Jessica Chastain wins Oscar for portrayal of televangelist

"The Eyes of Tammy Faye" stars Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker.(Photo: Searchlight Pictures)

Jessica Chastain won the best actress Oscar on Sunday night for her portrayal of Tammy Faye Bakker in "The Eyes of Tammy Faye." In her acceptance speech, she said she was inspired by the televangelist's radical love towards all people, including members of the LGBT community.

Chastain was honored at the 2022 Oscars ceremony for her performance in the film that follows the rise and fall of Jim and Tammy Bakker and their "Praise the Lord" empire.

In her speech, the actress thanked everyone that helped her accomplish the task, including director Michael Showalter and co-star Andrew Garfield. She also thanked the film's hair and makeup team, which also scored an Oscar for transforming Chastain into the colorful televangelist.

As previously reported by The Christian Post, "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" follows the Bakkers as they meet at a Bible college. It documents their rise from children's ministry leaders to the prosperity gospel-loving leaders of a multimillion-dollar TV network.

The televangelist, known for her exaggerated makeup and high-pitched voice, never fit in with the Evangelical world she claimed. The film portrays her disagreeing with Jerry Falwell Sr. over the issue of homosexuality as well as interviewing a gay activist living with AIDS, Steve Pieters, on her show.

In her speech, Chastain highlighted some of the things she appreciated about Tammy Faye Bakker, who died from cancer in 2007.

She said people "are coming out of some difficult times that have been filled with a lot of trauma and isolation."

"Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States," Chastain said. "It's touched many families. It's touched mine and especially members of the LGBTQ community. ... We're faced with discriminatory and bigoted legislation that is sweeping our country with the only goal of further dividing us. There's violence and hate crimes. ... In times like this, I think of Tammy and I'm inspired by her radical acts of love."

The California native addressed anyone in need of encouragement.

"For any of you out there who do, in fact, feel hopeless or alone, I just want you to know that you are unconditionally loved for the uniqueness that is you," she said.

The Bakker's ministry came crashing down in 1988 after Jim Bakker was accused of using ministry funds to pay for the silence of a rape accuser and to support a lavish lifestyle. He was subsequently indicted on eight counts of mail fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. He spent eight years in prison before being released in 1994. The couple divorced and ended up in financial ruin.

While in the spotlight, Tammy Fay Bakker, who remarried in 1992, was considered a "gay icon" and regularly performed for primarily gay audiences.

"I think I have a lot in common with the gay population because they've been made fun of and put down and misunderstood and have really had a rough row to hoe in life," she told The South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 2002. "They identify with me and I certainly identify with what they're still going through."

Both of the Bakkers' children, Tammy Sue and Jamie Charles, were involved in the making of "The Eyes of Tammy Faye." Jim Bakker now hosts "The Jim Bakker Show."

It is Chastain's first Oscar win. She was nominated twice before.

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