At age 24, Zendaya made history Sunday at the Primetime Emmy Awards as the youngest winner of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, beating out Olivia Colman, Jennifer Aniston, Laura Linney, Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer — who previously held the record as last year’s youngest winner at the age of 26. Zendaya is also the second Black actress, joining Viola Davis, to win in the prestigious category in the show’s 72 years.
“I’m really, really nervous,” said the “Euphoria” star as she accepted the award in a custom Giorgio Armani Privé gown, as her supporters, family and friends (including stylist Law Roach) sat behind her, cheering and teary-eyed. Earlier in the night, as a presenter during the virtual ceremony, Zendaya had appeared in a purple, ankle-length dress by Christopher John Rogers paired with Christian Louboutin heels and a statement necklace by Bulgari. It was her night, and she was dressed for the occasion.
“OK, OK, oh gosh, I just want to say thank you to the TV Academy, to all the other incredible women in this category,” she continued, getting emotional. “I admire you all so much. This is pretty crazy. I don’t really cry.…I know this feels like a weird time to be celebrating, but I just want to say there is hope in the young people out there.”
“How about that? She’s younger than Baby Yoda, [and] she already has an Emmy,” teased host Jimmy Kimmel.
In the digital press room following her win, Zendaya — who first entered the spotlight as a Disney star — addressed the reality of facing a celebratory moment during a challenging and distressing time in the world amid the pandemic.
“That’s a big question,” she responded, when asked to comment on “experiencing so much joy in a year filled with so much pain.”
“I’m just grateful for moments like this, moments where we can have joy, and we can wrap our arms around our loved ones and tell each other we love each other and we’re proud of each other,” she added. “I think it’s moments like this that we really have to all hold on to and cherish.”
The actress also spoke of the importance of playing “Euphoria” protagonist Rue Bennett, a role that is “layered” and “complicated.” The HBO teen drama — which was created by Sam Levinson and picked up for a second season — depicts the lives and struggles of high schoolers, their love, sex, drug use, anxieties, joys and traumas. (The show snagged three of its six Emmy nominations. Along with Zendaya’s win, it received Outstanding Contemporary Makeup (Non-Prosthetic) and Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics at the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards.)
“To me, what’s so special about her character is that she is a full, whole human being…” continued Zendaya. “And I think as the show goes on, you know, we’re also able to empathize with addiction and what that looks like and what that does to a family and be able to understand and still root for Rue.”