Inocente Izucar didn’t win an Oscar during Sunday night’s Academy Awards… But she did take the stage and get a special shout-out on Hollywood’s biggest night.
Following the announcement that Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine’s Inocente had won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short, the film’s co-directors brought Izucar with them on stage for their acceptance speech.
“We want to thank this young lady who was homeless just a year ago and now she’s standing in front of all of you,” said Fine. “She’s an artist and all of you are artists and we feel like we need to start supporting the arts. They’re dying in our communities. And all of us artists, we need to stand up and help girls like her be seen and heard. It’s so important. Thank you.”
The Fines discovered the then-15-year-old artist in San Diego four years ago, while seeking out subjects for a documentary they wanted to produce about homelessness. Izucar and her family had moved some 30 times in the previous decade, changing places every three months or so. Her father, who’d illegally brought his family across the U.S./Mexico border when Izucar was a child, had been deported to Mexico, and her mother found it difficult to support her four children, holding down a series of low-paying odd jobs.
But it wasn’t her struggles that made Izucar a gripping subject; it was her incredible talent and indomitable spirit. She’s a promising artist who begins each day painting bright and extravagant makeup on her face, and after the filmmakers connected with her through a San Diego non-profit called ARTS: A Reason to Survive that supports at-risk youngsters, they spent the next two years documenting her life.
“I don’t even want to imagine where I would be if there wasn’t the documentary and everything that’s going on with it,” says Izucar. “I’m really thankful to Sean and Andrea.”
Since working on the documentary, Izucar, now 19, has moved into her own apartment — which she shares with her two adopted pet bunnies — and she had a successful art show in New York City in August, right before the documentary aired on MTV.
During Sunday’s awards show, she decided to tone down her makeup and leave her trademark red Chuck Taylor sneakers for a more red-carpet appropriate look.
“I wish I had my sneakers,” says Izucar, who wore heels. “But I was barefoot most of the time because they hurt. I almost tripped getting up there too, because of my heels.”
Following her introduction to the world, Izucar managed to garner the attention of Hollywood legends who recognized her from being on stage and asked her about her art. She had plenty of good news to share: she recently launched a website on which collectors can view and purchase her art, and she’s been invited to do an art show at the National Art Club in New York this summer.
“I want to do advocacy with the film and there are just so many things I want to do now,” says Izucar. “I want to a write a kids book. I definitely want to go to college soon but I’m not sure what for. I think college is definitely where you learn new things and it’s the place for experiences. I wish I could do everything, and maybe I can.”
Inocente can be viewed online here or downloaded from iTunes.
Based on reporting by Entertainment Weekly.