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Mj Rodriguez makes history as first trans actress to score lead Emmy nomination

By Alma Fabiani

Jul 14, 2021

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Pose star Mj Rodriguez broke new ground in Tuesday’s Emmy nominations, becoming the first transgender performer to be nominated for a lead acting role in a primetime series. Rodriguez was nominated for playing Blanca Rodriguez in the third and final season of Pose, which wrapped on FX in early June 2021.

She is just the third transgender actor to receive an Emmy nomination: Laverne Cox scored four supporting actress nominations for Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black between 2014 and 2020, and Rain Valdez earned a nod last year for lead actress in a short-form series for Razor Tongue. Should Rodriguez win, she would be the first transgender person to take home an acting Emmy.

“I can’t even believe it,” a beaming Rodriguez said in an Instagram live reaction to the news, adding that she wants the award to be for “every intersectionality of my community,” including the black, Latinx, and trans communities.

Rodriguez has served as the show’s emotional centre in her role as Blanca since the very first season. “Even from the pilot episode, when Blanca confronts Helena St. Rogers (Charlayne Woodard) with a breathtaking monologue about motherhood and losing one’s sense of self-worth, Rodriguez has demonstrated remarkable skill and emotional depth,” writes them.

Seeing the actress finally get the recognition that she’s due after three seasons of performing alongside fellow trailblazers like Indya Moore, Angelica Ross, and Billy Porter, who won a 2019 Lead Actor Emmy for his portrayal of Pray Tell in Pose is inspiring and moving to say the least.

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“Rodriguez’s Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series is a breakthrough for transgender women in Hollywood, and a long-overdue recognition for her groundbreaking performance over the past three seasons of Pose,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis on Twitter.

GLAAD, along with dozens of other LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, had urged the Television Academy, the voting body which awards the Emmys, to recognize Pose’s contributions in a June open letter. In that letter, the groups highlighted the “undeniable emotional and cultural chord” struck by the show “that will not soon be forgotten.”

Rodriguez’s historic nomination marks one step closer to an entertainment landscape that rewards and respects trans artists and the real stories they want to tell, leaving cisgender film executives’ misconceptions and stereotypes behind. The series also earned a nod for best drama and nominations for directing (Steven Canals) and writing (Canals, Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Janet Mock and Our Lady J) on the series finale.

The Emmy Awards 2021 are set to air on 19 September on CBS, with Cedric the Entertainer serving as host.