Meet the Model for the Oscar Statuette
This is Emilio “El Indio” Fernandez. You might know him better as Oscar.
According to one long-standing rumor, Fernandez, a famous Mexican director and actor, is the man behind Oscar’s chiseled pecs. The story goes like this: In the 1920s, there was a tight-knit Mexican community in Hollywood. At the time, actress Dolores del Rio was dating (and later married) MGM Chief Art Director Cedric Gibbons, the man in charge of designing the statuette for the newly-founded Academy Awards. When del Rio learned that Gibbons needed a model for the sculptor to work from, she immediately suggested her pal Emilio Fernandez, who was currently finding work as an extra. After some coaxing, Fernandez agreed to pose nude for the sculpture. The sword he grips, by the way, isn’t just any old sword—it’s a “crusader’s sword,” and the film reel the statue stands on has five spokes representing the five original branches of the Academy (actors, directors, producers, technicians, and writers).
The official word from the Academy is that “no model was used during the design process,” but the rumor has persisted for decades now.
If that’s the case, though, why isn’t the award referred to as the “Emilio” instead? The “Oscar” nickname didn’t show up until the mid-'30s, but where it came from is another mystery that’s never been confirmed—though there's no shortage of theories. You can read about them here.