Will Smith is finally an Oscar winner. It’s a moment the actor and his fans have been waiting to see happen for decades.
Smith’s win for Best Actor, however, came with a cloud of controversy at Sunday’s 94th Academy Awards. Before he took to the stage at the Dolby Theatre for his role as Richard Williams in the acclaimed film King Richard, he shocked viewers everywhere by slapping comedian Chris Rock live onstage after Rock made a comment about Jada Pinkett Smith‘s shaved head—overlooking her open battle with alopecia.
Though Smith didn’t mention Rock by name during his speech, he alluded to the incident by starting off saying, “Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” seemingly referencing his own protectiveness of his wife moments earlier.
“I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment, and I’m not crying for winning an award. It’s not about winning an award for me. It’s about being able to shine a light on all of the people,” Smith said in his speech, while tearing up. “Tim and Trevor and Zack, and Saniyya and Demi, and Aunjanue, and the entire cast and crew of King Richard, and Venus and Serena, the entire Williams family. Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams.”
Smith also reflected on what winning an Oscar over 30 years into his acting career ultimately means to him.
“In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world,” he said. “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people … and to be a river to my people.”
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.
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