Spike Lee won an Academy Award last night in the category of Best Adapted Screenplay for his groundbreaking film BlacKkKlansman. On the red carpet, the director/producer/writer wore a purple suit, hat, glasses, and custom-made diamond and opal encrusted Love Symbol necklace in honor of his late friend Prince Rogers Nelson. After 30 years in the entertainment business, this is Lee’s first competitive Oscar win.
“Before the world tonight, I give praise to our ancestors who have built this country into what it is today along with the genocide of its native people,” Lee declared in his acceptance speech after jumping into a bear hug with friend and collaborator Samuel L. Jackson. “We all connect with our ancestors. We will have love and wisdom regained, we will regain our humanity. It will be a powerful moment.”
Lee credited his look to Ozwald Boateng (former Creative Director for Givenchy Men’s and creator of costumes for the Oscar-winning Black Panther film), who designed the purple suit; and Amedeo Scognamiglio, who designed the Love Symbol necklace. As for the custom-made golden sneakers? Those were commissioned by Michael Jordan himself and designed by Tiner Hatfield. On each hand Lee wore rings that read “Love” and “Hate” — a reference to his 1989 film Do The Right Thing.
“I don’t care what nobody’s wearing,” Lee told the New York Times before the show. “I win the Oscar on the red carpet. Men, women, I don’t care if they’re wearing 15-inch heels. They can’t be messing with the Jordans I’m going to be wearing. I’m going to be as clean as the board of health. I’m going to be sharp as a razor.”
Spike Lee’s relationship with Prince began in 1986 after the release of the director’s first feature-length film She’s Gotta Have It. Prince flew Lee out to Paisley Park after viewing the film and the two chatted while Prince was in the midst directing his Purple Rain sequel. The two hit it off, and remained close friends and allies. “Both believed that black folks attain freedom through creative autonomy and financial control of that work,” Julian Kimble wrote in a piece published by Pitchfork in 2018. “Neither feared the risks associated with ambition, but both needed final say in order to swing big.”
When Prince died in 2016, Lee threw a celebration for his friend in Brooklyn — broadcasting hit after hit into the streets. Throughout his career, he featured the artist’s music in various films from Girl 6 (for which Lee received complete access to Prince’s catalog) and the recent Netflix reboot of She’s Gotta Have It in which the characters dance the night away to “Raspberry Beret” in the final scene of the series.
Most recently, a previously unreleased rendition of the spiritual “Mary Don’t You Weep” played over scenes from the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in the final scenes of BlacKkKlansman. Troy Carter, an advisor to the Prince Estate and friend of Lee’s, uncovered the tape among all the artist had left behind. The track features just a piano and isolated vocals and was featured on last year’s Piano & A Microphone 1983 release.
“It was not a mistake,” Lee told the New York Times. “Prince wanted me to have that song in BlacKkKlansman. People can say I’m crazy, smoking crack, which I don’t. Or eating the mushrooms, which I don’t. I’m telling you, on my mother’s grave, he wanted me to have this song.”
BlacKkKlansman was nominated for five Academy Awards this year including Best Picture, a category that controversially went to the film Green Book. Upon the announcement of the film’s win last night, Lee made a move to exit the Dolby Theatre. “I thought it was courtside at the Garden and the ref made a bad call,” he told reporters at a press conference after the ceremony, sipping a glass of champagne.
View this post on Instagram
Da Mornin’ After. Last Night I Didn’t Get A Chance To Give My Thanks. Here They Are. Team Universal-Brian Roberts,Ron Meyer,Donna Langley. Jordan Peele,Jason Blum,QC. Team Focus-Kudjo,Jason Cassidy,Dani Weinstein And The Marketing And Publicity Teams. ICM Squad-Toni Howard, Ted Cherwin ,Bart Walker.The Real BLACKkKLANSMAN-Ron Stallworth. All The Folks In Front And Behind The Camera. 40 Acres And A Mule And Da People’s Of Da Republic Of Brooklyn. I Thank You One And All For All Your Hard And Dedicated Work. Peace And Love. Onward And Upward. BOOMSHACKALACKA
Lydia Moran is a music and arts writer in Minneapolis.