Sheryl Lee Ralph had a career breakthrough as Deena in the original Broadway production of Dream girls. Forty years later, she finally won her first major show business awards for her role as Barbara Howard in Abbott Elementary School and delivered a stunning acceptance speech that both cements why she’s a Broadway legend and is sure to go down in the history books. And is there an Emmy for best awards ceremony acceptance speech? Because she deserves it too.
Ralph, at first, seemed shocked when his name was called for the win, maybe for good reason. Although her performance was critically acclaimed, she did not emerge on the night as the bettors’ favorite to win (she went up against the winner of Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series last year , Hannah Waddingham, not to mention former winners Alex Borstein and Kate McKinnon). Her face didn’t indicate she had anything planned.
Once on stage, however, she dove into a performance of Dianne Reeves’ song “Endangered Species.” “I’m an endangered species, but I sing no victim songs,” she sang. “I am a woman. I am an artist. And I know where my voice belongs.
But that was not all. Ralph also thanked show creator Quinta Brunson, her husband, children and, of course, all of the voters.
The moment left Keenan Thompson speechless; ditto for Lizzo, who was to follow the moment by presenting the next prize.
It was certainly a great and deserving moment, 45 years of preparation. While Ralph was nominated for a Tony, a Drama Desk Awards and several NAACP Image Awards, his only other award came in 1991 at the Independent Spirit Awards for his work in Sleep with anger. Something tells us she might not have to wait that long for her next one.
It’s also nice that one of the most talked about moments of the awards show was something people enjoyed.