By Jocelyn Noveck
HOLLYWOOD—Emmy night is always a chaotic mix of the humorous, the emotional and the inspirational, mixed with some major sequins and glitter. And on this Emmy night, all those elements came together in one glorious moment: Billy Porter’s win as best actor in a drama for “Pose,” the first openly gay actor to win the award.
But Porter’s speech wasn’t the only knock-your-socks-off moment. Michelle Williams gave the audience an eloquent and impassioned lesson on the importance of equal pay for women, especially women of color.
And Patricia Arquette paid tearful tribute to her late transgender sister, issuing a rousing call for better treatment of transgender people.
FAR FROM THE BRONX
When Jharrel Jerome won his Emmy for “When They See Us,” he said he felt like he “should just be back home in the Bronx right now chilling, waiting for my mom’s cooking or something.” But, said the 21-year-old, “I’m here in front of my inspirations.”
He thanked, of course, director Ava DuVernay, and his “beautiful mother,” who actively cheered him on from the audience. But he saved his most important thanks “for the men we know as the Exonerated Five.” And all five stood up and cheered from their seats: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise, the man Jerome played onscreen.
The four-part Netflix series tells story of the Central Park Five, Black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were coerced into confessing to a rape they didn’t commit.
It was obvious that it was Billy Porter’s night the moment he sauntered into the Emmy Awards in a huge, lopsided black cowboy hat, a sparkling striped black-and-silver suit, and platform shoes.
Porter has emerged as a huge red carpet star of late. But this time, the “Pose” actor matched his carpet prowess with a huge Emmy victory, becoming the first openly gay actor to win best actor in a drama.
“The category is love, y’all!” he crowed to the audience upon arriving onstage.
He then met the historical moment by quoting James Baldwin. “It took many years of vomiting up the filth I was taught about myself and halfway believed before I could walk around this Earth like I had a right to be here,” went the powerful quote. “I have the right. You have the right. We all have the right!”
As he did years ago when his won his Tony, Porter paid tribute to his mother, Clorinda, saying “there’s no stronger, more resilient woman who has graced this earth.”
He also thanked his show’s co-creator, Ryan Murphy: “Ryan Murphy, you saw me! You believed in us.”
He added that “We as artists are the people that get to change the molecular structure of the hearts and minds of the people who live on this planet. Please don’t ever stop doing that.”