Chloe Zhao is everything I want to be—and not just because she’s a fanfic writer who’s become an Oscar winner.
She’s unapologetically herself. Her words, her work, and her style speak to a woman who knows who she is and shows that to the world without hesitation.
And who is she?
She’s a believer.
When she accepted her much-deserved Oscar for Best Director for Nomadland on Sunday night (making her only the second woman and first woman of color to earn this award—please let this pave the way for more female filmmakers!), she stood on that stage and gave us a glimpse into her soul. And in her vulnerability—her beautiful sharing of her truth—she gave voice to the very point of view that earned her this award, the thing that made Nomadland so unique in the sea of sadness that makes up most of the typical awards-season contenders.
Chloe Zhao believes in people.
She believes in the truth of the words she’s carried with her since she was a little girl memorizing poems with her father: “People at birth are inherently good.”
There’s something revolutionary about hearing those words in an Oscars acceptance speech, especially for Best Director. In so many cases, Oscar-winning movies are dark and depressing, focused on the worst in humanity and the awful things we can do to one another. And while the world needs those stories—we need to confront our darkness and we need the catharsis that comes with that kind of painful storytelling—the world needs the other kinds of stories too. The ones about healing rather than hurting. The ones that are warm and gentle instead of cold and brutal. The ones about light instead of darkness.
Sometimes we still want to believe there’s goodness left in humanity.
Sometimes we still need to believe that.
(And it’s often because we still need to believe there’s goodness left in ourselves.)