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Questlove Opens Up About Winning Oscar Moments After Will Smith Slap: 'I Was Not Present At All'

Questlove Opens Up About Winning Oscar Moments After Will Smith Slap: 'I Was Not Present At All'
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Newly-minted Oscar winner Ahmir Khalib Thompson–who is professionally known as Questlove–said he was "not present at all" when he won the Academy Award for his documentary directorial debut, Summer of Soul, on Sunday.

His victory was preceded by the now-infamous slap heard around the world–which involved Will Smith smacking Chris Rock across the face for a joke about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith.

Rock went on to announce Questlove's win for the category.

He recalled his meditative mindset during the tense scene that left many rattled.

On Monday, Questlove was congratulated by the titular host of The Tonight ShowStarring Jimmy Fallon–where he and his The Roots bandmates serve as the in-house band.

When they discussed the Smith/Rock scuffle, Questlove told Fallon he chose to meditate instead of giving in to the anxiety at the ceremony.

Questlove said he had been practicing transcendental meditation for two years since comedian Jerry Seinfeld introduced it to him.

He said of Smith and Rock:

"Of course, you know, that happened in the cyclone of a whole [other] situation with two very good friends of mine."
"And I really wasn't aware of that, it's weird to say, because—they tell you ahead of time, ‘This is your category!'"
"And so, in that moment, you're either gonna be full of anxiety—or for me, I've been meditating for the last two years."

He continued:

"When the commercial break was happening, I was just in my ‘mmmm.'"
"So, when I opened my eyes, I didn't realize, like, ‘Why is everyone so quiet?' I literally was not present for that whole entire moment."

When Rock announced Summer of Soul won Best Documentary, the audience was still reeling from the drama that had just played out.

Questlove said he was completely unaware of the chaos that unfolded as he accepted the award.

"And as I'm walking to the stage, I'm kind of putting two and two together and I realize that that was a real moment, maybe three seconds before I spoke words."
"But in my mind, [Rock and Smith] are just doing a sketch or whatever, and I'm just like 'Okay Ahmir, remember to thank your mom, your dad."

You can watch the Jimmy Fallon interview, here.

In his acceptance speech, Questlove explained the significance of the film.

"This is about marginalized people in Harlem that needed to heal from pain," he said. "Just know in 2022—this is not just a 1969 story about marginalized people in Harlem."

Questlove's win was among many celebratory moments at the 2022 Oscars that was overshadowed by the slap that is still a trending topic online.

He admitted to Fallon his "true reward" was getting to create with his friends and colleagues at "30 Rock University" where other NBC shows like Saturday Night Live are filmed in New York city.

The interview concluded with him thanking Fallon for providing him with a platform to "live out my dreams" since he started working for the talk show host in 2009.