'Abbott Elementary' star Sheryl Lee Ralph delivers powerful acceptance speech

Quinta Brunson, who created "Abbott Elementary", also won an Emmy for outstanding writing for a comedy series.

ByCarson Blackwelder via GMA via ABCNews logo
Tuesday, September 13, 2022
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Sheryl Lee Ralph won an Emmy as a first-time nominee at the age of 66 for best-supporting actress in the ABC comedy Abbott Elementary.

LOS ANGELES -- Sheryl Lee Ralph won the Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series at the 2022 Emmys Monday night for her work on "Abbott Elementary" and brought the audience to their feet with her powerful acceptance speech.

After taking the stage, the 65-year-old actress held up her trophy and belted out the opening lyrics to "Endangered Species" by Dianne Reeves, a five-time Grammy-winning jazz singer.

"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," she sang.

Ralph then thanked "Abbott Elementary" creator and star Quinta Brunson as well as her husband and kids before turning her attention to the audience and those watching at home.

"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," she said. "This is what striving looks like, and don't you ever, ever give up on you."

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Ralph, who plays Barbara Howard, a seasoned and pearl-clutching kindergarten teacher, on "Abbott Elementary," beat out a stacked category filled to the brim with some of the best talent on TV.

Her fellow nominees included her "Abbott Elementary" co-star Janelle James as well as Alex Borstein ("The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"), Hannah Einbinder ("Hacks") and Kate McKinnon ("Saturday Night Live"). Sarah Niles, Juno Temple and Hannah Waddingham (all from "Ted Lasso") were also nominated for the award.

Speaking to "Good Morning America" ahead of this year's Emmys, Ralph said her first ever Emmy nomination felt like "redemption" and "vindication," adding, "It felt like I'd been seen."

This recognition comes exactly 40 years after she was nominated for a Tony for her role as Deena Jones in the Broadway musical "Dreamgirls."

"Some people get to see and connect the dots from where they've come from to where they are, and I'm one of those people," she said of the full-circle moment. "I look at my journey and I think it has been a good one."

Ralph told "GMA" that her perseverance in the entertainment industry is "the perfect example of 'don't give up.'"

Brunson also won an Emmy for outstanding writing for a comedy series.

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