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Abbott Elementary's Sheryl Lee Ralph Just Won The Entire Emmys Night With Incredible Acceptance Speech

Sheryl Lee Ralph on 2022 Emmy's red carpet.
(Image credit: Photo by Momodu Mansaray/Getty Images)

Sheryl Lee Ralph maybe wasn’t the star most people expected to take the trophy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy at the 2022 Primetime Emmy Awards. For one, she was up against last year’s winner Hannah Waddingham of Ted Lasso, and she was in a stacked category that included Abbott Elementary co-star Janelle James. But when Ralph overcame her shock about winning and made it on stage to accept her award, she sure proved how much of a recognition-deserving treasure she is with a uniquely powerful acceptance speech.

Sheryl Lee Ralph plays veteran teacher Barbara Howard on the hit ABC sitcom Abbott Elementary, and she absolutely left Emmy audiences inspired, just as her character does for her students and colleagues on the beloved school comedy. When her name was read as the winner, Ralph remained seated, shocked, as her co-stars jumped up to encourage her to go get what was hers. Tyler James Williams escorted Ralph to the stage, and when she got to the microphone, she took a good few moments before breaking into song. Check out her acceptance speech below. 

The legendary actress, who was nominated for a Tony Award in 1982 for Dreamgirls, was clearly overcome with emotion, but both like the professional that she is and the badass that she currently portrays, Ralph dished out a truly inspirational message about pursuing your dreams. In her wise words:  

Anyone who has ever, ever had a dream and thought your dream 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.

Sheryl Lee Ralph's emotional night actually started on the red carpet when, during an interview on Peacock, the actress talked about the inspiration her aunt and late parents provided for her as educators when she was growing up. Naturally, she was able to draw from their lives quite heavily for her role on Abbott Elementary

But just after relaying an amazing story about how her aunt had called up the Queen of England, Sheryl Lee Ralph was handed a tablet on which her aunt had recorded a message to her niece about how proud she was of her, and how happy she was for Ralph being nominated.

In a hint of what was to come, the actress took a moment to compose herself as she fought tears, and she said no matter what happened for the rest of the night, she'd already won. Thankfully for the rest of us, she did win and was able to bless us with her inspirational song and words.

Abbott Elementary was nominated for seven Emmy Awards overall, and ahead of the ceremony the series' creator and star Quinta Brunson talked about Black representation on TV and pointed out how the ABC series in unique in that it goes beyond exploring Blackness. Clearly they're doing something right, and it's nice to see the cast recognized for their efforts.

Congratulations to Sheryl Lee Ralph, and check out a full list of 2022 Emmy Award winners. Abbott Elementary returns for Season 2 on Wednesday, September 21. Be sure to check out our 2022 TV Schedule to keep up with all of the upcoming premieres.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.