Diversity was the true winner at the 2024 Emmy Awards – Oscars, take note

Quinta Brunson, Ayo Edebiri and Ali Wong made Emmys history.

Diversity has unquestionably been a buzzword in Hollywood over the past couple of years. While the industry has made some progress in terms of better representing diverse communities, it definitely has a way to go. Besides factors such as colour-blind casting or creating authentic storylines free of racial stereotypes, another aspect of the TV and filmmaking biz that’s been under the microscope is representation at awards shows. 

While we’re gradually seeing more people of colour in front of and behind the camera, their talent has still long been overlooked during awards season. The industry and viewers (myself included) have historically placed much importance on awards shows and the recognition they represent for recipients. So, seeing a shift at this year’s Emmy Awards to one that paid homage to the diversity of the biz, was emotional and reassuring. 

Abbott Elementary writer and lead star Quinta Brunson won the best actress in a comedy award, becoming the first Black woman in more than 30 years to win this category after Isabel Sanford claimed victory in 1981 for The Jeffersons

The Bear star Ayo Edebiri won best supporting actress in a comedy, meaning this is the first time that two Black women have won best lead actress ( Brunson) and supporting actress ( Edebiri) for comedy in the same year.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, 28-year-old Edebiri’s mother migrated to the US from Barbados, and her father migrated from Nigeria. In her Emmys acceptance speech, Edebiri made a touching tribute to her parents, sharing a sentiment that many children of immigrants, including me as a brown Australian woman, can relate to – your parents making a sacrifice to move to another country to give you a better future, perhaps with the expectation you’ll also pursue a stable, professional career. 

“Thank you so much for loving me and letting me feel beautiful and Black and proud of all of that. I love you so much,” she said on stage. “Probably not a dream to immigrate to this country and have your daughter do, ‘I wanna do improv,’ but you are real ones.” 

Speaking of heartfelt speeches, Niecy Nash-Betts dedicated her award for best supporting actress in a limited or anthology series or TV movie to “every Black and brown woman who has gone unheard yet overpoliced”. 

Having received the award for portraying Glenda Cleveland in Netflix’s Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, Nash-Betts said on stage: “I accept this award on behalf of every black and brown woman who has gone unheard yet overpoliced, like Glenda Cleveland, like Sandra Bland, like Breonna Taylor”. 

Behind the scenes, this year marked the first time in the award show’s 75-year history that the Emmys had an all-Black executive producer team. According to Essence, two women, Dionne Harmon and Jeannae Rouzan-Clay, were at the helm. 

Ali Wong, the lead female star of Netflix series Beef won best actress in a limited or anthology series or movie, making history as the first woman of Asian descent to win a lead acting award at the Emmys. The show itself took home eight awards, with Wong’s co-star, Steven Yeun also winning best actor in a limited or anthology series or movie. 

A light was also shone on LGBTQ+ representation. RuPaul’s Drag Race won the award for outstanding reality competition program, with host RuPaul taking the opportunity to use the acceptance speech to call out conservative backlash surrounding drag artist readings at local libraries in the US.

“If a drag queen wants to read you a story at a library, listen to her because knowledge is power and if someone tries to restrict your access to power, they are trying to scare you,” RuPaul said as part of the speech. 

Meanwhile LGBTQ+ advocacy group GLAAD received the Governor’s Award, recognised for its ongoing work to achieve fair and diverse representation of the LGBTQ+ community in media and entertainment. 

“For all of us at GLAAD, this work is personal, for me, it’s about my wife and our kids, because what the world sees on TV directly influences how we treat each other and the decisions we make in our living rooms, schools, at work, and at the ballot box,” GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis said on stage. 

“The world urgently needs culture-changing stories about transgender people. More people say they have seen a ghost than know a trans person. When you don’t know people, it’s easy to demonise them. Visibility creates understanding and opens doors, it’s life-saving. Our community has achieved so much and yet, we are still being victimised and villainised with cruel and harmful lies. Sharing stories is the antidote.

“And now is the time to take action – to support everyone in the LGBTQ community, because this story is still being told and we all can be the heroes.” 

With many monumental wins just a day after Barbie star America Ferrera’s SeeHer award win at the Critics Choice Awards, the Emmys can be called somewhat of a turning point for awards show representation. But it can’t stop here. The Oscars, I’m now looking at you.