, some Black stars like tennis player Taylor Townsend have been vocal about being misconstrued for other famous Black people.
“Everybody sees a Black person and they assume that it’s Venus or Serena [Williams] or Sloane [Stephens],” Townsend said, BBC reported. “I’ve been literally all of them down the list except for myself.”
“I’ve had people argue with me to tell me that I’m Coco Gauff. I’m not Coco Gauff but all of us look the same, all of us are built the same,” she added.
Despite the bluff during the press conference, in Kaluuya’s acceptance speech, he mentioned that he’s entering his victory with gratitude.
“We’ve got to celebrate life man; we’re breathing, we’re walking, it’s incredible. It’s incredible,” he said. “I’m so happy to be alive, so I’m gonna celebrate that tonight, ya understand?”