What were the blue ribbons worn at the Oscars 2023?

UNHCR says #WithRefugees ribbons send 'a powerful visual message'

Best Actress nominee Cate Blanchett and her husband Australian playwright Andrew Upton show the UNHRC support. Reuters
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There was a lot of flair on the red carpet at this year’s Oscars and BAFTAs — most notably, plastic googly eyes and simple blue ribbons.

The googly eyes are a nod to the much-lauded film Everything Everywhere All at Once, and James Hong, the veteran actor who plays Michelle Yeoh’s father in the Best Picture winner, stuck them on his bow tie on Sunday.

Actor James Hong and actress Jamie Lee Curtis attend the 95th Annual Academy Awards. AFP

But the blue ribbons have a much deeper meaning: support for refugees around the world.

A statement from the UN refugee agency said that donning the #WithRefugees ribbons “sends a powerful visual message that everyone has the right to seek safety, whoever, wherever, whenever they are”.

A few of the celebrities showing their support through the #WithRefugees ribbons were Cate Blanchett and her husband, Australian playwright Andrew Upton; actors Ke Huy Quan, Colin Farrell and Bill Nighy; actresses Michelle Yeoh and Angela Bassett; and Mexican director Guillermo del Toro.

“My friend Cate Blanchett is asking people to remind us all in the midst of all the season of shiny things that, of course, there are terrible refugee crises going on all over the world everywhere all at once and we need to do our part,” actress Jamie Lee Curtis said on the BAFTA red carpet.

The ribbons were made by Knotty Tie Co, which the agency says provides employment, training and education to refugees resettled in the Denver, Colorado, area.

“In many of the films nominated at festivals and awards ceremonies this season, the human themes of conflict, separation and loss are present,” the agency said in the statement, citing movies such as Avatar: The Way of Water and Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.

“Through effective storytelling, these films help erode discrimination and misunderstandings, offer new perspectives and help to build compassion for people forced to flee.”

The number of displaced people globally now tops 103 million, a figure augmented by significant factors including Russia’s war in Ukraine and other conflicts around the world as well as climate change.

Best Supporting Actor award winner Ke Huy Quan, born in Vietnam, referenced his own story of being a refugee during his acceptance speech.

“My journey started on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp,” Quan said. “Somehow, I ended up here on Hollywood’s biggest stage. They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it’s happening to me.

“This — this — is the American dream.”

Like other UN agencies, the UNHCR has a long history of celebrity engagement — most famously, Angelina Jolie long acted its special envoy until last year. Best Actress nominee Blanchett is a goodwill ambassador for the agency.

But on Friday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric put in a plug for a goodwill ambassador from a different agency — the UN Development Programme. When asked whether he had a favourite for Best Picture, he demurred.

“No, but I do hope that the UNDP’s own goodwill ambassador Michelle Yeoh wins Best Actress, and we wish her all the best,” he said of the eventual winner.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Updated: March 14, 2023, 4:57 AM