artwork of Mj Rodriguez by @arpintero
We know award shows always give us complex feelings, and the Emmys are no exception. From the red carpet to the feeling we get watching a stream of white men getting rewarded for mediocre content, it’s not where we see our people. However shoutout to Michaela Coel the writer and co-director of I May Destroy You who won her first ever Emmy Award, for limited series writing which also made her the first Black woman to win in that category. Carl Clemons-Hopkins became the first non-binary person to be nominated for best supporting actor. And to the astounding Debbie Allen who also made history last night as the first Black woman to receive The Governors Award.
Mj Rodriguez did already make history as the first transgender artist to earn an Emmy nomination for her role in Pose. “I felt so seen,” Mj said, reacting to her nomination.
This weekend, she was nominated for “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series” with other fantastic artists like Uzo Aduba and Jurnee Smollett. If any of these artists won it would have been only be the third time a Black artist has ever won this award.
This is bigger than just a silly outdated award show controlled by a few Hollywood white dudes, Mj’s nomination reminds us how culture changes, and changes us. Even in its third season, Pose gave us dynamic stories written by queer folks for queer folks. Instead of marginalized sidekicks, or sanitized stereotypes, Pose gave us Blanca, Mj’s character, who experiences joy and growth all while taking up space as the center of the story. This is where change starts, whether we like it or not.
As Pose’s heroine, Blanca is easy to root for. Together, we watched her grow from the new mother of the House of Evangelista to accomplishing her dream of becoming a nurse. Through Blanca, Mj creates the space trans people need and deserve in television. That said we obviously need more and Mj agrees.
Rodriguez said “There’s never been a trans woman who has been nominated as a leading outstanding actress and I feel like that pushes the needle forward so much for now the door to be knocked down for so many people — whether they be male or trans female, gender nonconforming, LGBTQIA+, it does not matter.”
After months of pandemic, racial reckoning, and political upheaval, we at Women’s Foundation California are more confident than ever in the power of culture to bring us closer to racial, economic, and gender justice. Already we’ve supported the production of a coloring book that celebrates all bodies through the Center for Cultural Power, a journalistic series on gender justice with Prism, and invested in indigenous power-building as part of the California Native Vote Project with IllumiNative. And this is just the beginning.
We know we need more women of color, intersex, queer and trans folks leading. We need to celebrate RuPaul making history as the person with the most awards from the TV Academy, while also pushing for more LGBTQ+ folks to write, create, and be celebrated for more stories. Whether it’s our political movements, grassroots organizations, writers rooms, or even in front of the camera, this nomination gets us one step closer.
For a lot of us it’s the stories we turn to each night that have gotten us through the last year and a half of pandemic living. It’s only fair that all the actors and characters who have comforted us get honored (and win). It’s time that the Emmys stops with the lip service of just nominating incredible Black, Indigenous, queer creatives and start actually rewarding them for the creative storytelling they do. We certainly hope Mj eventually gets the awards she deserves. So we hope the Emmys are listening.