Zendaya makes Emmys history as youngest lead actress drama winner

Nardine Saad, Diego Medrano
·2 min read

"Euphoria" star Zendaya made Emmy Awards history on Sunday as the youngest actress to win the prize for lead actress in a drama — breaking a record that was set just last year by "Killing Eve" star Jodie Comer during a show that rarely honors its youngest nominees.

At 24, Zendaya pulled off a major upset, besting Comer and her "Killing Eve" costar Sandra Oh as well as fellow nominees Jennifer Aniston ("The Morning Show"), Olivia Colman ("The Crown") and Laura Linney ("Ozark").

"I want to say thank you to the TV Academy, to all the other incredible women in this category," Zendaya said while accepting her Emmy from home. "I admire you all so much. This is pretty crazy. I don't really cry. Thank you, HBO, and A24 for all your support. Thank you to my family and my team ... I'm really grateful to have you here.

"To the incredible cast and crew of 'Euphoria,' I'm so lucky to go to work with you every day, and I'm inspired by everything you do. And to [creator] Sam Levinson, I appreciate you so much ... I'm so grateful for [my character] Rue. I'm so grateful that you trust me with your story. And I hope I can continue to do you proud."

The former Disney star and first-time Emmy nominee delivered a haunting, unsettling performance as high-schooler Rue Bennett struggling with substance abuse in HBO's dark drama. Zendaya has been praised for carrying the uneven series with style and sensitivity.

Last year, at age 26, Comer set the category's age record as the youngest woman to ever win the drama actress prize. And a 25-year-old Julia Garner ("Ozark") was the youngest winner in the supporting actress in a drama category since "Family" star Kristy McNichol last won as a teenager in 1979.

At 21, "When They See Us" star Jharrel Jerome was the youngest actor to win the award for lead actor in a limited series last year too.

The youngest performer to win a Primetime Emmy Award winner is still Roxana Zal, who won the prize in 1984 for her title role in the TV film "Something About Amelia." She was 14 at the time.

"I know this feels like a really, really weird time to be celebrating," Zendaya continued in her speech. "But I just want to say that there is hope in the young people out there. I know that our TV show doesn't always feel like a great example of that, but there is hope in the young people.

"And I just want to say to all my peers out there doing the work in the streets — I see you. I admire you. I thank you, and yeah, thank you so, so much. This is — whoa. OK. Thank you."