“I literally went to Wikipedia,” Nailed It host Nicole Byer told Refinery29 before launching into her signature, feel-it-in-your-bones laugh. It’s the kind of laugh that sticks in your mind — and probably led to her 2020 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition series. It’s impossible Nailed It-viewing Emmy voters forgot that laugh.
“I was like, ‘Who else has been nominated?’,” Byer continued. “And I was like, ‘Eugh, no! No Black women. Cool!’”
That is how Byer found out she is the first Black woman in the Emmys' 72-year history to ever receive a hosting nod. Despite Byer’s historic new standing in the Television Academy, she is still treating her nomination with her usual mix of fearlessly clear realism (“I truly think RuPaul will win. That, for me, is fine.”) and bubbling, hilarious positivity. After all, Byer is the one who credits this now-viral falling video with her boundary-breaking nomination.
“I begged to fall off that table all season,” Byer explained. “‘Please let me do it. Please let me fall off the table!’ I think they thought I was kidding.” If you’ve watched Nailed It season 4’s “Jungle Bungle,” you know Byer was not kidding. In the final 10 minutes of the episode, she responds to a baking ‘Panic’ button alarm by screaming, pushing herself onto the Nailed It judges table, rolling off of it face first, and continuing her spiral all the way into the pantry, which is yards away. Mary Berry could never.
“They were like, ‘Oh you really want to do this?’” she said, thinking back to Nailed It season 4's June 2019 production. “And I was like, ‘Yes!’”
One year later, in July 2020, Byer had her hosting nomination. She is up against RuPaul (RuPaul's Drag Race), the Queer Eye fab five, the Shark Tank sharks, Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio (Top Chef), and Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman (Making It). On the night before nods were announced, Byer’s friend repeatedly told her she would be among the nominees. Byer disagreed, assuming only Nailed It season 4 would be in the running for a series Emmy (the reality show was also tapped in 2019). “Then I got an ‘I told you so’ message,” she admitted.
“I truly did not think I was going to get nominated. So I have no stakes in this. I’m just here for fun,” she continued, laughing again. “I’m also just a realist. Everyone who’s nominated is either a huge star or a global sensation. If Ru doesn’t win, the Queer Eye boys will win. If the Queer Eye boys don’t win, Padma, a woman who’s worked in the food entertainment industry for so long, will win. If she doesn’t win, Amy Poehler, a superstar will win. And then there’s me.”
Yet, Byer doesn’t want you to cry for her. Instead, she sees this perspective as the reason for her ultimate success. “I go for stuff that I understand is attainable. I understand that acting and hosting a show is fully unattainable to some people,” she said. “But all the little steps to get there were attainable. That’s what you have to go for.”
That’s why Byer views her nomination as a step towards changing the face of TV hosting forever — Emmy win or not. “It’s devastating. It’s really upsetting,” she said, considering the fact that it took over 70 years for a Black woman to get an Emmys hosting nomination. “My hope is that maybe my nomination will open the door for another Black or brown woman who wasn’t in the mix for a show.
“Maybe they’ll be like, ‘Oh, yeah, why didn’t we look for a Black or a brown person? Why didn’t we look for an Asian person? Why didn’t we look for a Pacific Islander? Why is the pitch dek just five white dudes who sound the same? Why did we do that?’”
No matter what happens next, Byer can at least get “emotional” about the outpouring of social media love she gets from little Black girls across the country. As Byer often tweets, kids tend to be Nailed It superfans. “The parent will always be like, ‘The thing she was most excited about was screaming, She looks like me!,” Byer said about the kind of Twitter mentions she receives. “I had so many Black women to look up to in the ‘90s. It went away for a little bit. Television as a whole in the 2000s got so whitewashed in a way that was startling.”
To keep television from sliding back into that grim period, we need more of Byer on Nailed It. She is also rearing to return to her Netflix stomping ground after a prolonged sojourn away from set during the COVID19 pandemic. “I truly cannot wait to get back to work. Because I don’t feel creative at home. I miss interacting with people,” Byer said. But, she’s also mindful of the health implications, particularly for a show about eating other people’s baked goods.
“I feel like a lot of productions have a lot of corona stuff implemented,” Byer said. “I don’t think anyone would let me be unsafe because guess what? Lawsuits are expensive for networks! I think they’ll make sets as safe as possible.”