By: Eshe Ukweli, Contributing Writer
Photo courtesy of Harper’s Bazaar
With critically acclaimed actors like Angel aBassett, Seth Rogan, and Oscar award-winner Ariana DeBose attending the 2022 Emmy’s, the guest list alone was enough to garner public attention. But with historic wins by long-time artist Sheryl Lee Ralph, Hollywood newcomer Quinta Brunson, and more, Black women undoubtedly became the true stars of the evening.
From the list of accolades for actresses like Pam Grier to star-studded careers for actresses such as Cicely Tyson, Black women have been no stranger to success in Hollywood, and their accomplishments have long been many. Ralph’s award as the second Black woman to win Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series builds upon this longstanding legacy, and cements her artistry beside Hollywood legends. “I am here, recognized after all this time, as being one of the best of the best in my industry with a group of women that are all the best,” shared Ralph in a backstage interview with Variety following her acceptance. Ralph’s most recent role as Barbara Howard on hit ABC comedy Abbott Elementary aided in Monday night’s victory. “This particular year [had] tons of great tv, [and] for my little freshman show to break through and be seen the way it is – oh my god I’ve got the golden ticket… where’s my chocolate?” exclaimed Ralph.
In the face of racism, misogyny, and circulating notions of placelessness within Hollywood, Ralph’s win spoke to the decades of hard work she and other Black women put in to grow in the industry. “It has been a long and rocky road to get to this place in an industry that, when I was younger… was very quick to tell me there was no place in it for me, that it could only be a side hobby, because there was so little made available to me,” recounted Ralph to PBS on her process of becoming and breaking into the scene.
Photo courtesy of Variety
Those who come before have always paved the way and opened the door for those who come after, and this holds true for Ralph’s legacy. From Broadway’s original “Dreamgirls” to now, Ralph’s career has always challenged the narratives of who could access success and broadened the image for others like her to step into the room and thrive.
Alongside Ralph’s achievement were other groundbreaking wins by Zendaya (for her role in HBO Max’s drama series Euphoria), Lizzo (for competition program Watch Out For the Big Girls), and Quinta Brunson (for Abbott Elementary). Newcomer Brunson’s talents have long graced the public’s screens as viral sensations, yet the adoration for her new show, which occurred so quickly, left the star stunned. “To have only had a few episodes and just for it to be an abundance of support, love, conversation, and just enjoyment of the show is just so, like, I don’t know. I am just so happy, so overwhelmed, shared Brunson with Bazaar.
The night carried more than joyous moments, and spoke to deeper notions of representation and the continued need to diversify stories in media. “The stories that they shared are not that unique, they just don’t get the platform… let’s just tell more stories,” said Lizzo. “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’d be like, you’re going to see that person, but it’s going to have to be you,” Lizzo said, in a powerfully moving statement.
Embodying change isn’t easy, and showing up for communities, one’s own or another, can be tiring, but for Zendaya, playing roles like Rue in Euphoria not only provided the opportunity to find purpose, but also aided in healing. “Euphoria‘s one of those things that has given me a tremendous amount of purpose. Like I said tonight, the amount of stories and messages I’ve gotten since Euphoria has come out I think is the whole reason why we do this,” Zendaya said following her Emmy acceptance. “The amount of people that feel seen and feel like Rue is a part of their journey and healing is beyond anything I could have asked for.
These Black women have gotten their flowers and are blazing not only their own legacies, but a trail for those like them, who dram of making it in Hollywood. In the famous lyrics of “Dreamgirls,” forever star and dreamgirl Sheryl Lee Ralph says to them, “little girls, look in the mirror, open your eyes, and love what you see, because you are your dream come true.”