The 2021 Emmy Award nominations showed major improvement in recognizing the contributions of BIPOC talent, and Black performers had a strong showing at the Creative Arts ceremony. But this positive upswing was more of a wrecking ball on Sunday night when nominees of color failed to win most categories, including all six acting fields.

During the three-hour ceremony, led by a Black host in Cedric the Entertainer, it took two hours for a person of color to be recognized: RuPaul’s Drag Race for Outstanding Reality Competition. With the win, RuPaul broke the record for the most Emmy wins by a person of color.

Michaela Coel was honored soon after for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series for HBO Max’s I May Destroy You. Coel became the first Black woman to win for writing for a limited series.

Hamilton won for pre-recorded special, while Debbie Allen was the recipient of the 2021 Governors Award. During her acceptance speech, she reflected on the racism and sexism she faced in the industry before going on to become a celebrated producer, director, actor, dancer, and choreographer who helps lift up others from her community.

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“Thank you to The Academy’s Board of Governors for the incredible honor,” she said. “I am trembling with gratitude and grace; I’m trying not to cry and be equal to the situation because it’s been many years in the making. It takes a lot of courage to be the only woman in the room most of the time. A lot of courage and creativity and fight and faith to believe that I could keep going, and I have and I brought a whole lot of people with me.”

As the pandemic gears up to pass the 18-month mark, viewers have been consuming content like never before. Without discounting the success of shows like Netflix’s The Crown, HBO Max’s Hacks, and Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso, tonight’s tallies raises the question, were other nominees not equally worthy of celebration?

After three seasons, FX’s groundbreaking series Pose said goodbye this spring and earned multiple nominations for executive producer and director Steven Canals, the first leading actress nod for a trans woman for Mj Rodriguez, and Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for Billy Porter. None were honored for their contributions tonight.

That after diversity showed up strong at the nomination stage with a record 49 non-Anglo nominees recognized in the acting and reality hosting categories, +17% over last year’s diversity record of 42 nominees.

At the Creative Emmys, Maya Rudolph became the first same category consecutive double-Emmy winner in 20 years and the third Black woman ever to win back-to-back Emmys with her repeat trophies for SNL and Big Mouth.

“I feel really honored that I’m part of a legacy as the third woman of color to achieve that,” Rudolph said.

Like last year, Guest Actor and Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, as well as Guest Actor in a Drama Series Emmys, went to Black performers, Dave Chappelle, Rudolph and Courtney B. Vance, respectively. Also in a repeat from last year, Black actors, JB Smoove and Keke Palmer won the Actor/Actress In a Short-Form Comedy or Drama Series categories. And RuPaul took home his sixth straight Emmy win for Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Competition Program. Additionally, Sterling K. Brown became the second winner of color in the Outstanding Narrator category since its launch in 2014.


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