Black Girls definitely rocked the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards show. From the likes of Queen Latifah for her role as Bessie in Bessie Smith, to Taraji P. Henson who stars as cookie in the much acclaimed TV drama show, Empire, the Emmy Awards reflected the growing nature of diversity in the entertainment industry. Diversity in this context refers not only to the presence of women of colour in Hollywood, but also highlights a shift away from traditional Hollywood TV genres towards new genres, that caters for people of colour. Shows like Black-ish, Empire and Power etc, fall into this new TV genre which was previously not available in Hollywood and/or not recognised by internationally acclaimed Film Bodies like the Emmy etc. While I don’t generally get involved in all the hype and build-up to this great award show, this year was different. It was different because of the palpable presence and recognition of women of colour. The 2015 Emmy’s recognised the work and times of three inspirational black women in Hollywood.
Born 11 August 1965, Viola Davis is well known for her role as Annalise Keating in How to Get Away with Murder (HTGAWM), for which she won Outstanding lead actress in a Drama Series. Davis has left an indelible mark on the history pages by being the first black woman to win the award. In her acceptance speech, she thanked other black actresses that paved the way for her, and said that “the only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity”.
In the show, Davis plays a headstrong law professor who becomes entangled in a twisted murder plot, involving five of her students. Davis character is strong, decisive, self-aware and intelligent. As the show plays out, viewers discover that she is a woman who has overcome tremendous adversity in her life and marriage, but masks it well by throwing herself into her work. If you love legal dramas, with a twist of suspense, then this is the show for you, as it will leave you on the edge of your seat.
In her real life, Davis is open about her childhood which she says was characterised by abject poverty and hunger. She recalls growing up in abject poverty, stealing and crawling through maggot-filled garbage bins to get food. The actor said that for years she felt immense shame about her childhood and is only now coming to terms with it.
Born 10 February 1980, Uzoamaka Nwanneka “Uzo” Aduba is well known for her role as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren on the Netflix television series Orange Is the New Black, for which she won best supporting actress in a drama series. This is Aduba’s second win, as she also won the 2014 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for the same show.
Aduba who is of Nigerian descent, said that during her early years, something her mother said to her helped her withstand pressures to change her unique name to something more convenient for Hollywood. Aduba said that:
“My family is from Nigeria, and my full name is Uzoamaka, which means “The road is good.” Quick lesson: My tribe is Igbo, and you name your kid something that tells your history and hopefully predicts your future. So anyway, in grade school, because my last name started with an A, I was the first in roll call, and nobody ever knew how to pronounce it. So I went home and asked my mother if I could be called Zoe. I remember she was cooking, and in her Nigerian accent she said, “Why?” I said, “Nobody can pronounce it.” Without missing a beat, she said, “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”
Born 15 January 1971, Regina King is known for her recurring roles in dramas like 24, the Big Bang Theory and starring in films like Ray, Daddy Day Care and Enemy of the State etc. Recently, she joined the cast of American Crime, where she plays Aliyah Shadeed, a devout member of the Nation of Islam and sister to drug addict accused of murder, for which she won her first Primetime Emmy Award in 2015. If you are a fan of the TV show homeland and love conspiracy theories, then this is the show for you.
In her real life, King was married to Ian Alexander Sr for 10 years but the marriage broke down in 2007. She said about her failed relationship, “I know in my own marriage I stayed in it to provide my son with what I thought was a stable background and to give him what I thought was the family life a child should have with two parents. But that isn’t always the best way, and it took me taking my son to therapy after the divorce to really see it”.