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The 69th Emmy Awards made history this past Sunday evening by shattering glass ceilings and breaking down long-enduring barriers.
Lena Waithe, a queer-identified African American woman, nabbed the win for Best Writing for a Comedy Series, along with comedian Aziz Ansari, for their Netflix series Master of None–becoming the first black woman to receive the statue in the category. In an empowering and compelling acceptance speech that went viral, she said: “I see each and every one of you. The things that make us different, those are our superpowers. Every day when you walk out the door and put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it,” she continued, “And for everybody out there that showed so much love for this episode, thank you for embracing a little Indian boy from South Carolina and a little queer black girl from the South Side of Chicago. We appreciate it more than you could ever know.”
Donald Glover walked away with two awards for FX’s Atlanta, including the win for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, which a person of color hasn’t won in over 30 years. He also became the first African American to win an Emmy for directing a comedy series.
Riz Ahmed joins the list of groundbreaking winners as the first South Asian man to win an Emmy acting award for his role in HBO’s The Night Of. And Sterling Brown of This Is Us captured the win for Best Actor in a Drama Series–the first time in 18 years that a black actor took the statue home in the category.
“If this show has shown a light on some of the prejudice in our society, Islamophobia, some of the injustice in our justice system, then maybe that’s something,” said Ahmed while accepting his award.
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Women also made historic strides Sunday night: Julia Louis-Dreyfus broke the award show’s record with her sixth consecutive win in Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her portrayal of Selina Meyer in HBO’s The Veep. The actress has won eight Emmys in total.
Reed Morano, director of The Handmaid’s Tale, is the first woman to win the trophy for directing a drama series in 22 years.
At the end of the evening, Big Little Lies winners Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman used the stage to press other Hollywood heavyweights to create more roles for women during their acceptance speech. “Bring women to the front of their own stories and make them the hero of their own stories,” Witherspoon urged.
“This is a friendship that created opportunities out a frustration because we weren’t getting offered great roles,” Kidman said referring to longtime pal Witherspoon. “So now, more great roles for women, please.”
Minority wins were celebrated across social media, especially in light of last year’s Oscars, where only white actors and actresses were nominated in the top four categories.