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Emmys 2020: Zendaya's Historic Lead Actress Win Is Euphoric

Zendaya wins Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series (Euphoria) at the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards.
Zendaya wins Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series (Euphoria) at the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards.
Photo: Courtesy of Television Academy

Another year, another TV awards season! Well actually, this isn’t just another year (*stares into camera*), but you know what I mean.

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Before we start with the big show, there were some Black-ass wins at the 72nd Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, which spanned across five days. Here are some highlights:

First off, Eddie Murphy won his first-ever Emmy. You read that right. The actor-comedian won this year in the Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series category for his appearance on Saturday Night Live. Next, Maya Rudolph raked in two 2020 Emmys: one for Character Voiceover Performance (for Big Mouth, which made her the first person of color to win this category since its creation in 2009) and the other for Guest Actress In a Comedy (portraying Kamala Harris on Saturday Night Live). Also, Ron Cephas Jones (Guest Actor in a Drama; This Is Us) and Jasmine Cephas Jones (Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series; #FreeRayshawn) became the first-ever father-daughter duo to win Emmys in the same year. Somehow, legendary TV director and producer Stan Lathan won his first-ever Emmy, too (Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special; Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones). Other winners included The Last Dance (Documentary or Non-Fiction Series) and Insecure (Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series).

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You can check out the full list of 2020 Creative Arts Emmys winners here.

Now, on to the primetime show (produced by Reginald Hudlin):

As we all know, the Emmys looked different this year since they were virtual (only a select few folks such as presenters were onsite at the studio), but to make up for it...we had a cutesy nickname? Per host Jimmy Kimmel, we referred to this ceremony as the “Pandemmys.” The most-booked man in the universe, DJ D-Nice provided the tunes for the night.

Oh, and folks in hazmat suits personally delivered the statuettes to winners in their homes, which just creeped me out and reminded me of the scary dudes in E.T. By the way, if you were wondering how this worked, apparently the hazmat folks went to every nom’s home and left if they lost? LMAO.

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H.E.R. performed “Nothing Compares 2 U” during the In Memoriam segment this year, and the montage of each honored person’s picture, including Chadwick Boseman, reminded us just how much we’ve truly lost this year. It’s still too raw...

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As Anthony Anderson said, there was a record number of Black nominees this year (teasingly cueing the white audience members to clap and pat themselves the back). “Y’all don’t know how to light us anyway,” he quipped, noting that this could’ve been the Blackest Emmys ever if we’d had the ceremony in person this year. According to the Hollywood Reporter, this year’s Emmys set a new record for most Black performers taking home an Emmy this year—seven.

Yes, this was a Black-ass nominee list, but what about the folks who actually got to hold that prestigious statuette? Well...

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Black-Ass Winners

Rocking a Breonna Taylor t-shirt with a hot pink suit, Regina King accepted her Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie (Watchmen) statuette with a very relevant and universal initial response: “This is freakin’ weird.” I’ll say, Regina. This is King’s fourth Primetime Emmy (she won two in a row for ABC’s American Crime and one for Netflix’s Seven Seconds), which makes her tied with Alfre Woodard in terms of holding the most acting Emmys for any Black performer.

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The role of Angela Abar “allowed me to tap into all those things I think are just wonderful about being a Black woman,” King told the LA Times in August. “[T]he blueprint that was the inspiration for Angela was probably every Black woman that ever was.”

After a very exciting win in the Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Limited Series category (Watchmen) Yahya Abdul-Mateen II similarly dedicated his award to the Black women in his life.

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Speaking of Watchmen, The Root alum Cord Jefferson won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series (along with series creator Damon Lindelof). And Watchmen scored the big one: Outstanding Limited Series. The critically acclaimed show made history as the first comic-book adaptation to score this win.

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Uzo Aduba (who also honored Taylor with her shirt) took home (or took at home, heh) the statuette for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her portrayal of Shirley Chisholm in Mrs. America. She probably said like 50-11 “wows.”

Oprah Winfrey and Chris Rock honored Tyler Perry, who was the recipient of this year’s Governor’s Award. “The man who always found a way to make a way,” Oprah said.

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In a very euphoric moment, Zendaya won the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Emmy for her portrayal of Rue in Euphoria! She is the youngest person to win in this category and joins Viola Davis as the only other Black woman to win in this category. One thing that we got this year from a virtual ceremony is we saw the uproarious celebration of her people in an intimate setting live and on camera. I couldn’t help but smile brightly at the elation.

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“What’s so special about her character is that she is a full whole human being, she’s layered and she’s complicated,” Zendaya told The Root during the virtual backstage winners’ press conference when asked about the importance of Euphoria showcasing a flawed and fully-realized Black girl on a now Emmy-winning show.

“I think as the show goes on, we’re also able to empathize with addiction and what that looks like, what that does to a family, and be able to understand and still root for Rue,” she continued. “We understand what’s going on through her head, we understand how she views the world and how she views everything that happens to her. We’re able to empathize with her as a character, which I think is a beautiful thing. I’ve always been very grateful for all the people who feel they connect to Rue or feel that through the show; they’ve been able to attach words or find themselves within a scene or a moment where they otherwise felt alone.”

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Black-Ass Snubs

Unfortunately, Insecure didn’t nab that big Outstanding Comedy Series win (Schitt’s Creek racked up!), but one highlight of the night was Gabrielle Union doing a hilarious mirror rap to honor Insecure during the nominees’ montage, correctly pointing out that “they show the boy’s booties.” Also, Issa Rae told a great story recounting her first TV pitch that summed up just how important it is to have more Black executives in the room to actually understand Black storytellers.

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Again, the complete list of winners for the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards can be viewed here.

‘Til next year—hopefully, in person!

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

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DISCUSSION

Of course the Blackest Emmys ever would happen during a pandemic....BUT I AIN’T MAD! WIN WIN WIN!

Motherfuckers coming for Zendaya for winning her Emmy, come get some, because I will fight every single one of you. HBO did a shitty job of hyping the kid and she still brought it home and as well she should have. Her work on Euphoria was an instant classic! Grown ass actresses with decades under their belts would have been wary of taking that role on, yet Zendaya not only took on the challenge, she made that role her bitch! It was a season long Tour de Full Force and she more than deserve all the awards. Bravo Z, bra-fucking-o!