At the 2024 Academy Awards, first-time nominee Da’Vine Joy Randolph, 37, tearfully accepted the award for best supporting actress for her role in “The Holdovers.”

The best supporting actress category was presented by previous winners: Jamie Lee Curtis, Mary Steenburgen, Rita Moreno, Lupita Nyong’o and Regina King. Nyong’o, who introduced Randolph, praised her performance on stage.

When mentioning that Randolph’s performance was based on her own grandmother and that she wore her glasses in the film, Nyong’o said, “What an honor to see the world through her eyes, and yours.”

When Randolph took the stage, already tearful, she started her speech by saying, “God is so good.”

“I didn’t think I was supposed to be doing this as a career,” she continued. “I started off as a singer.”

She went on to thank her mother, who encouraged her to pursue acting, per People.

“Thank you to all the people who have stepped in my path and been there for me, who have ushered me and guided me,” Randolph continued. “I am so grateful to all you beautiful people out here. For so long, I’ve always wanted to be different, and now I realize I just need to be myself.”

It was a touching and triumphant moment for anyone who followed Randolph’s career. Randolph, who has co-starred in TV shows such as “Only Murders in the Building” and “High Fidelity,” has come a long way since the beginning of her career, just over 10 years ago.

Who is Da’Vine Joy Randolph?

Randolph, from Philadelphia, was named after “divine joy.”

As she told Philadelphia Magazine, “My parents told me it took them seven years to have me and that I was a divine joy. So, Da’Vine Joy!”

Her Broadway beginnings

As a “classically trained opera singer,” Randolph studied musical theater at Temple and continued to study acting at Yale, according to Philadelphia Magazine. She finally got her big break at 25, when she understudied as Oda Mae Brown in the Broadway musical “Ghost.”

Before rehearsal for the Broadway production began, the actress who played Oda Mae on West End was injured, “so they flew me out to do it,” Randolph told Philadelphia Magazine.

She went on to star in the Broadway production of “Ghost” and received a Tony nomination for her performance, per NBC.

“I never wanted to be an actor,” Randolph told USA Today. “I thought at this point, I’d be in Italy: penthouse, champagne, living the lavish life of an opera singer.”

Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s acting career

Since Randolph’s Broadway debut, she’s been the breakout star in a bevy of TV and film performances.

She portrayed Poundcake on the show “Empire,” Lady Reed in the film “Dolemite is My Name,” Cherise in the miniseries “High Fidelity” and Detective Donna Williams in “Only Murders in the Building,” among other roles.

“I’ve been the ‘breakthrough’ in almost every project I’ve done,” Randolph told USA Today. “At first, I thought that was bad, like, ‘Dang, am I not that memorable?’ But I had to reframe that in my mind: If you’re fresh and new and being discovered in every project, that’s a win.”

In the past 10 years, Randolph actively pursued a diverse slate of roles. “I like to go to extremes and show the diversity of work that I am capable of,” she told Philadelphia Magazine. “And I set this very specific precedent very early on. I went into this with a lot of intention.”

Randolph’s outlook on her acting career can be summarized in one sentence: “God has a bigger plan,” she told USA Today.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph in ‘The Holdovers’

In “The Holdovers,” Randolph plays Mary Lamb, the cafeteria manager at Barton Academy, an all-boy boarding school. When main character Angus (and a handful of other students) are forced to stay at school during the holiday break, they are chaperoned by strict Classics professor Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) and fed by Mary, who also stayed behind.

Mary, who recently lost her only son in the Vietnam War, is grief-stricken and just going through the motions. She dutifully does her job — feeding the rich and spoiled students at Barton — but doesn’t refrain from making cutting remarks.

The movie shows Mary quietly move through the holiday season before finally, inevitably, her grief explodes. It makes for a powerful and heartbreaking performance.

When asked by Vanity Fair what she brought to her role in “The Holdovers,” Randolph said, “The level of my authenticity and honesty.”

“It would’ve been a completely different character if I would’ve done it 10 years ago,” she said. “I’m a bit more grounded in just telling women’s stories. When you truly understand the climate of this industry and who’s telling the stories, it’s marginalized. I’m a woman of color.”

Randolph continued, “So I really take my time and do due diligence to tell relatable, authentic stories. What Mary does — I know a lot of women who are selfless. My mother’s that way. My aunts were that way. I just wanted to show the complexities and the power of a woman.”

“The Holdovers” — and Randolph — received widespread acclaim.

In her review for “The Holdovers,” Wendy Ide wrote for The Guardian, “But Mary’s plight is the rawest, something that Randolph captures brilliantly in the weary dignity of her character’s slow, achingly deliberate movements.”

Alexander Payne, who directed “The Holdovers,” told USA Today that he saw Randolph in the movie “Dolemite is My Name” and “thought of her for the role.”

“I find that actors adept at comedy can do dramatic parts without being dreary in them,” Payne said. “I’m so happy that people are responding to Da’Vine and what she brought to this. She gets huge laughs and also makes you cry.”

What awards did Da’Vine Joy Randolph win for ‘The Holdovers’?

After “The Holdovers” hit theaters last Christmas, it received a slew of nominations and awards this season. Here are all the awards Randolph won for her performance, according to CNN:

  • Golden Globes Award for best supporting actress.
  • Critics’ Choice Award for best supporting actress.
  • BAFTA for best actress in a supporting role.
  • SAG Award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role.

What’s next for Da’Vine Joy Randolph?

In an article for The Atlantic, Shirley Li expressed her concern that Randolph will fall victim to the “Best Supporting Actress Curse.”

Li wrote, “Yet Hollywood has a long history of celebrating new or underappreciated faces in the Best Supporting Actress category — only for their career to either stall or fail to reach similar heights afterward.”

Li points to the presenters of last night’s best supporting actress category: Nyong’o, who won the award 10 years ago for “12 Years a Slave,” didn’t land a starring role in a film until 2019′s “Us.” Regina King, who won in 2019 for “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “is finally leading a film, the upcoming Shirley Chisholm biopic.”

As Li points out, it isn’t uncommon for Hollywood to grant best supporting actress (or even actor) to fresh faces. And, while Randolph has been acting for over a decade, she’s certainly a fresh — and welcome — face in the awards circuit.

“Yet taking home one of the industry’s most prestigious awards might seem to indicate that an actress is one worth paying attention to,” Li wrote, “making it more conspicuous when they’re seemingly nowhere to be seen, or limited to more supporting parts.”

Randolph does seem to have a few projects coming up. According to her IMDb page, she’s in two upcoming films: “Bride Hard” and “Shadow Force.”

Additionally, USA Today reported that, “She is pursuing a biopic of another renowned singer, although prefers to keep details mum.”

“It’s me coming back to myself; reclaiming and reintroducing the fullness of me,” Randolph told USA Today. “I feel like I’m just getting started. One of the beauties of ‘The Holdovers’ is that if nothing else — the accolades are wonderful — but I hope this now allows me to hit a new ceiling of quality when it comes to projects. That’s the dream.”