Why are celebs donning blue ribbons at the Oscars?

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As celebrities strutted down the Oscars red carpet, awash in the glitz and glam of Hollywood, some were sporting a more subtle accessory: blue ribbons representing solidarity with the world’s refugee population.

The participating nominees and attendees were supporting the UN Refugee Agency(Opens in a new tab) (UNHCR)’s #WithRefugees(Opens in a new tab) campaign, a coalition(Opens in a new tab) of universities, foundations, faith-based organizations, youth groups, businesses, and NGOs that provide help to refugees and asylum seekers and call for international support for those forced to flee their homes. 

“The wearing of the blue #WithRefugees ribbon on the red carpet sends a powerful visual message that everyone has the right to seek safety – whoever, wherever, whenever they are,” wrote the UNHCR in a press release. 

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Each ribbon was handcrafted by a team at the Knotty Tie Co.(Opens in a new tab), a U.S. apparel company that supports refugees(Opens in a new tab) resettled in the Denver, Colorado, area through employment, training, and education. 

Big names, like Best Actress nominee Cate Blanchett, have joined in on the global movement throughout the awards season(Opens in a new tab). “What I love about film is the way it draws us into compelling human themes to uncover the connective tissue that binds us all,” she wrote in a statement to the press. “Whenever I have met refugees — in places such as Lebanon, Jordan or Bangladesh, in the UK, or back home in Australia — what has struck me has not been their ‘otherness’ but how many things we share in common.”

Oscar® nominee Cate Blanchett arrives on the red carpet of the 95th Oscars® at the Dolby® Theatre at Ovation Hollywood on Sunday, March 12, 2023.
Credit: Kyusung Gong / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Other actors, like Triangle of Sadness‘ Dolly De Leon, also expressed support from the film industry. “At a time when there are so many people suffering in the world, showing a little kindness and compassion to our fellow humans should not be a big ask,” she wrote. 

The message is timely, one year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine sent millions of refugees across the world and as more than 103 million forcibly displaced people(Opens in a new tab) seek aid. 

At the nexus of film and activism, many of this year’s award-nominated films share common themes(Opens in a new tab) of trauma, loss, and displacement, including Academy Award Best Documentary nominee A House Made of Splinters, which tells the story of an orphanage in Eastern Ukraine. Santiago Mitre, the mind behind Best International Feature Film nominee Argentina, 1985, and Edward Berger, director of Best Picture nominee and Best International Feature Film awardee All Quiet on the Western Front, were among those pledging their support through the blue ribbons. 

Actor Dolly De Leon, wearing a black suit, red accessories, and a blue ribbon, arrives on the Oscars

Dolly De Leon arrives on the red carpet of The 95th Oscars® at the Dolby® Theatre at Ovation Hollywood on Sunday, March 12, 2023.
Credit: Blaine Ohigashi / ©A.M.P.A.S.

They’re all bolstered by activist and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Yusra Mardini, whose story of fleeing her home during the Syrian civil war is depicted in the BAFTA-nominated Netflix film The Swimmers. Mardini became a member of the first Refugee Olympic Athletes Team. Her older sister, human rights activist Sara Mardini, was arrested by Greek officials in 2018 for supporting immigrant rescue efforts in the Mediterranean. 

“As a former refugee, it’s really incredible to see so many artists wear a blue ribbon tonight in solidarity with refugees and displaced people around the world,” the younger Mardini wrote. “My people – and so many others – are hurting. They need our support. We all need peace.”

UPDATE: Mar. 13, 2023, 12:43 p.m. EDT This story, originally published March 12, 2023, was updated following the 95th Academy Awards.

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