From the moment Sheryl Lee Ralph’s name was announced at the 2022 Emmy Awards tonight, the energy in the room at the Microsoft Theater started humming. As the Abbott Elementary star made her way to the stage to accept her trophy for Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, she seemed barely able to walk, her tears flowing by the time she reached the microphone. But once the statuette was in her hands, the power that made Ralph such a natural in her Tony Award-nominated turn as Deena Jones in Dreamgirls made itself apparent. She swallowed, clenched her fist, and burst suddenly and unexpectedly into a verse from “Endangered Species” by Dianne Reeves.
She sang, “I am an endangered species / But I sing no victim's song / I am a woman, I am an artist / And I know where my voice belongs.”
Around her, the crowd rose to their feet as she told the audience, “To anyone who has ever, ever had a dream and thought your dream wasn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t come true, I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like. This is what striving looks like. And don’t you ever, ever give up on you. Because if you get a Quinta Brunson in your corner, if you get a husband like mine in your corner, if you get children like mine in your corner, if you get friends like everybody who voted for me, cheered for me, loved me—thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
Watch the full performance and speech below, and throw up another prayer of thanks that Sheryl Lee Ralph knows the strength she commands.