Though it happened months ago, many are still discussing the controversial moment from this year’s Oscars that saw Will Smith slap Chris Rock on stage. It was surely a surprising moment for those of us who were watching at home, though one can’t help but wonder what it was like for the folks who witnessed it in person. One such person in attendance was Lupita Nyong’o, who wasn’t seated too far from Smith and could be seen looking on as Smith shouted expletives at Rock from his seat. In time, Nyong’o’s expressions went viral and, now, the actress is reflecting on that moment and becoming a meme.
That night, the camera caught Lupita Nyong’o making a surprised facial expression while Will Smith yelled at Chris Rock. It was probably a given that the star would go viral, considering just how distinct her reaction was. And as it so happens, Nyong’o herself was more than aware of the fact that she would probably end up going viral due to that moment. The Academy Award winner got honest about the moment while speaking with THR and explained exactly why she knew that she’d go viral:
If it’s any consolation for her, she definitely wasn’t the only person to earn social media attention after that night. It goes without saying that The King Richard star himself became the subject of various memes and gifs, and some even crafted edited clips of the moment he slapped the comic. And in terms of people in the audience, Andrew Garfield went viral for texting later during the telecast. (Just last month, Garfield admitted that he was indeed texting about the slap.)
Will Smith slapped Chris Rock after the comedian made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. During the week that followed, Smith issued an apology and was banned from the Academy for 10 years as punishment. Smith shared a more personal apology aimed at Rock, who bluntly reacted via his stand-up routine. As of this writing, the two have yet to meet up and mend fences.
The live confrontation sparked a number of responses from notable names in Hollywood – some who were at the ceremony and some who were not. In the latter group was Jim Carrey, who said that he was “sickened” by the fact that Will Smith later got a standing ovation when he won his Oscar that night. Mila Kunis, who didn’t stand up to applaud Smith, said that her decision to remain seated was a “no-brainer.” She also said that she was surprised by just how many people chose to stand up. Conversely, Fresh Prince star Tatyana Ali made note of Smith’s “big heart” while also saying that “[Chris Rock] didn’t deserve to be hit.” More recently, Kevin Hart addressed the slap, saying that people make mistakes and that at this point, the world should allow both Smith and Rock to handle the situation themselves.
Based on her comments, Lupita Nyong’o seems to be ready to wash her hands of the situation, and that’s understandable. She wasn’t, after all, directly involved with the confrontation. Plus, she’s busy with plenty of other things like the impending release of her latest movie, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Still, in all honesty, it’s going to be hard to forget that stunned reaction that she had to the slap.
Check out Lupita Nyong’o in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever opens in theaters on November 11 as part of the schedule of upcoming movies.
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Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.