ByEmily Browne, writer at
Twitter: @emrbrowne
Emily Browne

The insane competition at this year's 69th Primetime Emmy Awards proved that television has never been better, and its winners proved that it is, in fact, still possible to give awards to non-white people. Not only did 2017's Emmys have the most diverse list of nominees to date, but this weekend's show highlighted the best and the brightest in the industry — and for once they didn't stick with convention.

Since the scandal heated up the inclusion debate in 2015, and Moonlight beat out La La Land at the 2017 Academy Awards, those in charge of deciding who gets to walk away with a coveted gold statue took note, and this year's Emmys honored more women and people of color than ever before.

1. Donald Glover Became the First Black Person to Win the Award For Outstanding Comedy Directing

Donald Glover is a force to be reckoned with. Not only is he a successful recording artist, comedian and actor, but he can now add two-time Emmy-winning actor and director to his illustrious resume. Glover became the first black man in history to win for comedy directing for his work on comedy-drama series Atlanta, which follows two cousins as they navigate the Atlanta rap scene. It's an award that's been previously won by Ryan Murphy (Glee), Jill Soloway (Transparent) and Gail Mancuso (Modern Family).

Glover also won the Emmy for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy, using his podium to make some statements about the purpose of Atlanta.

"I wanted to show white people, you don't know everything about black culture. I want to thank Trump for making black people No. 1 on the most-oppressed list. He’s probably the reason I’m up here."

2. Hulu Made History By Being the First Streaming Site to Win the Top Prize With The Handmaid's Tale

Ever since streaming sites became part of the TV landscape, the race has been on to see which of the main two streaming giants — and Amazon — would walk away with the biggest prize of the night: Outstanding Drama Series.

Unfortunately for Netflix, who had four Original Series up for consideration, streaming underdog Hulu swooped in to nab the award for their poignant and powerful adaptation of Margret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. It also beat out HBO masterpiece Westworld, and didn't have any competition from Game of Thrones which was disqualified from consideration.

3. Sterling K. Brown Is the First Black Actor To Win Lead Actor in a Drama Series In 19 Years

This Is Us might have missed out on Outstanding Drama, but Sterling K. Brown represented the NBC show by winning his category against Kevin Spacey, Liev Schreiber and Anthony Hopkins. Giving one of the most important speeches of the night, Brown acknowledged the last back man to win the award — Andre Braugher for Homicide back in 1998.

“I just want to say Mr. Braugher, whether at Stanford University or on this Emmy stage, it is my supreme honor to follow in your steps.”

Unfortunately, Brown was played off before finishing his speech, carried on thanking the writers as the music attempted to drown him out.

4. Julia Louis-Dreyfus Became the First Woman to Win Eight Emmys

'Veep' [Credit: HBO]
'Veep' [Credit: HBO]

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is officially the Adele of the Emmys, winning her sixth consecutive Emmy for Best Actress in a Comedy for political satire Veep, and her eighth Emmy in total. This has meant that Louis-Dreyfus has won an Emmy every year for Veep since 2012, but it's likely that this streak will come to an end as the show will be finishing with its seventh season next year. In her acceptance speech which erred on the political, Louis-Dreyfus said:

"This is and continues to be the role of a lifetime and an adventure of utter, utter joy. [...] We did have a whole story about an impeachment but we abandoned that because we were worried someone else might get to it first."

5. Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe Won All The Awards

One of the most heartfelt moments of the night came when Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe won the award for writing on Netflix's Master of None. The Season 2, Episode 8 episode they won for, titled "Thanksgiving," was a personal and heartfelt examination of a coming out story, and the award made Waithe the first African-American woman to win writing for a comedy series, and she received a standing ovation from the A-list crowd when she went up to accept her award. The win also made Ansari the first person of Indian descent to win an Emmy ever.

6. Riz Ahmed Makes History For Asian Actors

Beating out Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert De Niro, Geoffrey Rush and Ewan McGregor to win Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie, Riz Ahmed became the first Asian man, and first Muslim, to win an Emmy award for acting for his tour-de-force performance in The Night Of.

However, while his win was historic, he pointed out later in the night that one person's win doesn't change the "systemic issue of inclusion," saying:

"I don't know if any one person's win, or one person snagging a role, or one person doing very well, changes something that's a systemic issue of inclusion. I think that's something that happens slowly over time. If there's enough isolated examples of success over time then the dots start joining up and it is not as slow a process as it sometimes is."

7. Both Real & Fictional Queer Women Dominated

In her moving acceptance speech, Lena Waithe made a powerful statement to all LGBTQAI folk who may be watching, and the show itself honored several queer women both on and off-screen. Beloved out comedian Kate McKinnon won her second Emmy for Outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series, while Alexis Bledel also won a Creative Emmy for her role as "gender traitor" Ofglen/Emily in The Handmaid's Tale. Black Mirror's queer sci-fi love story "San Junipero" also walked away with two gongs — one for drama and the other for writing.

While all this is a great step in the right direction to make television award shows more inclusive, there is still a lot of work to be done, especially behind the camera. It's great to see award shows reflecting and honoring the unique storytelling and diverse casts we're starting to see on television, now if only Hollywood would also get a clue.

Was there a show you wished had won an Emmy? Let us know in the comments!


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