Sandra Oh Just Made History As The First Asian Actress To Earn An Emmy Nomination For A Lead Role

Yo-Yo Ma And The Silk Road Ensemble
Getty Images | Frederick M. Brown

Sandra Oh just made acting awards history.

Since the first Emmy Awards ceremony took place over six decades ago, an Asian woman has never been nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. That all changed this week when it was announced that the Canadian-born Oh was nominated for Lead Actress for her stellar work in the BBC’s breakout hit, “Killing Eve.”

About her record-breaking nomination, Oh had this to say on Instagram:

Well, a picture speaks a thousand words. As for the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, the organization also was quick to point out the historic importance of this moment:

Oh was born to immigrant Korean parents, a businessman and a biochemist, in 1971 in Ontario, Canada. She originally started her career as a ballet dancer, beginning dance at just four years old. However, she later transitioned into acting and studied drama at the National Theatre School in Montreal. She is well-known for her role as Dr. Christina Yang on “Grey’s Anatomy,” for which she was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series five times.

However, despite her great talent and work ethic, Oh revealed that Hollywood has not always made a place for her, telling a TV Fanatic interviewer, “Of course I have experienced many difficulties in this industry based on my race.”

Oh also said that she realizes her ethnicity is one of the first things people notice about her. “Before anything, before I open my mouth or express something of the character I am playing, you are seeing an Asian woman, a woman of Korean descent,” she said. “I carry my identity with me, it is my face.”

Getty, Frederick M. Brown

Even with this awareness, Oh explained that years of enduring racism in Hollywood “brainwashed” her. When she was first sent the script for “Killing Eve,” she was confused about which part to read because she didn’t think she would be given the chance to star in a series.

“[So] many years of being seen [a certain way], it deeply, deeply, deeply affects us,” the 47-year-old actress told Vulture. “It’s, like, how does racism define your work? Oh my goodness, I didn’t even assume when being offered something that I would be one of the central storytellers. Why? … After being told to see things a certain way for decades, you realize, ‘Oh my god! They brainwashed me! I was brainwashed!'”

Not only was Oh chosen to be a central storyteller in “Killing Eve,” but she got nominated for an Emmy to boot … and made history as a result. Congratulations!

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Bridget Sharkey
Bridget Sharkey is a freelance writer covering pop culture, beauty, food, health and nature.

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