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Why Sheryl Lee Ralph broke out in song during moving Emmys speech

The actor reminded fans that she is an accomplished and incredible singer with her own rendition of a Dianne Reeves’ song.

Sheryl Lee Ralph stunned viewers and attendees at the 74th Emmy Awards when she broke out in song during her acceptance speech.

With her stunning gown and hair, Ralph was already winning at the award show for fans on Twitter. However, it was after being announced as the year’s outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series that she genuinely stole the show. 

Ralph, who won the award for her role as Barbara Howard in the ABC mockumentary series “Abbott Elementary,” initially appeared stunned when presentees Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers announced her win. Clearly speechless, she took the stage, motioning to those around her that she was stunned and overwhelmed.

Still, when she did get to the stage, she took her trophy and immediately broke into a musical rendition of jazz singer Dianne Reeves’ “Endangered Species.

Sheryl Lee Ralph
Ralph broke into song after accepting an award for the Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for "Abbott Elementary."Mark Terrill / AP

“I am an endangered species/ But I sing no victim’s song/ I am a woman I am an artist/ And I know where my voice belongs,” Ralph belted out, visibly surprising the attendees at the event, which took place at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles.

The delivery brought the theater to its feet.

Ralph’s co-star Quinta Brunson and “The White Lotus” actors Natasha Rothwell and Alexandra Daddario were among the attendees who stood to applaud Ralph. Lizzo, who was also present, appeared stunned into silence as she clapped with approval.

Sheryl Lee Ralph
Ralph's voice was met with a round of applause from attendees. Patrick T. Fallon / AFP - Getty Images

Ralph went on to give a speech that reminded those watching that achieving a dream is all about believing.

“To anyone who has ever, ever had a dream and thought your dream wasn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t come true, I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like,” she remarked. This is what striving looks like, and don’t you ever, ever give up on you because if you get a Quinta Brunson in your corner, if you get a husband like mine in your corner, if you get children like mine in your corner, and if you’ve got friends like everybody who voted for me, cheered for me, loved me, thank you!”

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Ralph explained what compelled her to break out into song.

“I’ve been singing that song for years because I think of myself as an artist. As a woman, especially as a woman of color,” she remarked. “I’m an endangered species that don’t sing any different song. I’m a woman. I’m an artist, and I know where my voice belongs. And there’s so many young actors, artists, and even kids that think they know what they’re going to do in life. Find your voice and put it where it belongs. Yeah.”

In July, Ralph’s son, Etienne Maurice, celebrated his mother’s Emmy nomination, which is a first for the actor.

“With over 50 years of being in this thing we call show business, today my mother became an Emmy-nominated actress. I’m so proud of @thesherylralph,” Maurice wrote in a tweet that included video of his mother receiving the news.

Ralph has had a longstanding five-decade career in the entertainment industry. In 1981, her breakout role as Deena Jones in the Broadway musical “Dreamgirls” earned her a Tony nomination. In the mid-'90s to early aughts, she starred in the teen sitcom “Moesha.” She also previously played the part of Madame Morrible during the 2016 Broadway production of “Wicked.”