Emmys 2021: Latino and Black Artists Still Underrepresented. Thankfully, RuPaul Makes History

Photo courtesy of belatina.com latinx, belatina
Photo courtesy of belatina.com

Recognizing and awarding prizes in the arts has always been a thorny issue. After all, how can you rank and award something so subjective?

In the real world, however, nominations and galas events set the tone in the film and television industry and often lead to bigger opportunities for artists.

Without the right exposure, artists often have less chance to go far in their careers.

That’s why when awards like the Emmys nominate artists of color, the celebrations are many.

This year, for example, artists like Rosie Perez, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anthony Ramos, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Alexis Bledel, and Mj Rodriguez were among the nominees of color.

While Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alexis Bledel had been nominated in the past, the other three are first-time nominees, with Mj Rodriguez making history as the first trans woman to be recognized in the lead actor category.

But as is often the case, recognitions for actors of color often stop at nominations.

As Clayton Davis aptly quoted one of his colleagues in his column for Variety, this was another awards gala “where recently departed Black men lost to white Brits who weren’t present.”

For Latinos, it was simply yet another gala where talent and inclusivity are left at a nominating gesture.

As Davis explained, a record 49 non-English-speaking creatives were recognized in the acting and reality competition categories. While many did not expect anyone to unseat Jason Sudeikis (“Ted Lasso”), Jean Smart (“Hacks”) and Gillian Anderson (“The Crown”), pundits expected a couple of actors to break through, such as some of the “Hamilton” cast and Regé-Jean Page (“Bridgerton”).

Michaela Coel, nominated for four Emmys, won the limited screenplay category for “I May Destroy You,” the third time a black creative has won the category and the first for a black woman. Previous black winners have been David Mills (“The Corner”), Anthony Hemingway (“American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson”), and Stephen Williams and Christal Henry (“Watchmen”).

Porter and Rodriguez were heavy favorites to win the lead actor and actress in a drama award for “Pose.” Still, they lost to Josh O’Connor and Olivia Colman for “The Crown,” respectively, losing nominees from people of color and the LGBTQ community. Colman’s co-star Emma Corrin would have become the first openly non-binary actor to win an acting category, but Television Academy voters had other plans. And Porter would have been the second black man to win the category twice after Bill Cosby (“I Spy”).

Finally, and agreeing with our argument, Davis asserts that the Television Academy has increased its number of actors of color in the past two years. However, these performers have continued to fall short in key demographic groups, especially Asians, Latinos, and many other underrepresented groups. Last year four actors won in major categories — Zendaya (“Euphoria”), Regina King and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (“Watchmen”), and Uzo Aduba (“Mrs. America”) — and this year it’s down to zero.

But all is not lost. The night’s celebration was RuPaul, who made Emmy history Sunday night by becoming the most awarded person of color in the show’s history with 11 wins.

According to the Los Angeles Times, RuPaul surpassed the previous record holder, cinematographer Donald A. Morgan.

Six of RuPaul’s wins were for outstanding host for a reality or competition program, the latest of which was won at last weekend’s Creative Arts Emmys.

In his acceptance speech, RuPaul thanked those who go on his show and share “their stories of courage.”

“For you kids out there watching, you have a tribe that is waiting for you,” he said. “We are waiting for you, baby. Come on to Mama Ru!”