Black women are consistently underestimated, disregarded, and overlooked in the entertainment industry, but I’ve been so inspired by Black stars‘ joy and self-love this awards season. From Quinta Brunson to Niecy Nash, our favorite actresses have already celebrated their well-deserved flowers — and I’ll be watching the upcoming Grammys to see if that trend continues.
If you’ve missed all the bright points of this awards season, let me remind you of what’s happened so far. During the Golden Globes on Jan. 7, we saw Ayo Edebiri take home her first major award as this year’s best female actor in a television series for her work in „The Bear.“ Her acceptance speech made its way around social media for her relatable delivery — but mainly for her acknowledgment of her agents‘ and managers‘ assistants. Despite this being a momentous occasion in her career, she took the time to humbly thank and uplift those in „smaller positions“ who make doing what she loves possible.
The following week, entertainers reunited for the 2023 Emmys. It felt serendipitous that the show landed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, given that multiple Black women won in their respective categories while simultaneously breaking long-standing records.
The brilliantly hilarious Quinta Brunson took home the award for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series for her role as Janine Teagues in „Abbott Elementary,“ becoming only the second Black woman to earn this achievement. Isabel Sanford won in 1981 for her iconic role in „The Jeffersons,“ so Brunson broke the 43-year-long drought with her win. That’s far too long a gap. In the intervening years, so many Black women have been snubbed for their work: Tracee Ellis Ross was nominated five times for the award for her work on „Black-ish,“ for example, while Issa Rae was nominated three times for „Insecure.“
Brunson actually broke two records that night — because of Edebiri’s win for best supporting actress, the pair were the first Black women to hold both comedy titles simultaneously in Emmys history. We also can’t talk about history-makers without mentioning Keke „Keep a Bag“ Palmer. She was the first Black woman to not only be nominated but win an Emmy for outstanding host of a game show. As the host of NBC’s „Password,“ she was also the first woman in 15 years to win in the category. Palmer’s win spoke volumes to me; I never realized how much game shows were a men-dominated space until I saw her win. With one award, she broke a streak for all women — while also breaking a glass ceiling for Black women.
The true showstopper of the 2024 Emmys was Nash. After winning her first Primetime Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a limited series for „Dahmer,“ she gave an awe-inspiring speech — you’ve probably seen it all over social media by now. What made the moment so special is that it wasn’t about an outside force recognizing her star power; she did that herself. „I want to thank me — for believing in me and doing what they said I could not do. And I want to say to myself in front of all these beautiful people, ‚Go on girl with your bad self. You did that,'“ she told the crowd. It was beautiful to see Nash unapologetically celebrating herself, especially after the incredible work she has put into her almost three-decade-long career.
She continued to accept the award on behalf of „every Black and Brown woman who has gone unheard yet overpoliced. Like Glenda Cleveland. Like Sandra Bland. Like Breonna Taylor.“ Seeing Nash highlight self-love so boldly while also acknowledging the trauma that Black women in America deal with daily was incredibly poignant and paved the way for what I hope we see more of in the entertainment industry.
Slowly but surely, Black women are receiving their flowers.
Looking ahead to February, we are kicking off Black History Month with the Grammys on Feb. 4 and the BAFTAs on Feb. 18. The Oscars have already come under fire for snubbing Black women, including leaving out Ava DuVernay in the director’s category for „Origin“ and Fantasia Barrino and Taraji P. Henson for their roles in „The Color Purple.“ But for now, I’m focusing on the monumental year we’ve already had and the celebrations that could come — specifically during the Grammys. My focus will be on Coco Jones, Victoria Monét, SZA, and Halle Bailey; these four powerhouse musicians are bound to dominate this year.
SZA is leading the pack with the most nominations — nine — for any artist this year. Her critically acclaimed sophomore album, „SOS,“ is set to snag a handful of the coveted awards. And after years in the industry as a songwriter, Monét is receiving the attention she deserves for her debut studio album, „Jaguar II.“ Alongside her seven nominations, her 2.5-year-old daughter, Hazel, has also made history as the youngest nominee ever. Meanwhile, watching Jones being nominated for five Grammys, including best new artist, makes me extremely proud. I grew up with her and have watched her evolution in real time. Bailey, similarly, continues to shine. Following a monumental year in which she starred as Ariel in the live-action „Little Mermaid,“ her debut single, „Angel,“ is up for best R&B song, making this her first solo Grammy nomination.
It is validating to see such talented Black women be nominated for — and win — awards for their craft. The average Black woman is told to be humble and gracious, never to boast or boldly celebrate our wins. But as Nash, Brunson, and hopefully more stars to come have proven, the tides are shifting. Slowly but surely, Black women are receiving their flowers — not only from leaders in the industry, but also from themselves.
As a young Black woman, I’m taking notes. I will proudly celebrate my wins as I work toward my dreams and continue to foster my creativity. This awards season has just started, but I am excited to see what else is in store. As Rae would say, „I’m rooting for everybody Black.“
Image Source: Getty / Rich Polk; Frazer Harrison