Pose star Mj Rodriguez makes Emmys history as first trans performer to land a lead acting nomination
Pose is making history once again.
For EW's LGBTQ Pride issue, Pose star Mj Rodriguez was hoping for an Emmy nomination as the history-making drama series on FX aired its third and final season. "I'm huge on representation and deserved notoriety, and this season I'm fighting for that. I think it's time," she said. Well, the Television Academy agreed.
On Tuesday, as the 2021 Emmy nominations were revealed, Rodriguez was named as one of six nominees in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category. Among the show's nine total nominations, including for Outstanding Drama Series, that alone has made history yet again for Pose, which already touted the highest number of series regular roles for trans actors.
Rodriguez is the first trans performer to land a nomination in one of the lead actor categories. To put that into further perspective as we come up on the 73rd annual Emmys ceremony later this year, Orange Is the New Black's Laverne Cox became the first openly transgender person to receive an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in 2014. In 2020, Scott Turner Schofield (Studio City) and Rowin Amone (King Ester) picked up Daytime Emmy acting noms for Outstanding Guest Performer and Lead Actress in Digital Drama Series, respectively. That same year, Rain Valdez (Razor Tongue) was nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama among the Primetime Emmy nominees.
Rodriguez, who recently rebranded herself as Michaela Jaé for the launch of her first recorded single, is also the first member of the Pose cast to receive an Emmy acting nomination beyond Billy Porter. Porter previously won Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his performance as Pray Tell in 2019 and was nominated two more times since, including this year in the same category.
"Michaela Jaé (Mj) 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," GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. "Additionally, the show's nomination for Outstanding Drama Series, as well as Billy Porter's third nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, mark a historic show that undoubtedly raised the bar for trans representation on television and changed the way viewers around the world understand the trans community. As over 40 leading LGBTQ organizations pointed out in our open letter about Pose to Emmy Award voters, representation matters. Congratulations, Michaela Jaé, Billy Porter, and the entire Pose team - the world is standing with you and applauding your talents."
Rodriguez did not mince her words when she addressed the topic of trans recognition amongst awards voters during her cover interview for EW's 2021 Pride Issue. "This can be on the record because I want them to know this. I know exactly what they're thinking right now. I know they don't see me as a woman. I know that," she said. "They don't have to tell me. They've made it very apparent, but my job is to show them how much of a woman I am through the work that I'm doing."
The 73rd annual Emmy Awards airs Sunday, Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS and will stream live on Paramount+.