Forget the Emmys speech. Sheryl Lee Ralph explains why she sang that powerful song

VIDEO | 01:00
Sheryl Lee Ralph sings a powerful song as she wins the Emmy

Sheryl Lee Ralph won an Emmy for her turn on ‘Abbott Elementary’ and nearly brought the house down with her rendition of this Dianne Reeves song.


If you forgot that “Abbott Elementary” star Sheryl Lee Ralph is also a Tony-nominated singer, don’t worry. She just reminded you.

During the 74th Emmys on Monday, the acclaimed veteran performer sang the house down upon winning the award for supporting actress in a comedy. But instead of the traditional acceptance speech, the “Moesha” actor channeled a song by jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves.

“I am an endangered species / But I sing no victim’s song / I am a woman, I am an artist / And I know where my voice belongs,” she thundered a cappella, reciting lines from Reeves’ “Endangered Species,” which appeared on her 1994 album, “Art & Survival.”

Join the Los Angeles Times for news and analysis as we follow the 74th Emmys live from in front of our televisions, inside the theater and backstage.

Sept. 12, 2022

Receiving standing ovations before and after she took the stage, Ralph dedicated her first Emmy to dreamers.

“To anyone who has ever, ever had a dream and thought your dream wasn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t come true, I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like,” she said as several of her peers rose from their seats. “This is what striving looks like.”

“And don’t you ever, ever give up on you, because if you get a Quinta Brunson in your corner, if you get a husband like mine in your corner, if you get children like mine in your corner, and if you’ve got friends like everybody who voted for me, cheered for me, loved me — thank you! Thank you!”

The ‘Abbott Elementary’ star opens up about her ‘rough’ path as a Black woman in show business — and now, at 65, enjoying the view from the top.

Aug. 29, 2022


Ralph earned the Emmy for her turn as Barbara Howard, a schoolteacher, in ABC’s “Abbott Elementary.” Her victory marked the first prime-time win for “Abbott Elementary,” which also won the comedy writing award for creator Quinta Brunson.

Backstage after her win, Ralph explained what the song means to her and why she performed it.

“I’ve been singing that song for years because I think of myself as an artist, as a woman, and especially as a woman of color, I’m an endangered species,” she said. “And I don’t sing any victim song. I’m a woman. I’m an artist, and I know where my voice belongs.

Jennifer Coolidge, acclaimed for her turn as a wealthy woman grieving her mother’s death on HBO’s ‘The White Lotus,’ picked up her first Emmy Monday.

Sept. 12, 2022

“There are so many young actors, artists, even kids that think they know what they’re going to do in life,” she added. “Find your voice and put it where it belongs.”

Jackée Harry, who won an Emmy in 1987 for her role on “227,” was among Hollywood stars who celebrated Ralph’s win and her powerful performance.

“For 35 years I’ve been the only black woman to win Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series,” Harry tweeted Monday night, sharing a photo from her Emmys victory. “But that changes tonight...and it’s come full circle!”


Jackée Harry won her Emmy in 1987, more than 30 years before Sheryl Lee Ralph became the second Black woman to win in the supporting comedy actress category.

Sept. 12, 2022

“The. Sheryl. Lee. Ralph,” tweeted the Black List founder Franklin Leonard. “Nothing more need be said.”

“SHERYL. LEE . RALPH,” repeated Lynda Carter.

“All Black women need is the opportunity,” tweeted Boston Globe columnist Renée Graham. “We already know how to shine.”

See more praise for Ralph below.

Times staff writer Ashley Lee contributed to this report.