Emmy So White: Why Are Award Shows Still Lacking Diversity?

The Emmys this year failed to capitalise on its diverse nominations and all the major acting awards went to white actors.

Janhavi Deshmukh
Sep 21, 2021 13:07 IST
Emmy Awards 2021, Emmy Awards, Emmys 2021 Winners List
Emmy Awards 2021: The Primetime Emmy Awards held on Sunday had an impressive nominee line-up with many people of colour being nominated in different categories. However, none of them was awarded in any of the major categories. This instance is one of the many that furthers the idea that there is a system of privilege. 

The Emmys this year failed to capitalise on its diverse nominations and all the major acting awards went to white actors. Billy Porter and Mj Rodriguez (Pose), the late Michael K. Williams (Lovecraft Country) and Kenan Thompson and Bowen Yang (Saturday Night Live) seemed like strong contenders but all were left empty-handed. The loss for the actors of Pose was not only one for people of colour, but also for the LGBTQ Community. Steve Canals’ nomination for Pose was the first for an Afro-Latino and the third for a Latino. Last year saw four actors – Zendaya (Euphoria), Regina King and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen) and Uzo Aduba (Mrs America), winning in major categories but this year’s count was zero.

Before the #EmmySoWhite took over our timelines, one of the most recent, controversial snubs at these awards when The Weeknd’s 2020 album, After Hours was not nominated in any category for the Grammys. The album had broken numerous records and the lead single, Blinding Lights, has broken the record for most weeks at No.1. The Weeknd took to Twitter to say “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency...”

2016- #OscarsSoWhite


In 2016, a hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite, took the internet by storm. It was started after the Oscars announced an all-white row of nominations in major categories. In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first black person to win an academy award. She was awarded the Best Supporting Actress for her role as “Mammy” in Gone With The Wind. After her acceptance speech, she was escorted to a table, isolated from all the white celebrities.

It has been noted that around 89% of winners in the last decade have been white and the people of colour who won, were, in most instances, subjected to stereotypes associated with their races.

Division by award Categories


Another factor, which has come under controversy often, more so in the case of music awards, is the division of the award categories based on music from different races. The Grammys have been facing backlash over its “hip-hop” categories for a long time, with people alleging that they are portraying it as a “black” category. Even the (MTV Video Music Awards) VMAs have been subjected to criticism after they segregated “K-Pop” and “Latin-Pop” from “Pop” in their awards. The former is where widely successful Korean artists like BTS, NCT, Blackpink are nominated. People allege that this divides music of essentially the same genre, into different races and languages, thus avoiding people of colour to be on the same platform as white artists and win the same awards as them.

The Grammys

The Grammys have for long been called out for racism. While black artists tend to win in the Rap, R&B categories, they often miss out on the four main ones, namely Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best New Artist. Only 10 black artists have won in the Album of the Year category in the 62-year history of the Grammys. Artists like 2Pac and Diana Ross have never won a Grammy.


Voting committees for these Award Shows

The voting committee of the Oscars earlier consisted mainly of white individuals, with little representation of people of colour. However, since 2016, it has changed. In 2020, NY Times reported doubling the number of female members and tripling the members of colour.

Major awards across the world spell out success for many artists, take the example of the film Parasite. These artists shoot to fame on receiving these awards. So we need to wonder with the prevalent system, are we robbing artists of their chances of success? Is “representation” in the current form enough?


The views expressed are the author's own.

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Emmys 2021 Winners List: Women Set The Stage On Fire

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