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Emma Stone
Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Emma Stone captured a feeling — and the hearts of awards voters — with her performance in Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, which won the actress her first individual SAG statuette on Sunday night.

Accepting the honor over stiff competition from Oscar-winner Natalie Portman (Jackie), perennial awards contender Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins), first-time nominee Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train), and five-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams (Arrival).

A breathless Stone thanked her director, saying, “Thank you so much to Damien Chazelle for this opportunity and for creating such a collaborative and beautiful atmosphere on set. We felt so heard by you, and that’s unbelievable.”

She then praised costar Ryan Gosling — “Ryan you’re the best, that’s just the truth, no one can argue it” — before recognizing her fellow nominees in the category. “Meryl and Natalie and Amy and Emily, you guys inspire me, you’re just the greatest and your talent and your intelligence are mind blowing.”

Stone added, “I feel insecure a lot of the time, and feeling like I could deserve anything like this requires a little bit of mental gymnastics for me. But then I was thinking about the films and the art and the shows that I’ve seen this year, many of which were by the people in this room, and to get to be even a part — even a tiny, tiny part — of a group of people that cares about reflecting society and bringing people joy and making them laugh and giving people hope … We’re in a tricky time in the world and our country and things are very inexcusable and scary and need action and I’m so grateful to be part of a group of people that cares and wants to reflect things back to society.”

On top of her win Sunday, Stone previously earned two prior SAG Awards as part of the ensemble cast of 2014’s Birdman and 2011’s The Help.

Shortly after La La Land stormed the 2016 fall festival circuit with strong critical reviews out of Telluride and Toronto (where it won the prestigious People’s Choice Award), Stone quickly cemented herself as a major contender in the race for the Best Actress Oscar, winning the Venice Film Festival’s Volpi Cup for her portrayal of Mia, a struggling actress attempting to forge a career in Hollywood while balancing her budding affections for a prospective jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling).

“I had to play someone whose heart was exploding in this scene,” she told EW about tackling a particularly memorable scene from the musical, “and it was so easy. I walked onto this set, with the clock and leaves and the blue glitter, and I was just in a state of wonder.”

Since 1995, each of SAG’s leading actress champions has gone on to an Oscar nomination for the same role, with six of them winning in the last decade alone.

Perhaps the most influential industry guild in the precursor awards race, SAG’s nearly 200,000-strong membership largely crosses over with the actors’ branch, the Academy’s largest subdivision. Its nominating committee — made up of around 2,500 SAG and AFTRA members — frequently agrees with a majority of the Academy’s nominees, as a minimum of three SAG-nominated actresses per year have gone on to respective Oscar nominations since the guild’s first awards ceremony was held in 1995.

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