Zendaya landed a historic win at Sunday night's Emmy Awards for her turn as Rue Bennett in the HBO teen-thriller Euphoria. Touted for its gorgeous cinematography, stellar performances, and bold handling of mature subject matter, Euphoria debuted on HBO in June 2019. While the show boasts a stock high school premise that revolves around teenagers and their experiences with sex, drugs, friendships, etc., it's brutally honest, empathetic storytelling resonated with viewers. The same can be said of critics, who showered Euphoria season 1 with praise. Critics particularly admired Zendaya's acting, and their admiration led the actress to score a nod at the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards.
Zendaya's nomination was disclosed by the Television Academy during a live-cast in July. Her selection was notably stunning, as the Academy has a reputation for its bias towards younger performers. But despite the anomaly, fans were quick to root for the Dune star, who had impressed them with her chops in the series. Zendaya herself was quite overwhelmed by the nomination. She even took to Instagram to express her gratitude over the honor the Television Academy had bestowed upon her. To Zendaya, the Emmy nod was an experience rewarding enough. However, an even bigger accolade was to come.
During this weekend's Emmy Awards, Zendaya sent shockwaves across the entire entertainment industry when she became the youngest to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. This breaks the record Killing Eve star Jodie Comer set last year at age 26. The star accepted her award remotely while surrounded by a semi-circle of enthusiastic supporters. She expressed her amazement in her winning speech. Zendaya competed in the race with the incumbent winner Comer and decades-older counterparts Jennifer Aniston (The Morning Show), Laura Linney (Ozark), Olivia Colman (The Crown), and Sandra Oh (Killing Eve). Check out the video of her win, courtesy of the Television Academy, below:
Zendaya is clearly stirred by her Emmy win, as evidenced by her excitement and emotional speech. The accolade has touched Zendaya, but more importantly, the recognition shows people were able to connect with her poignant portrayal of Rue. Zendaya finds her character to be special, layered, and complicated, and she believes her depiction allows people to empathize with those battling addiction and its consequences. To the actress, viewers' finding something in Rue is likely equal as important as her Emmy win.
Zendaya's legendary victory at the 2020 Emmys isn't just well-deserved, it's also significant in terms of representation. Zendaya is only the second Black actress to win in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category. She has not only taken home the prize at a very young age, but also helped the Academy take a long delayed step forward. The Emmy Awards have also historically prioritized seasoned actors and methodical plotlines. With Zendaya's win for a stylized, gritty show like Euphoria, hopefully the Academy is finally ready to think outside the box