Danai Gurira, who played Okoye in the Marvel movies, introduced Rihanna as “royalty in her own right.”
“Ludwig Göransson, Ryan Coogler, Tems and Rihanna wrote a ballad that speaks from the heart as a tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman,” Gurira said. “Chadwick’s powerful artistry, his magnetism and incomparable humanity left an indelible mark on our hearts. Chadwick embodied the Wakandan king T’Challa.”
The singer dazzled in a sparkling Maison Margiela Artisanal ensemble custom made for her by John Galliano for Maison Margiela.
Her emotional performance earned a standing ovation from the audience (including the artist’s super fan boyfriend A$AP Rocky, who raised his glass in celebration) in the Dolby Theater.
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The power ballad captures the spirit of loss, uplifting the film’s message of moving through grief following the 2020 death of “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman.
“Lift Me Up” was nominated for original song, up against “Applause” from “Tell It Like a Woman”, “Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick”, “This Is a Life” from “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Naatu Naatu” from “RRR.” It is the Bajan superstar’s first Oscar nomination. The award ultimately went to “RRR.”
The song, with music by Tems, Rihanna, Ryan Coogler and Ludwig Göransson and lyrics by Tems and Ryan Coogler, peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
“Wakanda Forever” was up for five Oscars, including best supporting actress for Angela Bassett for her role as Queen Ramonda. Ruth E. Carter won her second Oscar in the costume design category for her work on the film.
Rihanna’s performance followed quite a bit of anticipation from producers.
Oscar producers were already ecstatic to have Rihanna perform her Oscar-nominated song, which was also nominated for best song at the Golden Globes. Then Rihanna stole the Super Bowl with her halftime performance and pregnancy reveal.
“We were thrilled before the Super Bowl, but it only helped to see the coverage that her Super Bowl performance received,” Oscars producer Ricky Kirshner told USA TODAY.
Rihanna, who is pregnant with her second child, joked on Instagram ahead of the awards show about her son being disappointed to learn he would have to stay home while his new sibling attended the show.
“my son when he found out his sibling is going to the Oscars and not him,” she wrote.
The baby jokes though, were ongoing. While it was unclear whether Rihanna’s son was actually present at the Oscars, host Jimmy Kimmel took the opportunity to joke about the baby being backstage.
Rihanna “has a nine-month-old backstage. He’s very cute. He pooped during rehearsal. You know who the last person was to poop backstage at the Oscars? The accountant that mixed up the enveloped,” Kimmel said, referencing the best picture winner mix-up during his ill-fated Oscars hosting gig in 2017.
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Contributing: Bryan Alexander; The Associated Press