Will Packer and Shayla Cowan Produced the Best Oscars I’ve Ever Seen

Tiffany Thomas
5 min readApr 8, 2022

Don’t worry this isn’t a Will Smith & Chris Rock opinion post


Okay, I know we’re sick and tired of talking about this in general. But even with all the chaos, I still wanted to appreciate Will’s Packer and Shayla Cowan’s work at the Oscars.

I used to look forward to the Oscars and correctly guessed Best Actor/Actress, Supporting, and Best Picture every year. But I became so fed up with the lack of diversity there. The outdated and predictable ceremony stopped being interesting. So the past 6 years, I completely gave up on watching it and this year I thought there was no way I would.

But the Friday before the awards, I saw headlines of, “Will Packer is Producing the Oscars This Year.” Will Packer is a famous producer that’s a part of some of the most popular films in Hollywood- Straight Outta Compton, Stomp the Yard, Obsessed, This Christmas, Think Like A Man, The Photograph, Girls Trip, etc. He grossed over $1 billion in box office and the best part about his films is that they involve a Black cast in all of them. He’s also produced some docuseries, such as Blackballed and The Atlanta Child Murders and primetime programming, Being Mary Jane.

His projects entertain, celebrate, and bond the Black community and watching his films always puts me in a good mood! I used to follow him on my old personal social media account and grew a fascination for his work.

Anyway, the second I read that Will Packer was producing it, I’m like “okay, I’m def watching it!” I knew so much information about him already, but I didn’t know much about his co-producer Shayla Cowan. When researching her, I found out she’s Chief of Staff of Packer’s production company. “She manages and oversees all the operational and administrative activities of both companies [Will Packer’s production and media company] and serves as a key advisor on the company’s marketing, communications and business strategies.” So all of those films I mentioned earlier, she produced, too!

Then on Wendy, when Sherri Shepherd hosted, Entertainment Reporter, Jasmin Simpkins explained that Packer’s goal was to make the Oscars modern, while celebrating the tradition of Hollywood. Also, that he eliminated 8 categories to make the show efficient (Steven Spielberg blew a fit about that). Plus, presenters wouldn’t just be Oscar winning actors, but music stars and HBCU students and alumni. So, I knew these Oscars were going to be nothing like we’ve seen. Of course the producers don’t have any say who wins, but they have control on what the show actually looks like.

The night finally came and for the first time, I was intrigued with the show from start to finish. Beyonce’s incredible performance introduced the show in such a powerful way. The tennis ball green, color-themed production and wardrobe creatively represented the amazing “King Richard” film and the Williams sisters in general. It was absolutely inspiring. Right afterwards, the hosts Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer, and Regina Hall entered the show with stunning looks and hilarious jokes. Especially, the one about paying three women hosts the same as just one man (funny as hell and so damn true).

The order of the awards was different, but it worked. Best supporting actor/actress happened in the beginning, instead towards the climax/ending of the show. That’s when we all got to see, the first queer Afro-Latina win Best Actress In A Supporting Role, Ariana Debrose. Then, the first deaf actor to win Best Actor In A Supporting Role, Troy Kotsur.

Kotsur gave such a touching and emotional speech, especially when he said, “I just wanted to say that this is dedicated to the deaf community, the CODA community, and the disabled community. This is our moment. To my mom, my dad, and my brother, Mark. They’re not here today, but look at me now. I did it. I love you. Thank you.” To witness back to back historic moments during the show was pretty dope.

I’m not usually entertained by the Oscar performances, but this year they were so good. There’s so many opinions about the Encanto’s, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” because Megan Thee Stallion featured in the performance. But the collaboration with her and Adassa, Stephanie Beatriz, Mauro Castillo, Carolina Gaitan, Diane Guerrero, Sheila E., Becky G, and Luis Fons gave such a vibrant vibe. The dancing, the colorful dresses, and Megan rapping was fun as hell to watch. Megan Thee Stallion is the first female rapper to perform at the Oscars, which made it even better.

The 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival didn’t get any recognition in history, and finally an artist made an incredible doc about it. So the fact that we got to see QuestLove get an Oscar for the film was such an important moment. He made the festival alive for this generation. He absolutely deserved that Oscar and seeing his speech, while his mother hysterically cried was beautifully captured.

Lastly, The Godfather tribute was one of the best tribute videos, I’ve ever seen. It had a hip hop mix of the songs, “Can I Live,” “NY State of Mind,” “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” Lil Wayne’s “A Milli,” and “All About the Benjamins.” Playing those iconic songs, while showing some badass clips of the film, added so much flair and swag.

A Rock the Bells article, elaborated on the Godfather Oscar tribute and it stated, “Whether it’s an artist’s own personal journey, lyrics, or a combination of both, the songs are a testament to how the Academy now puts the New York-born culture on equal footing with Tinsel Town.” So the mix of songs and the clips, portrayed more than the film, it represented New York itself.

Will Smith and Chris Rock are the most talked about for what happened at the Oscars. It’s unfortunate, but it makes sense because we’ve never seen anything like that on a live award show. But I really wanted to acknowledge the fact that it was an incredible show, despite of that situation.