(Leonardo di Caprio- Photo courtesy of Tech Insider)
That Sunday night, Leonardo’s eyes welled up. He looked down at his prize with a deep, reverent awe. Dressed in a tuxedo, almost too dapper for a 40-something-year-old man, his heavy sighs, uncalculated shrugs and misty eyes told of the emotion holed up in his chest. The flood was about to roll down his cheeks. It had been years coming; years of frustration, of anguish, of watching less deserving people get ahead, of bitterness at being overlooked for remarkable feats in his industry, of disappointment at being blatantly ignored by the voting powers that be in his trade.
But this delightful night, Leonardo was victorious. And millions of people around the world shared in his joy. From the tweetosphere (the murky space online where twitter citizens live their virtual lives), to dark alleys in Bangkok, to police stations in Pakistan (where a Police Commander hosted a lavish banquet for policemen in honor of Leo’s achievement), to a friend’s loud jubilant gasps of “Yessssssss” at 2 a.m. in Kireka, the world had waited with bated breath to see if Leo would be denied his victory again.
Over the last two decades, Leonardo di Caprio has been a prolific actor in Hollywood, taking up roles that have been raw, emotional, intense, provocative, as well as seriously intellectually engaging. He has been one of Hollywood’s less scandalous actors; keeping a low profile and letting his work speak for him. From The Aviator, Titanic, Catch Me If You Can, The Wolf of Wall Street, Blood Diamond, The Great Gatsby to other blockbusters, Leo has brought life to the characters he has played and I dare say, he has arguably been one of the top actors in the last half-century. He has been nominated 164 times for awards, winning 45 of them. Among his nods were five Oscar nominations. He lost all those five times; against sometimes seemingly less formidable and less talented actors. It was a dark cloud over his career.
The Oscars are the pinnacle of any actor’s career. They also seemed to be the Achilles’ heel, the blotted stain on Leo’s otherwise stellar career. He was trolled on the internet for being a perennial under-achiever at the Oscars. People scoffed at his ability to pick up an Oscar for his roles. Many wondered why he had never won the elusive Oscar award. Through all the shame, disappointment, anguish and bitterness I am sure Leo felt, he never wavered. He held his head high, mustered the courage to power through the disappointments and worked harder than ever with a grace and humility that I have not seen many do.
Leo’s hard work paid off a few weeks ago. On his sixth nomination, he finally won the 2016 Oscar award for an actor in a leading role for his portrayal of Hugh Glass, a 19th century American frontiersman who was left for dead by his comrades after being mauled by a bear during a winter expedition. Over twenty years later, Leo’s coveted victory came. The puffing of his chest as he walked up to give his acceptance speech spoke volumes; how sweet the victory must have tasted after countless, tearful attempts and stinging failure. Like many around the world, I was ecstatic for Leo.
You see, Leo’s victory spoke to my heart more than a thousand hours of encouragement have done. For a few months now, I have been facing monumental challenges in my life. Sometimes, I have felt like my life’s journey has been peppered with the worst kind of prickly thorns. A few times, I have felt like throwing in the towel, digging a hole in the ground and disappearing into it as I wait for the wind to blow my problems away. Leo carried himself with such humility and exhibited such immense gratitude at getting what he had worked so hard for that I could not fail to be inspired.
In as much as my problems are floating around like suffocating, obese Goliaths, I am encouraged that one day, in God’s time, my hard work and sacrifices will pay off. I am learning to take life one day at a time, to value the refiner’s fire, to take the time to appreciate tough situations, difficult people, painful sacrifices and dealing with failure. When I go through the valley and reach my peak, I will remember what grace abounded on my life to be an overcomer. And I hope to God that on that day, I will be as thankful and humble as Leonardo di Caprio was after his Oscar feat.