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The Groundbreaking Moments of the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards

  • The 2019 Emmy Awards went underway and made memorable moments
  • It was a night of political statements and historical moments as stars were recognized for their talent and ground-breaking work
  • Actors like Billy Porter and Jharrel Jerome made waves, while actress Michelle Williams was one of the few who made a lasting statement.

The 2019 Emmy Awards were not only full of stars and trophies, but the night was also filled with groundbreaking moments, both in the winners and in their speeches. 

The night felt different already when the Seventy-first Primetime Emmy Awards were announced to have no host, therefore going with no narrative center to divert our attention away from what was really happening on stage. The broadcast was brisk, which gave the spotlight to the different energies stars channeled in the most memorable acceptance speeches. 

Winners were reflective of what audiences cater to at the moment. The New Yorker pointed out that there is a shift of viewership from purely Americanized television, to a more decentralized and fragmentation to cater to the Anglo-American phenomenon. It’s noted in most of the nominees, including Succession, Chernobyl, Black Mirror, A Very British Scandal, Killing Eve, and the winner of the night, Game of Thrones.

Image result for game of thrones emmy 2019
via Monica Almeida/Reuters/ABC

Among the 32 nominations that Thrones had under their name, the franchise took home 12, making its ensemble the most decorated of the night. One of the night’s winners made history with his win.  For the fourth time in a row, Peter Dinklage wins for Outstanding Supporting Drama, making it the fourth time he won that award.

An emotional Dinklage went on stage to receive the award for his role as Tyrion Lannister saying, “I count myself so fortunate to be a member of a community that is nothing but all about tolerance and diversity. Because no other place could I be standing on a stage like this.” 


The cultural and historical impact of significant events also glittered on stage. With the win of HBO’s Chernobyl and Netflix’s When They See Us meant that the shows not only resonated in the hearts of viewers, it also showed the gravitas and importance of shows that depict the tragedy of our history in society right now. It’s like a mirror of our past errors, and it could not have come at a better time. 

When They See Us star Jharrel Jerome won the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited series playing as Korey Wise, one of the members of a wrongfully convicted group of young men who came to be known as the Exonerated Five — Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, and Wise — who were in attendance at the ceremony and rose to give the actor a standing ovation.

Emmys 2019 Jharrel Jerome Wins for When They See Us Tributes the Exonerated Five
via Kevin Winter/Getty Images/Vanity Fair

He fought back tears delivering his speech, “I have to thank my mom, who’s with me today,” he said as the camera cut to his mother in the audience. “My beautiful mother. Damn. I couldn’t do it without her.” He also thanked the rest of his family and DuVernay, as well as each of the Exonerated Five by name. “Thank you so much,” he said.

This win makes him the first-ever Afro-Latino to win an Emmy for acting. The newly minted Emmy winner’s answer was also impressive when he was posted a tough question backstage after taking his trophy. He was asked why people of color seem to win major awards only for stories that detail their trials and tribulations. 

“Unfortunately, I think our strongest stories are the stories of pain, considering that’s what we go through on a daily basis,” he said. “Our pain needs to be told, so if it has to be for the next 20 years we’re just painfully telling our stories until we move on, then it has to be.”

Antron McCray, Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Ava DuVernay, Raymond Santana Jr.,Yusef Salaam, 2019 Emmy Awards, 2019 Emmys
Creator Ava DuVernay with the Exonerated Five via WWD/Shutterstock/E! News

It was also the night of powerful women who used their win and their platforms to bring into light the issues our society has in its underbelly. 

Michelle Williams delivers a resonating speech when she won the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series for her work for Fosse/Verdon. It was there where she highlighted equal work for equal pay, saying “I see this as an acknowledgment of what is possible when a woman is trusted to discern her own needs, feels safe enough to voice them and respected enough that they’ll be heard.”

Michelle Williams, 2019 Emmy Awards, Emmys, Winners
via Kevin Winter/Getty Images/E! News

“They understood that when you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value,” she continued. “And then where do they put that value? They put it into their work. And so the next time a woman — especially a woman of color, because she stands to make 52 cents on the dollar to her white male counterpart — tells you what she needs to do her job, listen to her, believe her. Because one day, she might stand in front of you and say thank you for allowing her to succeed because of her workplace environment, and not in spite of it.”

Image result for alex borstein
via USA Today

Alex Borstein gets a win for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy for her work for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, where she gives a mix of a humorous and a compelling speech during her time on stage. 

Borstein dedicated her award to “every woman on the ‘Maisel’ cast and crew,” as well as her grandmother, who is a Holocaust survivor.

“… [To] my grandmother, Naji, they are immigrants, they are Holocaust survivors. My grandmother turned to a guard, she was in line to be shot into a pit and she said, ‘What happens if I step out of line?’ and he said, ‘I don’t have the heart to shoot you, but somebody will,’ and she stepped out of line. And for that, I am here and for that, my children are here,” she said. 

“Step out of line, ladies,” Borstein concluded. “Step out of line.”

Patricia Arquette wins the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie, and she used her win thanking her sister Alexis, as well as highlighting transgender rights saying “trans people are still being persecuted, and I’m in mourning every day of my life.”

Image result for Patricia Arquette Emmy
via Variety

“Change the world so trans people are not persecuted. And give them jobs. They’re human beings, so give them jobs,” Arquette added, like Laverne Cox, one of the most high-profile trans actors in Hollywood who brought an ACLU attorney as her guest to the awards show, stood in the audience and held up her purse, decorated with a rainbow flag.

“The category is love, y’all,” actor Billy Porter said while accepting his Emmy award for lead actor in a drama series.

Porter was honored for his work in FX’s ground-breaking period drama Pose, a show that centralizes on New York’s Ball culture, as well as the lives of the LGBT during that time. This win makes history as Porter becomes the first openly gay black man to win in this category. 

His speech went on to reference acclaimed writer and activist James Baldwin as well as speak of society’s need for acceptance. “I am so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day. James Baldwin said, ‘It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.’ I have the right, you have the right, we all have the right!”

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via Deadline

“We are the people,” Porter continued. “We, as artists, are the people that get to change the molecular structure of the hearts and minds of the people who live on this planet. Please don’t ever stop doing that. Please don’t ever stop telling the truth.”


Sources: Jpost, WashingtonPost, NewYorker, Variety,

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