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Diversity took center stage at Emmys

Posted September 18

Are you paying attention, Oscars?

Diversity was on display and celebrated Sunday night at the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.

From people of color to women, the night's biggest winners continued to strengthen the argument often made that the small screen is more inclusive.

Step aside, #OscarsSoWhite as #EmmysSoBlack has arrived.

TV's golden night was decidedly more colorful than many of the other award shows that have attracted criticism for a lack of diversity.

And the love was spread across categories that have not historically featured many winners who are people of color.

"Master of None" star Lena Waithe became the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing. She shared the award with series creator and her costar, Aziz Ansari.

The pair received a standing ovation when they took to the stage to claim the trophy for the shows' critically acclaimed "Thanksgiving" episode, which explored Waithe's character Denise coming out as a lesbian.

It was a moving moment in a country not far removed from a time when African Americans would yell for others to come watch when they saw themselves reflected on the screen.

To have the winner be Waithe -- a gay, woman of color -- was an even bigger milestone.

Waithe thanked her girlfriend and shouted out to her "LGBTQIA family" in her acceptance speech.

"The things that make us different, those are our superpowers," she said. "Every day you put on your cape, go out there and conquer the world, because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren't in it."

She also thanked fans for "embracing a little Indian boy from South Carolina and a little queer black girl from the South Side of Chicago."

Riz Ahmed became the first Muslim and South-Asian man to win an acting Emmy.

He took home the honor of outstanding lead actor in a limited series for his role as a Pakistani-American jailed for murder in "The Night Of."

Ahmed used his acceptance speech to acknowledge the topical nature of his character's storyline.

"I want to say it is always strange reaping the rewards of a story that's based on real world suffering, but if this show has shown a light on some of the prejudice in our societies, Islamophobia, some of the injustice in our justice system, then maybe that is something," he said.

The actor also thanked South Asian Youth Action and The Innocence Project for helping him to prepare for the role.

"Atlanta" executive producer and star Donald Glover became the first African American to win the Emmy for outstanding directing for a comedy series. He also won for lead actor in a comedy series.

But Glover had made history even before Sunday just by virtue of his nominations.

His nods in the outstanding comedy acting and directing categories -- plus the additional nominations he received for writing and as the producer of "Atlanta" -- were the most for any black performer and creator in a single year.

Sterling K. Brown of "This Is Us" won for outstanding lead actor in a drama series, the first black actor to take the trophy since Andre Braugher won for "Homicide: Life on the Streets" in 1998.

"I just want to say, Mr. Braugher, whether it's at Stanford University or on this Emmys stage, it is my supreme honor to follow in your footsteps," Brown said.

He also joked about his role on the show as a black man adopted into a white family, thanking his cast and saying "you are the best white TV family that a brother has ever had, better than the white folks who raised Webster."

Some viewers expressed outrage that they didn't get to enjoy more of Brown's wit as he was played off the stage during his speech.

Proof that you can't keep a good brother down, Brown kept on talking even as the music played and producers began to cut away from him.

"You can play, you can play. Nobody got that loud music," he said. "Our writers, I love you. You are our life's blood. Our producers and directors, I love you."

Still, what fans heard was praised as one of the "blackest" speeches of the night.

Ethnicity wasn't the only front where the Emmys were inclusive.

The work of women in Hollywood was also prominently celebrated.

Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda received a standing ovation when they presented the award for outstanding supporting actor in a limited series or movie, which went to Alexander Skarsgard from "Big Little Lies."

It was a reunion for the trio who starred in the 1980 film "9 to 5," which told the story of a group of women who fight back against their chauvinistic boss.

"Back in 1980, in that movie we refused to be controlled by a 'sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,'" Fonda said, quoting her character from the film.

"And in 2017, we still refuse to be controlled by a 'sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,'" Tomlin said to a roaring audience.

"Big Little Lies" and "The Handmaid's Tale" center on themes about society's treatment of women and both shows won multiple awards.

"Big Little Lies" stars Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, who also served as producers on the HBO series, spoke about the importance of projects starring women and from women.

"It's been an incredible year for women on television," Witherspoon said onstage.

Reed Morano won for best director of a drama for "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Veep," a comedy about a female vice president who ultimately becomes president, took home statues for outstanding comedy and lead actress in a comedy.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus made history with her sixth consecutive win for the role.

It all led "Scandal" star Kerry Washington to tweet her happiness Monday.

"What an amazingly inspiring night," she tweeted. "Congrats to all!!!!!!! #WeMatter #Emmys"

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