Sheryl Lee Ralph could not be more grateful for her career — and those who believed in her from the start.
On Sunday, the actress took home the award for best supporting actress in a comedy series for her role in Abbott Elementary at the 2023 Critics Choice Awards.
After making her way to the stage, Ralph, 66, shared a heartfelt speech, in which she credited the late Sidney Poitier for believing in her talents early on in her career.
"Ever mistake, every back break, every 'No', every rejection in an industry that when I was 19 years old was quick to tell me there was no place for me," an emotional Ralph began. "Sidney Poitier looked at me and said, 'You're a damn good actress.'"
"That God could lead me to a moment when a young woman by the name of Quinta Brunson would look at me and say, 'Ms. Ralph, I'm not sleeping on your talent,'" she continued, before praising her costars and crew on Abbott Elementary as "the best cast on TV."
Ralph then concluded, "To all of you watching, come close to the screen and listen. People don't have to like you, people don't have to love you, people don't even have to respect you. But when you look in the mirror, you better love what you see!"
The big moment comes after Ralph made history at the 2022 Emmy Awards in September, winning the outstanding supporting actress trophy for her role as kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard in the Quinta Brunson-led mockumentary.
Ralph became just the second Black woman to score an Emmy in the category after Jackée Harry, who won for 227 in 1987 — a milestone Ralph appeared to celebrate in her scene-stealing acceptance speech.
Her win became one of the biggest highlights of the 2022 Emmy Awards ceremony after she delivered an emotional and inspiring acceptance speech that included singing a verse from jazz singer Diane Reeves' 1993 song "Endangered Species."
After her song — which earned standing ovations from the crowd — Ralph then gave a quick, but moving speech.
"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," Ralph said. "This is what striving looks like, and don't you ever, ever give up on you."
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"Because if you get a Quinta Brunson, if you get a husband like mine in your corner," Ralph added. "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! Thank you! Thank you!"
Ralph was also recently nominated for best supporting actress in a comedy series at the 2023 Golden Globes, though she lost to Julia Garner for her role in Ozark.
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The 28th annual Critics Choice Awards are airing live on The CW.