MJ Rodriguez Just Made Emmys History

And her nomination isn’t the only record-breaking nod this year.

Record Breaking Nominations
Photo: FX

You may have been enjoying a delicious lunch or twiddling your thumbs trying to think of a witty reply for your Bumble crush this afternoon, but across town, history was being made. The 2021 Emmy nominations just dropped, and it seems like we may be able to put our faith in the (Television) Academy again!

Breakout shows Bridgerton, Ted Lasso and WandaVision were of course nominated — and even Lovecraft Country managed to score acting noms following their Golden Globes snubs, with lead performersJonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett making history as the first two Black leads to be nominated from the same drama series.

But there were a few more welcome (and, frankly, more than deserved) history-making additions to the Emmy nominations, including MJ Rodriguez and Bowen Yang.

She is an icon, she is a legend, she is the moment, and she's making HERstory. I'm talking about MJ Rodriguez. She has become the first trans person to be nominated in the Lead Actress in a Drama Series category for her iconic role as Blanca Evangelista in FX's POSE. Rodriguez's role been much talked (and tweeted) about since the show's 2018 premiere, and is a long overdue and necessary shift in the way the lives of trans women — especially trans women of color — are portrayed in the media. Rodriguez's history of activism, and calls for positive representation (and not just for the sake of representation) may have finally been answered.

Previously, only two trans performers have been nominated for an Emmy. Laverne Cox scored a Guest Actress nod for her portrayal of Sophia Burset in Netflix's Orange is the New Black in 2014, 2017, 2019, and 2020 (we'll circle back to that wavering faith in the Academy), and last year, Razor Tongue's Rain Valdez also garnered a nod in the Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama category.

Readers may remember the uproar after Jeffrey Tambor's Emmy wins in 2015 and 2016 for his portrayal of a transgender woman in Amazon's Transparent, which left quite a bitter taste in the mouths of many as he is a cisgender, heterosexual man who won not once, but twice.

Then there's SNL's first Chinese American cast member and only the third openly-gay cast member (the first was Terry Sweeney, the second was John Milhiser, neither of whom made it past their first season on SNL), Bowen Yang. The comedian already has a history of … well, making history. Now, he's adding another tally to his list of accomplishments as SNL's first-ever featured player (a cast member still in their first two seasons, who is yet to be promoted to a regular cast member) to be nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.

If you've been living under a rock, honestly, I don't blame you. 2020 was… a lot, and 2021 is shaping up to be an olympic hurdle itself (looking at you, Delta variant!), but if you've missed Yang's portrayals as the Iceberg that sank the Titanic — a sketch that continued trending on Twitter through Monday (a feat for Saturday Night Live), no-nonsense dictator Kim Jong Un, and a very, very unimpressed Fran Lebowitz, you're truly out of the loop, so stop what you're doing and go watch them.

Record Breaking Nominations

While most of his characters have been exciting departures from reality, Yang also took a moment for an emotional reflection on Weekend Update with a more serious tone to speak to viewers and condemn the recent rise in Anti-Asian hate crimes that have been plaguing the country.

With these new Emmy Nominations, we have to wonder if the Academy has realized that not only Hollywood, but the country is full of diverse stories that deserve to be told, and recognized for their greatness. And we know just the people to do it.

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