No Justice For Diverse Entertainers At 71st Emmy Awards

The 71st Emmys, much like most of the other Emmys celebrations, failed to recognize cultural diversity in the entertainment industry. In both the 2019 and 2018 Emmys, only three people of color have won Emmys for acting in television shows each year. Viola Davis’ win for Outstanding Actress in a Drama in 2015 was the first time a woman of color had ever won the award after 67 years of the ceremony.

This shows that there is a shift that must be made in the American entertainment industry’s visual diversity. As we see, hidden diversity is awarded to white bodies who win Emmys. Natasha Lyonne is a TCK, Tony Shalhoub is a cross-cultural adult, and many directors such as Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi won this year, yet there has been little visual representation. Many actors, writers, directors, producers and designers who are worthy of representation are nominated every year, but do not win.

The Emmy Award ceremony has an interesting track record when it comes to diversity. Last year, a record of 38 people of color were nominated for Emmys. This year, 24 acting nominations were given to people of color. Compared to last year, there is a noticeable dip in nominations for people of color.

Furthermore, of the 24 acting nominations, only three people of color won golden statuettes in major acting and hosting categories: RuPaul Charles for RuPaul’s Drag Race, Jharrel Jerome for When They See Us, and Billy Porter for Pose.

One of the three men of color to take home an Emmy, Rupaul, is the producer and host of Rupauls’ Drag Race. When he was askedabout his mostly entourage of white men, he responded to the journalist that, “First of all, the host of our show is Black, gay, and a drag queen. So check, check, and check. But no, we’re pretty diverse. Yes, there are lots of different types of people here. Is it important? Absolutely! You know, I grew up… I had to fight.”

When people feel they are not welcomed at the awards table, they will sit elsewhere.

The argument for more complex and respectful portrayals of diversity around awards season was nothing to scoff at with the 2018 Emmy Awards. Talent like Samira Wiley (The Handmaid’s Tale) and Tiffany Haddish (Saturday Night Line) were among the few people of color nominated in the Guest Acting categories at the Creative Arts Emmys. Regina King (Seven Seconds) and Thandie Newton (Westworld) all took home a golden statuette for Lead Actress in a Limited Series and Supporting Actress in a Drama at the Primetime Emmys, respectively.

And with the Emmys making record history in 2019 as the lowest-rated Emmys since the annual awards show began tracking viewership data in 1990, we have to question whether the Television Academy’s continued loss in viewership is related to a lack of change with who receives awards.

Image is two pie charts showing percentages of winners and nominees for Outstanding Acting awards. The first pie chart shows that only 5.61% of winners were people of color, while only 8.69% of the nominees were people of color.
Image from Vulture.com. 2019.

Here are some numbers gathered by Vulture.com on the Outstanding Acting categories in 2016.

While the numbers do not account for how well written and fleshed out the specific characters are on the silver screen, note the astounding number of nominees and winners. These are people of color in all acting categories in 2016, and the awards have not seen much improvement in 2018 and 2019.

Now, there are no accurate statistics at the moment about the claim, but marginalized groups of people are an audience that the film industry is attempting to tap into, with visual diversity films such as Moonlight; Love, Simon; BlacKkKlansman; Roma; and Black Panther, to name a few.

When people feel they are not welcomed at the awards table, they will sit elsewhere.

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