Inside 5 of the most memorable moments in Emmy Awards history

As the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards gear up to celebrate the crème de la crème of television, let’s recap some of the greatest moments of Emmy’s past.

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By Sandra Sparrowhawk |  Sep 20, 2019

Hope is in the air as the television industry and its nominees look forward to a chance at securing the industry’s most prestigious trophy at this year’s Emmy Awards. The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards will air on September 22, 2019.

In the 1940s, when the Emmy Awards – then known as the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences – first emerged, its founder, Syd Cassyd was not looking to bestow prizes upon its winners. Rather, he was interested in offering a platform for exchange within the industry. The first Emmys were eventually awarded in 1949 and unlike the modern day version, handed out no more than six awards – one of which went to 20-year-old Shirley Dinsdale and her puppet, Judy Splinters, for The Judy Splinters Show.

Harry Belafonte becomes first African American to win Emmy Award

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In 1959, renowned African-American singer, social activist and actor, Harry Belafonte, became the first African American to win an Emmy award. Belafonte won ‘Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program’ for his television special Tonight with Harry Belafonte.

Prior to securing the prestigious award, the actor was awarded a Tony award in 1954 for ‘Best Featured Actor in a Musical’ for his supporting role in John Murray Anderson’s Almanac. That same year, he also received a Theatre World Award for his exceptional performance in the musical.

RuPaul wins Outstanding Reality Show for the first time

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It’s been a long time coming: after 11 successful seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race and two equally entertaining spin-offs, the competition series took home the gong for ‘Outstanding Reality Show’ for the first time last year.

Following his win, RuPaul dedicated the trophy to “all of the dreamers out there.” Diving into his DragRace dictionary, he added: “Listen, if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen up in here?”

The iconic program, which was nominated an impressive 14 times in 2018, also secured the ‘Best Host of a Reality or Competition Program’ for the fourth consecutive year at the Creative Arts Emmys, which normally air a week prior to the Emmy’s.

Laverne Cox breaks barriers as first transgender nominee

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In 2014, Laverne Cox became the first transgender actress to be nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Sophia Burset – an inmate who was incarcerated on fraud charges – in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black.

Though she did not win the award, Cox’s nomination marked a significant milestone for the LGBTQ+ community. In an interview with TIME magazine, she said: “I was told many times that I wouldn’t be able to have a mainstream career as an actor because I’m trans, because I’m black, and here I am,” she commented. “And it feels really good.”

But Cox’s success didn’t end there. The actress is up for three Emmy awards for her role as Sophie Burset at this year’s Emmy Awards.

Hulu becomes first streaming service to win Emmy for The Handmaid’s Tale

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With the rise of streaming services, from Netflix to Hulu and Amazon, and their respective original television productions, it was only a matter of time until we would see their works recognized on a larger scale. In 2017, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale did just that. The series went on to win the trophy for ‘Outstanding Drama Series’, making Hulu the first streaming service to have won an Emmy for an original series.

Coincidentally, 2017 also marked the first time in 22 years that a female director took home the award for ‘Best Directing in a Drama Series’ (Reed Morano, The Handmaid’s Tale).

Julia Louis-Dreyfus breaks Emmy record with Veep

TV’s reigning comedy queen, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, broke Emmy records (again) at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2017. Louis-Dreyfus secured the award for’ Best Actress in Comedy’ for an astounding 6th time in a row for her performance as President Selina Meyer in HBO’s Veep.

In her acceptance speech, the actress said: “This is and continues to be the role of a lifetime and an adventure of utter, utter joy.”

Louis-Dreyfus has once again been nominated for the same award for the role of Selina Meyer at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards..

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