By our count, we tallied 42 nominations for people of color in the acting categories that were revealed this morning during the annual Emmy nomination eleganza extravaganza hosted by father-daughter team Ron Cephas Jones and Jasmine Cephas Jones. However, our nominee count does not include the actors in short form series or reality series hosts —  we’re pretty sure that there are more.

Last year, there were about 36 actors of color nominated in acting categories, showing inclusivity when it comes to recognizing talent in the TV space. That should definitely be applauded.

Probably one of the most noteworthy nominations is that of queen Mj Rodriguez, who was recognized for her role as Blanca in FX’s PoseThis marks the first time an openly trans performer has received a nomination for a lead category. Before Rodriguez, Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black) was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in 2014 while Rain Valdez (Razor Tongue) also earned a nod for Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama in 2020. On the Daytime Emmy side, Scott Turner Schofield (Studio City) and Rowin Amone (King Ester) scored nominations in 2020 for Outstanding Guest Performer and Lead Actress in Digital Drama Series, respectively.

There is even more representation of LGBTQIA+ in this year’s slate of nominees. In addition to Pose (which is one of the most robust selections on TV representing queer culture) getting a best drama nomination, Billy Porter was nominated again for his role as Pray Tell. This marks his third nomination in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series category and if he wins, it will be his second win.

Bowen Yang reached iconic status for his incredible work on Saturday Night Live (I mean, any role he steps in is golden). Yang made history becoming the first Chinese-American man to be nominated in a supporting actor category. The late-night sketch show institution has not necessarily been bursting at the seams with Asian representation, let alone openly gay Asian representation. Yang is blazing trails for representation after SNL has had cast members of Asian descent including Fred Armisen (he is of Korean descent) and Rob Schneider (who is part Filipino). Nasim Pedrad, who is of Iranian descent, was also on SNL before breaking her own ground with Chad.

Other Asian noms that deserve your attention include Pen15‘s Maya Erskine who earned a nomination for writing. The Hulu series which was co-created by and stars Erskine was also nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series. Tan France and Padma Lakshmi also scored nods in the unscripted space for their Queer Eye and Top Chef respectively.

With the lack of Asian representation in TV, Yang’s nomination is a moment to celebrate as Emmy acting noms for Asians have not been in abundance — mainly because there haven’t been that many opportunities for Asian actors on TV. That is slowly changing (emphasis on “slowly”) Sandra Oh  has been nominated a dozen times for her roles in Grey’s Anatomy and Killing Eve, but has yet to win. She was also the first Asian actress to be nominated in a lead actress category. Last year, Dev Patel was nominated for Modern Love but still, nominees of Asian descent accounted for just 1% of the total nominations. In 2017, Riz Ahmed became the first Muslim and Asian actor to win in a lead acting category. Even so, Asian representation at the Emmys has been very low. According to an Los Angeles Times analysis, of 19 Primetime Emmy categories from 2015 to 2019 studied, only 2% of the nominees were Asian.

RuPaul’s Drag Race continues to snatch those trophies garnering a total of 11 nominations including Outstanding Competition Program as well as Outstanding Host for Reality or Competition. RuPaul Charles has won the host trophy numerous times and if he wins this year, it will be his sixth Emmy in the category. If the series wins Outstanding Competition Program, it will be it’s fourth trophy — and it will be well deserved.

In a TV landscape that is growing with Latinx representation, the legendary Rosie Perez came through with a nomination for her role in The Flight Attendant, marking the third Latinx actress to score a nomination in the supporting comedy actress category. She joins Liz Torres who was twice nominated in 1994 and 1995 for The John Larroquette Show as well as Sofia Vergara who earned three nominations during her run on Modern Family.

The incredible sci-fi socially poignant Lovecraft Country (which still deserves a second season) earned multiple acting noms for Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett as well as Michael K. Williams and Aunjanue Ellis. Majors and Smollett make history with their Emmy nods as they are the first Black lead actor and actress from the same drama series to be nominated in the same year.

I can mine for diversity and inclusion in this year’s nominations till the cows come home, but the ultimate goal is that the Emmys reach equity when it comes to a list of nominees that represent the landscape we live in. The question is: Will we be able to stop tallying the amount of diverse nominees? The answer is no… well, not in this lifetime at least.

Is there representation? Yes. Is there progress? Kind of. None of these nominations will mean anything unless inclusivity becomes sustainable. As I have discussed before, these award show institutions were not created for marginalized voices to excel or succeed. They were built for and by the dominant white culture. By people of color, queer people and other underrepresented voices boarding this great white train of Hollywood accolades, we are disrupting the status quo and naturally, white people needed to get used to seeing stories that aren’t about them. In fact, they are still getting used to it. Some of them like it. Some of them don’t. In the end, marginalized communities have to look out for each other because time and time again, many of these white, male, cis, heterosexual, able-bodied institution has proved that they don’t value different voices. They tokenize “the othered” or do not give the tools or financing for them to succeed because. They give give more shine their white — or even white-adjacent counterparts.

I am not trying to take away the joy and celebration of all the underrepresented voices that were recognized at this year’s Emmys. I’m simply saying that Hollywood needs to do more. They need to treat and foster “the othered” the same way they do to the white men who often fail upward. We have a lot to give, but Hollywood tend to ignore or leave us to our own devices to created dope things — and more often than not, its better than what these white men are serving.

Still, TV is lightyears ahead of film and for that, I am utterly grateful. I give flowers, love and joy to all of the diverse nominees in acting categories for this year’s Emmy Awards. Here’s to double the nominees next year. We see you.

That said, let’s hear it for the Diaspora Emmy Nominee Class of 2021 (at least the acting ones):

  1. Sterling K Brown
  2. Jonathan Majors
  3. Rege-Jean Page
  4. Billy Porter
  5. Uzo Aduba
  6. Mj Rodriguez
  7. Jurnee Smollett
  8. Michaela Coel
  9. Cynthia Erivo
  10. Lin-Manuel Miranda
  11. Leslie Odom Jr
  12. Anthony Anderson
  13. Kenan Thompson
  14. Tracee Ellis Ross
  15. Carl Clemons-Hopkins
  16. Kenan Thompson
  17. Bowen Yang
  18. Nick Mohammed
  19. Rosie Perez
  20. Dave Chapelle
  21. Daniel Kaluuya
  22. Morgan Freeman
  23. Yvette Nicole Brown
  24. Issa Rae
  25. Maya Rudolph
  26. Don Cheadle
  27. Courtney B. Vance
  28. Carl Weathers
  29. Sophie Okonedo
  30. Phylicia Rashad
  31. Renée Elise Goldsberry
  32. Moses Ingram
  33. Phillipa Soo
  34. O-T Fagbenle
  35. Max Minghella
  36. Michael K. Williams
  37. Giancarlo Esposito
  38. Daveed Diggs
  39. Anthony Ramos
  40. Paapa Essiedu
  41. Samira Wiley
  42. Aunjanue Ellis