Mj Rodriguez on Historic Emmy Nomination: I’ve Wanted to “Spread Love All My Life”

Mj Rodriguez, now an historic Emmy nominee, posing in a blue dress on a terrace
Photo by Maggie Shannon

A full 73 years into the Emmy Awards’ existence, an openly transgender woman has finally been nominated for in a major acting category. On Tuesday, the Television Academy announced that Mj Rodriguez is up for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series at the 2021 Emmys, set for this September. The Pose star is up for competition against Emma Corrin and Olivia Colman (both of The Crown, Uzo Aduba (of In Treatment), Elizabeth Moss (of The Handmaid’s Tale), and Jurnee Smollett (Lovecraft Country).

Pose, which just wrapped its third and final season, stars Rodriguez as Blanca Evangelista, the House Mother to a ragtag crew of teens in New York City’s ballroom culture scene who’s pursuing her dream of becoming a nurse. In the three years that it aired on FX, the series repeatedly made history—starting even before it aired, by assembling the largest cast of transgender actors to star as series regulars in a scripted series ever. Transgender representation continued behind the scenes, too, with choreographers like Danielle Polanco and directors like Janet Mock.

“I am gagging,” Rodriguez said on Instagram Live. While she initially cried upon receiving the news, at that point, she was grinning so hard that her cheeks hurt. “This goes [to] my Black community, my Latina community, my Latino community, my trans community, and my women who have been fighting since day one—this is for us,” she continued. “I’ve been wanting to express, and feel, and spread love all my life, and I’ve always wanted to spread it through my art, and I finally feel like I can do it. And I finally feel like people are seeing it.”

The nomination makes Rodriguez the first transgender member of the Pose cast to receive official recognition from awards season heavyweights, despite being the heart and soul of the acclaimed show. Until now, ceremonies like the Golden Globes and Emmys have only officially acknowledged the actor Billy Porter, who has also made history. (He became the first openly gay Black actor to both be nominated for and win an Emmy in a lead acting category in 2019.)

Rodriguez isn’t alone in marking a first this year. Saturday Night Live star Bowen Yang is now the first Chinese American male actor to be nominated in an acting category.