Sheryl Lee Ralph is more than just a veteran in the entertainment industry. She is a history maker whose presence has helped to grow spaces for Black screen actors and actresses since the 1970s.
But until this week she had never garnered an Emmy nomination in a career spanning more than 50 years.
Ralph plays the self-assured and no no-nonsense Barbara Howard in ABC’s Abbott Elementary. The nod for best supporting actress in a comedy series speaks to the influence she has had on teachers, students, and audiences nationwide.
“If anybody had told me that I would be playing a character like Barbara Howard, I would have said, “No, no’,” Ralph explained to the New York Times.
“I honestly thought Barbara was going to be invisible in the show. I had no idea that people would really see me. I thought I was invisible. So I leave those things open to God.”
After the nominations were announced, Ralph’s son Etienne Maurice took to Instagram to share his mother’s reaction, per Atlanta Black Star.
In a clip, Ralph is seen on the phone completely astonished by the Emmy news she had most likely been receiving on the other end of the line. Maurice is holding the camera.
“You got nominated?,” Maurice excitedly asks. “You’re nominated?”
When a very emotional Ralph finally confirms the news, her son is heard cheering in the background as he repeatedly shouts, “Mommy!”
As the video comes to a close, the speechless and stunned actress hugs her son.
In the caption, Maurice dedicated it to his mom: “With over 50 years of being in this thing we call showbusiness, today my mother became an Emmy nominated actress. i’m so proud of @thesherylleeralph. I’m so glad I could be in Jamaica with you for this moment.”
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“Sweet baby Jesus, and the grown one too! Nothing before God’s time. @quintab you made this happen and I love you!!! I have the most amazing cast and crew a Diva could ever ask for and I love each and every one of you!!! To all my supporters throughout my career, thank you, thank you, thank you. We are going to the Emmy’s baby!!!!!
From the 1977 film A Piece of the Action with Sidney Poitier and Dreamgirls on Broadway to the ’90s with Moesha and Sister Act 2 and then the 2000s with Ray Donovan and Instant Mom, Ralph strongly believes that all of her hard work has brought her to this point in her life.
“So many people can say [of the nomination], “Why hasn’t this happened before?” You know what? Everything happens in divine timing,” Ralph said, per the “New York Times.”
“It was supposed to happen just this way, with this show. Every show that I’ve done has led me to this moment.”