The 74th primetime Emmy awards, held in the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, turned out to be a historical night for Black women in television.
Hosted by Kenan Thompson, (“SNL”, “Kenan”) The 74th Primetime Emmy awards kicked off with a dance performance of hit television theme songs such as “Friends,” “Law and Order” and “Stranger Things.”
TV personality and Emmy award winner Oprah Winfrey made a surprise appearance to present the first award of the night for Lead Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie. That award went to Michael Keaton for the miniseries “Dopesick.”
The recognition of Black actresses, show writers and singers highlighted television’s biggest night. Last year, #emmyssowhite trended across social media after a lack of diversity in award winners was displayed throughout the ceremony. This year, history was made in Black television and Black women were recognized.
Here’s a detailed look at the Black women who took home trophies and delivered notable speeches at the 74th annual Emmy Awards.
Sheryl Lee Ralph’s win for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series set the tone for what would be a sweep of appreciation and memorable speeches made by Black actresses. Ralph, who won for her role as Barbara Howard in the Mockumentary “Abbott Elementary,” wore an all-black, high slit, velvet gown (the first gown designed by Black handbag designer Brandon Blackwood) and a jeweled-out braided ponytail. Ralph opened her speech with an a cappella rendition of the song “Endangered Species” by Dianne Reeves.
The section of the song she chose to deliver: “I am an endangered species, but I sing no victim’s song, I am a woman, I am an artist and I know where my voice belongs,” stands out as this is Ralph’s first Emmy nomination and win in her career of over 40 years.
“To anyone who has ever, ever had a dream and thought your dream wasn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t come true, I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like, stated Ralph. “This is what striving looks like, and don’t you ever, ever give up on you.” The speech received a standing ovation. Ralph is the second Black woman to win an Emmy in that category. Jackée Harry was the first Black actress to win in 1987 for her role in the sitcom “227.”
The next big winner was Zendaya for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. The 26-year-old actress won for her role as Rue in the drama series “Euphoria.” Not only is Zendaya the first Black actress to win an Emmy for the category twice, but she is also the youngest actress to win two Emmys.
The show “Euphoria” has stirred up controversy since its inception due to its graphic nature. The drama series centers around a group of high school students that are coping with trauma and often depicts children having sex and using drugs. Zendaya’s character Rue, battles with a heavy drug addiction.
“I just want to say you know, my greatest wish for Euphoria was that it could help heal people,” stated Zendaya during her acceptance speech. “I just want to say thank you to everyone who has shared their story with me. I want you to know that anyone who has loved a Rue or feels like they are a Rue, I want you to know I’m so grateful for your stories and I carry them with me, and I carry them with her.”
Singer and songwriter Lizzo won big at this year’s Emmys. Her Amazon reality show “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls” won two Emmys in the reality TV category for Outstanding Picture Editing and Outstanding Directing. During the broadcast, Lizzo accepted the award for Outstanding Competition Program.
Standing out in a red tulle gown, Lizzo invited the “big grrrls” to the stage as she burst into tears while delivering a moving acceptance speech. “When I was a little girl, all I wanted to see was me in the media. “Someone fat like me. Black like me. Beautiful like me. If I could go back and tell little Lizzo something, I would be like, ‘You’re going to see that person, but —- it’s going to have to be you.’”
Show writer and actress Quinta Brunson was the last Black woman to take home an Emmy on Monday night. Brunson, who won best writing for a comedy series for her show “Abbott Elementary” created the mockumentary after being inspired by the trials and hardships her mother experiences as a schoolteacher in real life.
During Brunson’s acceptance speech, late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel laid across the stage as she stood at the mic. Kimmel, who apologized to Brunson when she appeared on his talk show later that week, said that the awkward stunt was meant to be a comedy bit and he did not intend to “steal her moment.” Brunson did not take offense and played along while jokingly asking Kimmel to allow her to finish her speech.
Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee