Octavia Spencer won the best supporting actress Oscar for her portrayal of a mouthy, endearing housemaid who reluctantly tells her story in the US civil-rights era film The Help.
In line with many experts' bets, Spencer edged out Berenice Bejo from The Artist, Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids, Janet McTeer for Albert Nobbs and castmate Jessica Chastain, who played an unhappy, ostracized housewife.
A tearful Spencer earned a standing ovation from the audience.
In The Help, Spencer plays Minny Jackson, a black maid who tells her life story to a young white woman writer, despite fear of possible reprisals, at a time when blacks and whites were not allowed to drink from the same fountain.
"I hope I can be a symbol of hope for all the other actors who've been doing it as long as I have. It says something about perseverance and staying in the game," Spencer said at a recent lunch for Academy Award nominees.
Partial list of the 84th Annual Academy Award winners
Art Direction: Hugo
Costume Design: The Artist
Makeup: The Iron Lady
Foreign Language Film: A Separation, Iran.
Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help
Sound Mixing: Tom Fleischman and John Midgley for Hugo
Sound Editing: Philip Stockton & Eugene Gearty
Film Editing: Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Best Animated Feature film: Rango
Best Documentary Feature: TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Rich Middlemas for Undefeated