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‘Abbott Elementary’ Star Sheryl Lee Ralph Gave Us an Emmys Moment to Remember

“This is what believing looks like.”

Sheryl Lee Ralph is a multitalented performer who has been delivering powerhouse performances on stage and screen for decades. Last night, she became only the second Black actress to ever win an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, and her speech was one for the ages. 

Who is Sheryl Lee Ralph?

The 65-year-old Jamaican-American actress and singer started her career in the late ’70s, and has been working steadily ever since, with appearances in films, TV shows, and Broadway plays.  

What did Sheryl Lee Ralph win for?

Ralph won her Emmy for her role as tough but loving kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard on the mockumentary sitcom Abbott Elementary. This was Ralph’s first Emmy nomination. She’s previously won an Independent Spirit Award and been nominated for the Tony Award and the NAACP Image Award.

In her stirring acceptance speech for her big Emmy win, Ralph, clad in sparkling braid, black gown, and 10,000-watt smile, broke into song, singing the lines “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,” from Dianne Reeves’ “Endangered Species.” 

She went on to deliver powerful words: “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.”

In the wake of Ralph’s win, an adorable TikTok clip posted by her son, Etienne, has gone viral. In the video, Etienne and his sister, Ivy-Maurice, jump for joy in the Emmy audience as their beloved mom takes the stage to accept her well-deserved award, shouting “Yes mommy! Oh my God! We love you, mommy!” with infectious enthusiasm. 


I’ve envisioned this moment for my mother my whole entire life. We are so proud of you Mommy! @thesherylleeralph you are A WINNER!!!! @ivycoco and I are in our seats crying. #emmys2022

♬ original sound – Etienne (eh-tee-en) Maurice

What else is Sheryl Lee Ralph famous for?

Ralph’s breakout role was playing Deena Jones in the original Broadway cast of the 1981 musical Dreamgirls. Her performance earned her a Tony nomination. She’s also appeared in movies like Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit and The Flintstones, and she’s acted in TV shows including Moesha, Ray Donovan, and Search for Tomorrow. In 2012, she published a memoir, Redefining Diva: Life Lessons from the Original Dreamgirl, (Buy from Amazon, $16.99) detailing her long and varied career.

We can’t wait to see what this most fabulous of divas does next.

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