“I'm extremely lucky to be able to do what I love for a living," she said backstage. “This win means more people get to live their dreams. I'm extremely grateful."
This was the only year in the 93-year Oscar history with two female nominees: Zhao and “Promising Young Woman” director Emerald Fennell. Only seven women have ever been nominated.
Zhao's film — starring Frances McDormand — tells a story about a woman in her 60s and other transient workers in the American West.
The film won best picture and McDormand took home the award for best actress.
While wearing braids and sporting white tennis shoes, Zhao thanked her entire cast and crew. She called the process of creating the project a “once-in-a lifetime journey we’ve all been on together.”
Zhao paid homage to those who inspired her to “keep going.”