Life Lessons Learned from the Oscars

I LOVE Oscar time and I’ve watched every year since I was young. I used to (and occasionally still do) dream that one day, I would be the one, up on that stage, receiving the Academy Award for Best Actress.

I’d graciously thank the Academy, and of course, my parents and fellow nominees… Meryl for her inspiration, Angelina for being like a sister to me during all those trips we made together on behalf of the UN, Dame Judy for taking me under her wing when I was fresh out of drama school, then of course, my husband – Leonardo DiCaprio, for being ‘my rock’…

Oscar Acceptance Speech

Here’s me with my Oscar statue during my recent trip to Hollywood – I know what you’re thinking – wow, what a range of emotions this woman can portray with just her eyes…

But I digress.

This is probably a weird thing to say, but my favourite part of the Oscars is the Memoriam. The part of the show when they pay tribute to all of the Academy members who have passed away in the last year. Some you’ve heard of, usually the actors and directors, then those you may not have, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to bring a film to life.

It’s always a poignant few minutes. Every year I sit and I cry whilst the montage of lost talent flashes in front of me. This year we lost some true greats; Peter O’Toole, Shirley Temple, Joan Fontaine, Harold Ramis… to name but a few.

But I feel most sad when I see people up on that screen who are, I guess, relatively young. Those who left the world far too early for whatever reason… I cried for Heath Ledger. This year I cried for Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Gandolfini and Paul Walker.

I always wonder what the audience members must feel like when they watch this. Aside from the fact that they were probably friends with one or two of the people up there, they will all know, that at some point in time, they themselves will be up on that screen.

Am I morbid? Maybe.

Then this year, just to really get the waterworks going, they go and bring out Bette Midler to sing ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings’ and I bet there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. So it’s probably best if I’m never nominated for an Oscar… I would be a state.

Anyway, there’s a reason this is my favourite part of the show, but I’ll get to that.

I love watching people receive their awards. People so overwhelmed, proud, happy, and who in some cases have worked hard and waited their whole lives (except if you’re Meryl Streep – complete Oscar hogger) for this moment.

This year, there were some wonderfully moving speeches. My favourite quote of the night was from Kenyan Oscar winner, Lupita Nyong’o who said:

 No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”

She’s right. No matter who you are, or where you are from, your dreams are valid. All of our dreams are valid. And if anyone tells you otherwise, well, then they don’t deserve a place in your life.

This makes me think of my friend Godfrey. Godfrey Masauli, an ordinary boy from Malawi. Godfrey had a dream. His dream was to fly. The people around him thought he was crazy, they laughed at him.

A few years back, Godfrey met Benjamin, a young man travelling through his home town, near Blantyre, Malawi. Benjamin was flying kites with the local kids. They became friends and together they set off on a journey cycling across Malawi. During the trip, Benjamin, who is a paraglider, taught Godfrey to fly. His dream, came true.

Benjamin made a documentary about this journey. So in turn, his dream came true also.

Godfrey Masauli doing a Ted Talk in Malawi

Godfrey now spends his time encouraging others to pursue their dreams and spreading his message - “Ndizotheka!” (It is Possible), in his local language, Chichewa.

Anyway, I’ve gone off subject again. The reason that I love the Memoriam part of the show so much is summed up in this quote from the 2014 Best Film Winner, ‘Twelve Years a Slave’: “I don’t want to survive. I want to live.”

Every single one of those people who flash across that big screen on Oscars night had something in common.

They all made their dreams come true.

Whether they fulfilled every dream they ever had, I don’t know. But, they achieved at least one. To work in ‘the movies’.

But not one of them achieved their dream alone. They all had the help of others to to achieve that dream.

A reader (who shall remain nameless), who I’ve been helping with some trip planning, wrote this to me the other day:

“I wanted to finally make one of my dreams come true and thanks to you it happened.”

To hear someone say that, about me, well, it made my day. I’m sure she could have planned everything herself, but sometimes, it’s good to have someone encourage you through the process and I’ve always said that one of the main aims of this blog, was to help others achieve their dreams too, the way people have helped me in the past. When you reach out to someone, the world opens up.

Dreams can be big or small. There’s no right or wrong way to dream. Maybe you dream of going into outer space. Or maybe you dream of owning a cottage in the country. Or maybe you want to climb a big mountain. Or maybe you simply want to be happy. Or maybe like me, you want to travel to Africa. A dream is a dream. Sometimes they come true, sometimes they don’t – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for them.

Fight for your dreams. Fight with everything you’ve got. Never give up. Never.

I still haven’t completely given up on my hope of winning an Oscar. It could still happen you know, watch this space!

Some might be more easy to achieve than you think and if keep your eyes open… sometimes dreams find you.

What’s your dream?

Sharing is caring!

About Author

I'm a travel blogger and tour operator with a passion for Africa travel. I love the great outdoors, going on epic trips around the world and helping others travel!


  • Jen
    March 3, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Great post Helen.

    I have never really watched much of the Oscars but this blog and a few of the highlights I saw this morning have made me add it to the diary for next year.

    Lots of inspiring quotes by people who did actually make their dreams happen… we can do it too! Rock on! Watch us shine.

    • Helen
      March 3, 2014 at 10:46 pm

      Thanks Jen! I thought this year was really great, and Ellen made it awesome too. Lots of inspiring speeches! Loved it!

      We will shine!!!! xxxxxx

  • Murissa
    March 3, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    Lovely post Helen.
    I love the Oscars as well. Each year I host a party and get teary eyed just as you do when it comes time for the memoriam.
    I don’t think your morbid at all but I agree. It is a time of reflection, not just about the lives lost this year but for us to keep pursuing our own dreams before our time is up.

    • Helen
      March 3, 2014 at 10:52 pm

      Thanks so much Murissa. Glad somebody else appreciates it in the same way. Wish I lived near you so I could come to your party!

      Oh, and how wonderful was Pink singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow??? With Liza Minelli and Lorna Luft watching in the audience! Must have been so sad yet happy for them to hear Pink singing their mums song so beautifully whilst their mum danced around in The Wizard of Oz behind them. So lovely!

  • Sarah Fazendin
    March 4, 2014 at 3:39 am

    Lovely post! I thought all of the winners gave poised and eloquent acceptance speeches, and Lupita embodied the grace that so many African women do. Really a great year for the Oscars! Also just wanted to say HI from one Africa-lover to another:)

    • Helen
      March 4, 2014 at 11:11 am

      Thanks so much Sarah (fellow Africa-lover)!

      The speeches were great weren’t they? This was a great year! Ellen was brilliant too. I always liked it when Billy Crystal did it too! x

  • Vicky
    March 7, 2014 at 10:14 am

    “Ndizotheka!” I need to remember that one. I also love watching people get awards, totally makes me emotional no matter what it’s for. Thinking about how hard they worked for it and what it must mean gets me going. I shall look forward to seeing you collect one somewhere someday 🙂

    • Helen
      March 7, 2014 at 9:52 pm

      A couple of my friends got Ndizotheka tatoos!

      Ha ha, thanks Vicky! Maybe one day I’ll win an award for something… that would be nice. Although I am one of those jack of all trades types… we don’t win much! 🙂

  • elaine schoch
    March 11, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Such a great post and I love that you helped make someone’s dreams happen. That’s an accomplishment – one to proud of.

    • Helen
      March 17, 2014 at 9:17 am

      Thanks Elaine! x

  • Arianwen
    March 20, 2014 at 6:22 am

    You’re hillarious! I love those photos of you with your Oscars. Anything’s possible. Don’t give up your dreams! That African proverb is a good one. I’ve committed it to memory 🙂

    • Helen
      March 20, 2014 at 9:28 am

      I’m an idiot! 🙂

      I believe that! It may take a while to get there, but I guess that is better than getting all your dreams at once. I truly believe though, that’s t’s all down to the help from others as well as ourselves!

      Thanks Ari x

  • AlainSojourner
    March 25, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    I watch the Oscars when I like the host and I watched TWO movies nominated for Best Picture. 🙂
    And I love the show this year.

    • Helen
      March 25, 2014 at 9:06 pm

      I loved it this year too! I thought Ellen was really good. And all the stuff she did like the pizzas and the selfie just made all the stars that little bit more ‘normal’! I need to watch all of the films though. I’ve only seen 12 Years A Slave and Dallas Buyers club so far!


Leave a Reply