Niecy Nash-Betts, RuPaul lead wave of calls for social justice to Emmys

Niecy Nash-Betts celebrates her Emmy win as supporting actress in limited series for "Dahmer."
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

At the 75th Emmy Awards on Monday, multiple winners seized the opportunity to make statements about the world beyond the auditorium.

Accepting the award for her performance in the limited series “Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” Niecy Nash-Betts first shared her gratitude for series creator Ryan Murphy, co-star Evan Peters and wife Jessica Betts.

“And you know who I want to thank? I want to thank me, for believing in me and doing what they said I could not do,” she said while onstage at Los Angeles’ Peacock Theater. “I want to say to myself in front of all you beautiful people: Go on girl, with your bad self! You did that!”


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Nash-Betts, who portrayed Glenda Cleveland in the Netflix project, closed her speech on a more serious note. “Finally, I accept this award on behalf of every Black and brown woman who has gone unheard yet over-policed, like Glenda Cleveland, like Sandra Bland, like Breonna Taylor,” she concluded. “As an artist, my job is to speak truth to power and baby, I’ma do it ‘til the day I die.”

Shortly thereafter, when “RuPaul’s Drag Race” won the Emmy for reality competition series for the eighth time, creator and host RuPaul took a moment to address right-wing attacks on drag and drag performers throughout the country.

“If a drag queen wants to read you a story at a library, listen to her, because knowledge is power,” he said. “And if someone tries to restrict your access to power, they are trying to scare you. So listen to a drag queen!”

RuPaul accepts the reality competition series Emmy for "RuPaul's Drag Race."
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

While the Governors’ Award was presented to the LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD for their efforts to support authentic LGBTQ storytelling onscreen, president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis noted that their work is far from over and made an impassioned call to action to those in the room and watching from home.

“What the world sees on TV influences how we treat each other, and the decisions that we make in our living rooms, schools, at work and at the ballot box,” she said. “The world urgently needs culture-changing stories about transgender people. More people say they have seen a ghost than know a transgender person. When you don’t know people, it’s easy to demonize them. Visibility creates understanding and it opens doors, it’s life-saving.

“Our community has achieved so much and yet, we are still being victimized and villainized with cruel and harmful lies,” she continued. “Sharing stories is the antidote. And now is the time to take action to support everyone in the LGBTQ community, because this story is still being told and we all can be the heroes.”


Accepting the award for writing for a drama series, “Succession” creator Jesse Armstrong appeared to allude to rising anti-immigration sentiment in the U.S. and the U.K., where he is from. “Thank you to the wider sort of creative community in the U.S.” he said. “Our show is about some things that are close to the center of American life and politics, and we’ve always been met with generosity and good faith.”

“That’s part of America’s tradition of being very welcoming to outsiders, and it’s very nice,” he added. “I’m very grateful for the generosity I’ve been shown working in this country.”

And upon winning the evening’s final award for drama series, Armstrong closed his speech with a joke: “This is a show about family, but it’s also about when partisan news coverage gets intertwined with divisive right-wing politics. And after four seasons of satire, as I understand it, that’s a problem we have now fixed.”

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“Beef” creator Lee Sung Jin, whose miniseries turns a road rage incident into a deep exploration of emotional pain and the social dynamics that fuel them, raised the issue of mental health when accepting the limited series trophy.

“A lot of the suicidal ideation in this show was based on stuff that I and some of the folks up here have struggled with over the years, so I’m really grateful and humbled by everyone who watched the show and reached out about their own personal struggles,” he said. “It’s very life-affirming ... I feel like we live in a world designed to kind of keep us separate — even here, some of us go home with trophies, other people don’t. And I think for some of us, when we live in a world like this, you begin to think that there’s no way anyone can ever understand you or like you and much less even, no potential at being loved. And so the greatest joy of working on ‘Beef’ has truly been working with the folks up here who love so unconditionally.”

Last year’s historic Hollywood strikes were also a topic of Emmys conversation. Accepting the award for writing for a variety series, “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” writer Sofia Manfredi thanked Oliver, as well as executive producers Tim Carvell and Liz Stanton, “for just how much they backed us up during the writers strike — they wholeheartedly supported all of us, even though a third of us are annoying, and it was wonderful.”


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Manfredi also thanked the Writers Guild of America, as well as the industry’s other unions. “There’s so much solidarity,” she concluded. “The strike felt long, it did not feel lonely, so thank you so much.”

Unlike some of the winners, Emmys host Anthony Anderson stayed away from addressing hot-button issues himself. However, he signed off from the telecast by introducing a clip of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, as the event took place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.