Why so many actors brought Mom to the Oscars

Image: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
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It’s a sign of the times that so many moms sat alongside their star children at the Oscars last night.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Jared Leto, and Kate Hudson, plus a handful of other actors, marched in with their mothers on the red carpet. Even at less flashy affairs—say, an engineering society banquet—young professionals are bringing along Mom and Dad, often instead of their partners. And some workplaces including LinkedIn and Google now hold Bring Your Parents to Work days.

“It shows an appreciation for those who have supported them the most,” says Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding and author of the book Promote Yourself.

Of course, moms have always gotten at least a short mention in Oscar speeches, but this year a few of them really received star treatment.

The number of moms and other family members this year at the Academy Awards was notable in many media accounts before, during, and after Hollywood’s biggest awards show. They may be more prevalent because there were so many first-time nominees this year.  Leto brought his mother and his brother, and 12 Years a Slave winner Lupita Nyong’o also had mom along (but singled out her brother, Peter, in her acceptance).

One reason for having Mom on your arm as you walk the red carpet may be payback for all the support—financial and moral—that parents  gave during leaner times. Record numbers of millennials are living at home with parents, in part because of tight job markets or delays in getting married.

“It’s 75% gratitude and 25% PR,” says Schawbel, noting the gesture makes actors look warm and kind. It also can make it easier not to have to declare yourself a couple if you walk in with a beautiful woman who birthed you, instead of the one who may or may not be in your life for the long haul.

When Leto collected the golden award for best supporting actor in the Dallas Buyers Club, he lauded his mother, Constance, as a “high school dropout and a single mom.” “She encouraged her kids to be creative and to work hard and to do something special,” Leto said in his widely praised acceptance and wide-ranging speech. “Thank you for teaching me to dream.”  

At least one actor felt his mother was important enough to mention twice, even as she sat near the back of the 3,400-seat theater.

Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years a Slave, pulled out a white piece of paper, and read a list of names of publicists and agent. Then: “I have all women in my life and they’re all the most powerful. And my mother, obviously,” he said. Later, he again came back to her: “thank you for your hard headedness, Mum.”