Pure Black Excellence

2023 emmy awards quinta brunson niecy nash-betts ayo edebiri

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If the 75th Emmys have taught me anything it’s that award shows can be good, actually. Although there were many golden moments during the 2023 Emmy Awards (the show was postponed from last September), the proud display of Black Excellence was the true shining star. Here I thought the show had peaked with Princess Poppy being a green goblin but I was severely wrong. 

From the start, the show’s host, Anthony Anderson, did an incredible job of breaking the ice after that chilly Golden Globes opening monologue. Although I do think his mum upstaged him, he helped make sure the 2023 Emmys were filled with joy, love, and people who truly care about their craft. There were perfect nostalgic hits in the form of reconstructed sets from beloved shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Cheers. There were some exceptional speeches by Niecy Nash-Betts, Ayo Edebiri, Quinta Brunson, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, RuPaul, and of course, Jennifer Coolidge

Seeing Black Excellence rewarded in such a big way at the Emmys stood out far more than any single moment. It’s no secret that awards shows have had a long history of racism, ignoring the talent of Black actors, writers, directors, and other film and TV creatives. The Emmys are no exception. Before tonight, there were only 35 Black women who’d won Emmys in creative arts and performance categories. But tonight, there was no escaping the Black Excellence, particularly that of Black women. In the 75-year history of the Emmys, Black women have only won 35 times. There were three winners this year. 

The show started off strong with Ayo Edebiri winning an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. She became only the third Black woman to win this category after Jackée Harry in 1987 and Sheryl Lee Ralph in 2022. Ayo has now won her first Golden Globe, Critics Choice Award, and Emmy all in one week. It’s incredibly deserved. 

In her acceptance speech, Ayo thanked her parents and family for “loving me and letting me feel beautiful and Black and proud of all of that”. 

Directly after Ayo’s win, Quinta Brunson was overcome with emotion as she accepted her Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. She is now the second Black woman to win an Emmy for a comedy category after Isabel Sanford won 42 years ago. 

Then Niecy Nash-Betts won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie. Her speech was by far the best one of the night. She thanked herself for “believing in me and doing what they said I could not do”. She then dedicated the win to “every Black and Brown woman who has gone unheard yet overpoliced”. Before mentioning the names of Glenda Cleveland, Sandra Bland, and Breonna Taylor. It was a speech that moved everyone to their feet.

RuPaul’s Drag Race then won Best Reality Competition Program. It’s the fifth time the show has won in the category. RuPaul himself has won Best Host of a Reality Competition for eight years straight, making him the most-awarded host in Emmys history and the most-awarded person of colour. For a queer Black drag queen to achieve that is beyond remarkable given the current climate we live in

At the 2023 Creative Arts Emmys last week, Storm Reid won for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series and Keke Palmer won for Outstanding Host for a Game Show. The win made her the first woman to snag the trophy in 15 years. She was also the first Black woman to ever be nominated (and win) in the category. 

To make things even more special, the 75th Emmys were held on Martin Luther King Jr Day in the US. At the end of the show, Anthony reminded everyone of MLK’s importance and just how relevant his message for racial justice and equity still is today. 

As Anthony joked during the show, “Everybody having fun at the chocolate Emmys tonight?” We did indeed.

Ky is a proud Kamilaroi and Dharug person and writer at Junkee. Follow them on Instagram or on X.

Image credit: Getty