One would think the leading lady of a Best Picture nominee wouldn’t have to fight her way to appear at the Academy Awards, but you’d be wrong. That’s precisely what Rachel Zelger had to do to get an invite to the Oscars, despite West Side Story, the film that marked her debut, landing seven nominations. But after an outcry when fans found out about the invite snub, there was an about-face, and Rachel Zegler turned up at the 2022 Oscars as a presenter. But, she didn’t let the initial snub slide when she took the stage alongside Jacob Elordi and gave the Academy some shade.
Let’s recap the drama that led to Zegler’s on-stage Oscars shade. Zegler was cast as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story remake after a global search. Her debut was critically lauded, despite an omicron surge depressed box office turn out. She won the Golden Globe for her work, but the Academy snubbed her; the only nomination West Side Story landed in the individual acting categories went to Ariana DeBose’s turn as Anita, for which she nabbed the Oscar for best actress in a supporting role. Not only was Zegler snubbed when it came to the nominations, but she was also snubbed when it came to just getting an invitation.
Zegler didn’t think she would make it to the 2022 Oscars until less than a week before the big night when she was finally invited to present. When she and Elordi took the stage during the March 27 broadcast, Elordi explained that since he grew up halfway around the world from Hollywood in Australia, he never expected to someday be at the Oscars. Zegler responded with a shady reference to her invitation snub: “And I never thought I’d be here six days ago.”
Zegler’s 2022 Oscars moment was thanks to a lot of online outrage from fans. After Zegler attended the BAFTAs the weekend before the Oscars, a fan commented that they couldn’t wait to see what she wore to the Oscars. Zegler replied that, though she wanted to attend, she couldn’t secure an invite. This ignited a firestorm, with both the Academy and Disney accused of double snubbing an up-and-coming Latina actor. In reality, Zegler’s non-attendance was due to filming the live-action Snow White in London — a role she landed due to her work in West Side Story — and the health and safety protocols she would have to go through for international travel. But that didn’t matter.
On Wednesday, March 23, the Oscars had offered her a presenter’s slot and confirmed she would attend. And just a few days later, Zegler’s Oscar dreams came true... with a side of shade.