On Monday, September 12, while actor and comedian Kenan Thompson took centre stage as host of the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards, Sagicor hosted an exclusive watch party inside the AC Hotel Kingston's Innovation Gallery. The event was in anticipation of longtime (and often under-appreciated) Broadway and TV veteran Sheryl Lee Ralph finally getting her flowers. Ralph was nominated for her role as the stern but loving kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard on the hit ABC sitcom Abbott Elementary.
As guests — elegantly-clad — entered the space, they were met with flutes of Ruffino Prosecco. The small group charted Ralph's career — many remembered her as one of the original Dreamgirls on Broadway — in between bites of smoked salmon canapés prepared by Chef Ricardo Bryan, all while swooning over the Shikima Hinds-decorated space.
The awards show started promptly at 7:00 pm, and attendees eagerly tuned in, ooohing and aahing about the fashion choices on offer. It was less than an hour into the programme when the room erupted into jubilation as Ralph, after a 30-year career in the business, was finally an Emmy winner! She appeared to be in a state of shock when her name was announced as winner of Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, needing to be escorted onto the stage by the Abbott Elementary cast.
With Emmy in hand, and stunning in a black and orange gown designed by Jamaican designer Brandon Blackwood, Ralph took a few more seconds to regain composure before breaking into an a cappella version of jazz icon Dianne Reeves' Endangered Species. The actress, who garnered a Tony nomination in 1982 for her role in Broadway's Dreamgirls and later endeared herself to the fan base of the beloved UPN sitcom Moesha, accepted her Emmy to a standing ovation.
Those gathered at the Sagicor watch party were also on their feet as an immense sense of pride washed over the room.
Ralph urged "anyone who has ever, ever had a dream and thought your dream 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."
"Don't you ever, ever give up on you," she continued, "because if you have Quinta Brunson in your corner, if you get a husband like mine in your corner, if you get children like mine in your corner, and if you've got friends like everybody who voted for me, cheered for me, loved me …" Ralph trailed off before raising her trophy in the air. "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!"
Sagicor Group Jamaica has had a long relationship with Sheryl Lee Ralph. She has been a speaker at many of our motivational seminars and team events and has never failed to inspire us. We are proud of her. This Emmy win inspires us all over again.
— Alysia Moulton-White, Vice-President, Group Marketing, Sagicor Jamaica
I feel immense pride and gratitude that Sheryl Lee Ralph has won the Emmy, for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. This win is a big deal for us as a nation and, as she said, she is an alien...Rock- Bred...A woman...black...and mature...and despite all those perceived limitations, she did it! What an inspiration, what a lesson! In one swift moment we were inspired by our Jamaican girl to remove all the limitations that we have placed on our lives and just do it!!! Congrats, Sheryl Lee and, on behalf of a grateful nation, THANK YOU!!!
— Norma Williams, principal, BrandEd
This was really awesome... because it is such a proud feeling knowing that one of ours has won an Emmy. It's a big deal because when she wins, we win! It is so awesome that this atmosphere was created for us to sit and watch. I am truly honoured and blessed to have been a part of the team that has worked with her.
— Lisa McIntosh, celebrity hairstylist
Style Observer (SO): Share with us your feelings the morning after your Emmy win
Sheryl Lee Ralph (SLR): Over the moon. Waking up and remembering the night before made me wonder if it all really happened. It was more than just winning an Emmy. It was about being only the second black woman to have achieved such a feat in this category [Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series].
I was reminded of Ms Lou when she had me on her show Ring Ding as a little girl and I told her I wanted to be an actress. I also thought of the brilliant Leonie Forbes who definitely influenced me. And my beloved mum, [the late Ivy Ralph] who's probably up in heaven putting down a piece a dance deh
SO: And your extended family members?
SLR: Exactly as you'd imagine! Super proud of me. They've been waiting on this moment for me but I knew it would happen at the right time
SO: We too, were super excited as we watched and applauded your win along with many others in Jamaica
SLR: Thank you all for the love and support. I am proud to be part of our "Likkle but tallawah" legacy. Jamaica is my brand. Jamaica is my passion . I carry her wherever I go. So to know that there was a watch party with Jamaica cheering me on leaves me humbled. In fact Entertainment Tonight (ET) asked about the watch party in Jamaica so thanks to the sisterhood of Novia McDonald-Whyte, Alysia Moulton-White and Marcia Richards for making it happen.
Novia introduced me to Greta Constantine a label owned by two Jamaicans. I wore their gown to the Hollywood Critics Association TV Awards and I look forward to wearing them again when I receive the Order of Jamaica next month. To the Emmys I wore another Jamaican designer Brandon Blackwood. Brand Jamaica is very important to me.
SO: Were your song and response planned?
SLR: If you have a voice, a speaking voice and a singing voice why not use it and put it where it belongs? Like the song says, I'm a woman, I'm an artist, and I know where my voice belongs.
You know these things. You are asked to prepare a speech just in case you're the winner. I don't think anything could have prepared me for winning though. I was shocked! Time stood still for a few seconds and every sort of preparation I had in place left me. As I stood on that stage and stared at that trophy the words of the song that reflected my reality andmy journey from Dream Girls to this day echoed in my mind. It became my battle cry and victory shout all in one.
SO: How did you and the family celebrate after your win?
SLR: We prayed! We were thankful! We made the rounds to the Governor Ball, the Disney Ball. I had work the next day though so had to be in bed by 12:30 am I was as you can imagine exhausted.
SO: What's next?
SLR: I believe that the stage is an amazing training ground and I'm very interested in producing plays after wrapping Abbott Elementary