Matthew A. Cherry always saw himself as an Oscar winner.
On Sunday night at the 2020 Oscars, the former NFL player-turned-director was honored with the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for his picture, Hair Love.
And while Cherry was excited and shocked by his win, he predicted the victory years prior.
Back in 2012, the director wrote on Twitter, “I’m gonna be nominated for an Oscar one day. Already claiming it.”
Four years later, he tweeted an illustration reminiscent of Hair Love with a note that read: “Any 3D artists follow me? I got an Oscar worthy short film idea to go with this image. Get at me.”
After his win on Sunday night, Cherry reshared his 2016 tweet with a new caption, “Nailed it.”
I'm gonna be nominated for an Oscar one day. Already claiming it— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) June 2, 2012
Cherry and producer Karen Rupert Toliver took the stage at the 92nd Annual Academy Awards to accept their award for the short film, which tells the touching story of a black father who learns how to do his young daughter’s hair while his wife is in the hospital.
“Thank you so much to the Academy and everybody out there who supported this film — there were lots of you,” said Toliver. “We share this award with you.”
“There were so many filmmakers that worked so hard on this, and it was a labor of love,” she continued. “It was because we have a firm belief that representation matters deeply. Especially in cartoons, because in cartoons — that’s when we first see our movies and it’s how we shape our lives and think about how we see the world.”
Speaking to Good Morning America on Monday, Cherry said that even though he had predicted his win, it still “felt like a dream.”
“It still doesn’t even feel real sitting in my hand right now,” he said, looking down at his Oscar. “A lot of people out there literally have a clock that counts down to zero and you gotta get your thoughts out ASAP or they’re gonna play you off.”
Toliver added: “It was just such a surreal experience. I just knew that this was bigger than me and Matthew, that this was a moment about diversity and we really kinda wanted to represent for everyone and just open the doors for everyone to be as diverse as possible in this medium.”
During his Sunday night acceptance speech, Cherry made note of the Crown Act — which seeks to ensure protection against discrimination based on hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and state Education Codes.
“I just want to say that Hair Love was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation — we wanted to normalize black hair,” he said before referring to DeAndre Arnold, a high school student who made national news last month when he said his school had suspended him for wearing his hair in dreadlocks. “There’s a very important issue that’s out there, it’s the Crown Act, and if we can help to get this passed in all 50 states it will help stories like DeAndre Arnold‘s, who is our special guest tonight, stop to happen.”
Arnold also stated that his school would not allow him to walk in his high school graduation ceremony unless he cut his dreadlocks, and was banned from the school’s prom.
According to Refinery29, Arnold attended the show thanks to Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade and beauty brand Dove, who sponsored Arnold’s ticket and got him and his mom, Sandy Arnold, ready for the show.
“I’m so grateful. I never expected any of this,” Arnold told the outlet. “The message of that movie and my message go together so well. I think it’s really amazing how they reached out to me and we can fight this together.”
Cherry and Toliver walked the red carpet with Arnold and posed for photos with his mother during the ceremony.
“For us, he really represents all of the messages that we were trying to get across in the film,” Cherry said of Arnold on GMA. “You know, the power of being yourself and he took a stand for himself. You know, the school wanted him to either cut his locks or either not graduate and he chose not to do it and he took a stand. The least we could do was honor him by bringing him out to the biggest night in Hollywood, showing him a good time and showing him that everybody has his back.”
The 92nd Annual Academy Awards are aired live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.