I (and countless others) have spent years complaining about the monochrome Emmy Awards (read: my post on 2013 Emmy Awards Embodied TV’s White Problem). It is usually a show that is white people giving other white people every award, and the audience is sprinkled with a few Black and brown faces to keep everyone patting their own backs. Not this year. Well, it’s still a big white scoop with colored sprinkles, except the Black sprinkles walked on stage and got the props they deserve. It was the Blackest Emmy Awards I’ve ever seen, and this is why I have hollered myself hoarse.
My throat is hurting for spending much of the evening screaming like a banshee. Three Black women whose work I LOVE walked away with awards, and I cannot stop being geeked about it. The big winners of the night were: Veep, Game of Thrones and Black women.
BLACKEST. EMMYS. EVER. Not only were Black people nominated for more awards than ever (like 25), more walked away with them too. Besides the women who won, Reg E. Cathey, won for his role in House of Cards. On top of that, there was Noire on that stage throughout the night as presenters with melanin came through. Reg was a presenter and when that baritone hit the mic and the vibrations made it to my ears, let me just stop right there. All I’ma say is LAWD THAT VOICE!
ENNEHWEIGHS, I am still feeling giddy about the fact that three melanin-full women walked away with awards in their hands.
First was for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie. Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard were presenters and it was a tough category that included Kathy Bates the Beast. I was sure she would win because it’s Kathy MUFUGGING BATES. THREE out of the six the nominees were Black women, though (Angela Bassett for American Horror Story: Freak Show and Mo’Nique for Bessie). The name that Taraji called out was REGINA KING for American Crime. She SCREAMED it out!
Lemme tell you something. A scream escaped from my mouth at the same damb time. I WAS SO EXCITED. Regina King is shero status for me and I met and interviewed her this year at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon. The woman has a 30+ year career in an industry that loves to eat you up and spit you out in 15 minutes. She’s been in front of the camera, behind it, in the writing room, animated, funny, serious.
She defies boxes and she’s done it while keeping her life private and her boundaries up. She is absolutely someone worthy of emulation. There are some folks who are great for spurts of time. She’s managed to do it for decades, and still look like she’s in her 20s. It makes absolutely no sense that her Black refuses to wrinkle, let alone crack.
When Regina stepped on stage and another YESSSSS escaped from Taraji’s mouth, I got all verklempt. She could not help herself but to be overjoyed to be giving her friend this award. It was sisterhood and it was perfection. Regina, girl. Yes.
And then, our (yes, OUR) 2nd win for the night was in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category. Another incredibly tough one, with 2 actresses from my beloved Game of Thrones (Emilia Clarke and Lena Headley) and Christina Hendricks from Mad Men. The winner was UZO ADUBA! In that moment, she became a history-maker. She became the first woman to win Best Actress in a Comedy AND Drama for the same role. First WOMAN. Last year, Orange is the New Black was under the “comedy” and she won in the Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series category.
My girl got on that stage and thanked the Lord, because He is to be praised. She thanked her family, especially her sister who was her date for the evening. She thanked her castmates and Jenji Kohan. I had tears in my eyes and I was grinning like a cheshire cat. This classically-trained opera singer who attended Julliard and then burst through the scene in Orange is the New Black was making me proud like I was the one paying her school fees. Her name is Uzoamaka, and she is making history. WHEN I TELL YOU I DON SHOUT FINISH.
Mannnn, look. See my Naija sisthren outchea prospering like this. NAIJA NO DEY CARRY LAST. You know she got some prayer warriors and people covering her with blood of Jesus because she is blessed and highly favored.
In true Naija style, Thanksgiving services for Uzoamaka’s Emmy award will take place at Redeem Church on Sunday from 9am – 3pm. Prayer warriors, please fast for 3 days before. Thank you. Bring snacks. We will also need someone to bring puff puff and suya for the after services. And jollof rice. And meatpie. In fact, we’re calling purple gele too. We have to wash this occasion well well.
The moment that really had my heart swelling 1,000 times its’ size because it was the proudest, most unapologetically Black girl moment of the evening. One of the last awards of the evening was Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. That category was jam-packed full of dope women, including Robin Wright from House of Cards. Taraji for Empire, Elisabeth Moss from Mad Men, Claire Danes from Homeland. The name that was called was: VIOLA DAVIS for How to Get Away with Murder.
COME. THROUGH!!! She was already looking like a queen with that halo of fro she was rocking around the face that was snatched with red lipstick. The white dress against that chocolate skin too? YES MA’AM. YES PAM. This was also a historic moment because Viola is the first Black woman to win this category. She got there from pure hard work, grit and talent. She is standing there showing that you can get good enough where they have no other choice but to pay attention to you.
Viola started by quoting Harriet Tubman, and the only way she could have been Blacker in that moment was if she had called her Araminta.
‘“In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me, over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.”
That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.’
She used the rest of her speech to celebrate Black women and call the other sisters in the industry out by name. At this point, I was in my house so deep in my feelings I needed to doggie paddle my way out.
It was a beautiful moment, and the camera panned to Kerry Washington who was in tears. Taraji, who had run to hug Viola the moment her name was called, looked like it was SHE who had won. And really, it was.
Black women are EVERYTHING. Let me repeat. BLACK. WOMEN. ARE. EVERYTHING. So proud. Always proud. Whenever I hear people say “women don’t support each other” my only question is “BISH WHERE?” We do. I see sisterhood all around me. My village is of nothing but women who prop each other up, and that is the norm more than the exception.
There was also Tracy Morgan, who was making his first awards show appearance since that major car accident he was in last year. I was already fragile at that point.
It was so good to see him! This man lost one of his best friends in that accident, spent 8 days in a coma and suffered serious neurological damage. To see him walk on that stage, unassisted and speaking in full sentences? LISTEN HERE. It was a moment of victory and the room gave him a fitting standing ovation. Salute, indeed.
It was a night of mahogany celebration.
Even the commercials were hella Black. Especially that Apple Music ad featuring Mary J. Blige, Kerry Washington and Taraji jamming to the “Instant Boyfriend Mixtape Playlist.” AND it was directed by Ava DuVernay, whose Blackness can’t ever be questioned. She’s so Black, she could vouch for Rachel Dolezal to come into our annual picnic and I’d only be mad for like 15 minutes. You already know how Black the rest of those ladies are. Mary J. has sang about chicken before. It does not and will not ever get any Blacker than that. And Taraji told Jody how much she hates him several times. And Kerry is married to a Nigerian man and got an Igbo name now (Ogechi). I call her AdeKerry, doe, because us Yorubas wanna claim her too. That’s my cousin.
I want this commercial to win an Emmy itself. I don’t even care the category. They can create a new one called “Most Awesome Thing” because I loved it. Chile, when I tell you I’ve watched that commercial at least 10 times? I mean it. Like, I’m actually kinda mad that they didn’t invite me to that jam session. That is squad goals epitomized. I love my crew but I mean, they wouldn’t mind loaning me to these women for one day (or forever). I already checked.
I legit wanted to go sign up for Apple Music IMMEJATELY. They can take all my money. You keep making good ass ads and I just might pay for it because I’m impressionable AND easy to impress. The other commercial I was digging were the Samsung ones (I use a Galaxy S5), because they used the music of a young Black British rapper named Lady Leshurr. I was like OK DEN, Black Girl Magic!
Whew. The Emmys got me TOO hype. It was special. If you’re white and wondering why we’re celebrating this so much, you should know that this is what privilege looks like. Never noticing that you are NOT in the room means you are ALWAYS in the room, which is a benefit we do not have.
The issue of diversity (or lack thereof) in Hollywood is critiqued often. When Emmy host Andy Samberg was doing a mini tribute to Lorne Michaels, creator of Saturday Night Live, he mentioned that over 40 of the people who were nominated for a 2015 Emmy Award had worked for Lorne. It showed how incredibly powerful this one man and that ONE show is to the careers of people working in TV. SNL is a spring board and if comedians of colors are being locked out, it locks them out of many other opportunities in the TV industry. That lack of diversity goes down to Upright Citizen Brigade, where most of SNL’s castmembers are plucked from. Rita Chinyere, a Black woman who has been in UCB wrote a piece recently saying why she’s quitting the place.
Back in May, when that Deadline piece dropped asking if there was too much “ethnicity” on television, we had to fight the air in rage. How dare they ask that question when TV’s commitment to be Pre-technicolor Pleasantville is long and strong? And here we are, few months later, celebrating historical wins by Black women who have not just earned it, but they have the experience and training to back it up. They have put in WORK.
Last night’s wins were not tokenism. They were a long time coming and it was given to women whose performances in their shows have compelled people to fall in love with their characters and marvel at their work every episode.
Now’s a good time to remember that diversity does not just mean “More Black people.” It means more Latin@s, more Asians, more Trans* people, more gay people, more disabled people. Diversity is supposed to be about a better reflection of the world we live in. Every space does not need to be for everybody nor it does mean every single show needs to be the Rainbow Coalition. But television as a whole, can no longer be majority straight, white men and women. It cannot. Sure, there’s room for Girls but ALL programs cannot look like they’re about their next door neighbors and family members.
We might be getting our feet in the door but we need to get the rest of our bodies in there too. This is a start. THIS is a victory that we should celebrate. However, we cannot stop the work that got those gains, because when we rest, they get erased.
Whew! I got the warm and fuzzies all over again. Did you watch the Emmys? What were our thoughts?
Edit: Oh and I just found out that Queen Latifah’s Bessie took home 4 Emmy Awards! They weren’t aired but the film won Outstanding TV movie. SEE? BLACKITY BLACK. Get it!