“I finally found one!” I yelled, about two hours after the 2020 Emmy nominations were announced. I wasn’t talking about the perfect supportive Instagram response from one cast member to their newly-nominated co-star, or a Netflix show that hadn’t gotten a nod. Instead, I was celebrating tracking down a single Latinx woman besides white actress Alexis Bledel — whose grandfather is Argentinian — who was nominated for a 2020 Emmy Award. There are 28 major Emmy categories. The gender imbalance is staggering.
The woman I found is Linda Mendoza. She directed Tiffany Haddish’s Netflix stand-up event, They Ready, is Mexican-American, and nominated in the Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series category, which is outside the core 28 races. This is Mendoza’s first Emmy nomination, despite almost 30 years in the business, which included time helming everything from The Bernie Mac Show and Scrubs to 30 Rock and The Mindy Project.
My harried, lengthy search may come as a surprise to some, considering the festive nature around the 2020 Emmy nominations announcement. After years of award shows being rightly dubbed #SoWhite, the 2020 Emmy nominations are a clear sign that Hollywood is evolving towards real representation in a new decade. Fan-favourites like A Black Lady Sketch Show, Nailed It, and its host Nicole Byer received some much-deserved nomination love, as did social media-beloved critical picks like Watchmen, Insecure, and The Mandalorian (which is led by Latinx man Pedro Pascal).
As we march towards the 2020 Emmys’ Sunday, September 20 air date, we’ll likely hear the awards show dubbed a “celebration of diversity” for the nominations revealed today (Maya Rudoplph is nominated twice in the same category!). That exhausting catchphrase will be a lie until the Television Academy fixes its latest — and long-standing — racist erasure of Latinx femme talent.
Not one series nominated for a 2020 Emmy is led by a Latinx woman. Beyond that fact, there are eight major Emmy categories for actresses. This year, there were more than 40 individual nods, including a whopping eight slots in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series race (six of these competitors are white). Out of all these opportunities to recognise Latinx talent, The Handmaid’s Tale’s Bledel is the only Latinx woman to find herself nominated. Prior to Handmaid’s Tale, Bledel was best known for excelling at playing a heavily privileged white woman from Connecticut on Gilmore Girls.
In one flash of positivity, Mexican-born actress Lupita Nyong'o was nominated for… Outstanding Narrator, a category defined by its nominees’ lack of on-screen presence. This is just the latest entry in the “Hollywood doesn’t want Lupita Nyong’o to be seen” canon. Another Black woman, Afro-Latina Becoming helmer Nadia Hallgren, garnered documentary directing and cinematography nominations for her behind-the-lens work on the Netflix film.
While the Emmys’ voting body seems to believe Bledel is the only on-screen shining TV star in our community, the 2020 Emmys’ eligibility period was actually an embarrassment of riches in televised Latinx storytelling. The most obvious snubs hail from Pose, the FX series that netted Billy Porter his 2019 win and 2020 nomination. Not a single one of Porter’s co-stars were nominated, including Pose’s protagonist, Afro-Latinx actress Mj Rodriguez. While Porter has crafted an unforgettable character with his ballroom emcee Pray Tell, it is Rodriguez who is the enchanting emotional core and star of the series. Rodriguez’s breakout cast member, non-binary femme Afro-Taino performer Indya Moore, was also snubbed for the second year in a row despite their boundary-breaking showing as Angel.
The 2020 Emmys’ eligibility period was actually an embarrassment of riches in televised Latinx storytelling.
Yet, the chronic disregard for Latinx femme talent goes far beyond Pose. Take for example the treatment of HBO’s Euphoria, which received an Outstanding Drama nod and a much-deserved nomination for Zendaya as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama. Zendaya’s co-stars Alexa Demie, who is Mexican-American, and Barbara Ferreira, who is Brazillian-American, deserve to be standing right alongside their leading lady as Outstanding Supporting Actresses. Both young performers spend Euphoria season 1 taking the kind of material that would frighten someone twice their age and making it into arresting performances. For proof, watch Demie’s painful and thoughtful turn in Euphoria episode “'03 Bonnie and Clyde,'' wherein her character Maddy Perez processes her assault at the hands of her boyfriend (Jacob Elordi). At the same time, Ferreira fearlessly follows her character, Kat Hernandez, down the darkest roads as she attempts to own her body and sexuality.
Somehow, neither of these performances were even in the major Emmys conversation.
Countless other Latinx femmes suffered the same fate as Rodriguez, Moore, Demie, and Ferreira. Starz’s Vida and Netflix-turned-Pop TV sitcom One Day at A Time were totally snubbed by the Emmys, leaving their Latinx creators and stars out in the cold. That means One Day’s Rita Moreno, the first-ever Latinx woman to win an acting Emmy, was ignored. The second Latinx woman to win an acting Emmy, America Fererra, was also snubbed, in the face of her buzzy final season on underrated NBC comedy Superstore. Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz were overlooked, despite the comedy’s much-talked about move to NBC and their co-star Andre Braugher’s own nomination. Similarly, the Latinx women of Orange is the New Black’s final season like Dascha Polanco, Selenis Leyva, Jessica Pimentel, and Diane Guerrero were not nominated, but Laverne Cox did receive an Outstanding Guest Actress nod. It is integral to remember Orange dedicated much of its goodbye season to the brutality of ICE jails and their effect on Latinx women.
Powerful narratives about Latinx women are being told on television. The Television Academy simply isn’t listening.