The Emmys season is an exciting time. Millions congregate to social media to share pictures of their favourite celebrities strutting down the red carpet, funniest moments and sometimes…sometimes the award show goes further than the world of TV. This year, many used the platform to relay an important societal message. This is what makes award season special.  

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  • Jharrel Jerome Honours ‘The Exonerated Five’

Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us made a powerful impact when it was first released on Netflix and continues to leave an overwhelming mark. The miniseries focuses on the lives of the formerly known Central Park Five – five Black and Latino teenagers who were falsely accused of sexual assault – and their journey through the unforgiving prison system. The five men joined DuVernay at the award show.

Winning his first Emmy as a lead actor in a limited series, Jerome paid special homage to the Exonerated Five stating: “This is for Raymond, Yusef, Antron, Kevin, and King Korey Wise.”

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  • Billy Porter Makes History

There is nothing quite like FX’s Pose. The series follow the lives of the queer and transgender ballroom community in 80s New York. The show has already become famed for assembling the largest transgender cast in history and continues to make a cultural impact. Billy Porter, one of the main characters, made headlines earlier this year for becoming the first Black gay man to receive a nomination for best lead actor in a drama series. Last night, he made history again after winning the award.

Billy Porter took to the stage and evoked the words of Black gay novelist, James Baldwin: “It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.”

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  • Patricia Arquette on Trans Rights

After snagging the award for her disturbing portrayal as Dee Dee Blanchard in the miniseries The Act, Patricia took a moment to pay tribute to her late sister – Alexis Arquette, an advocate of transgender rights. After passing away in 2016 due to HIV, Alexis left behind a legacy of LGBTQ+ activism. Patricia urged Hollywood to hire trans actors and bought awareness to the challenges that they still face. Orange is the New Black alumni and fellow transgender activist, Laverne Cox, was seen in the audience holding the LGBT rainbow flag proudly.

“I’m so sad I lost my sister Alexis and that trans people are still being persecuted,” Arquette said. “Let’s get rid of this bias that we have everywhere.”

Credit: Vanity Fair
  • Michelle Williams Highlights Gender Pay Disparity

In 2017, it was revealed that during reshoots of the film All the Money in the World actor Mark Wahlberg was paid US$1.5 million while co-star Michelle Williams received less than $1,000. After winning her first Emmy for her role in Fosse/Verdon, Williams took the opportunity to raise the issue of pay disparity in Hollywood.

“I see this [award] as an acknowledgement of what is possible when a woman is trusted to discern her own needs, feels safe enough to voice them, and respected enough that they will be heard,” she said. 

When asked backstage about her 2017 role, Williams emphasised: “The discrepancy … was so huge that it really illustrated a larger point. Not just for myself, obviously, but if it was this difficult for me — a white woman in a privileged industry — how difficult is it for women of colour across all industries?”