Award shows have always been about more than the awards themselves. Often times, the current cultural landscape has a major influence on the night. It’s a time of celebration, but stars also take the opportunity to speak out about important issues and send messages through their attire. (Remember those Planned Parenthood buttons at the 2019 Oscars or the black ensembles representing Times Up at the 2018 Golden Globes?) Last night, the 2019 Emmy Awards were no different.
When accepting the award for outstanding actress in a limited series or movie for her portrayal of Broadway’s Gwen Verdon in Fosse/Verdon, Michelle Williams shared an emotional message about equal pay. In addition to thanking her 13-year-old daughter Matilda, Williams thanked FX, the studio behind Fosse/Verdon, for paying her fairly.
“Thank you so much to FX and Fox 21 Studios for supporting me completely and paying me equally,” she said. “Because they understood that when you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value. And then where do they put that value? They put it into her work.”
Williams continued with an emotional plea for equal pay: “So the next time a woman, and especially a woman of color, because she stands to make 52 cents on the dollar compared to her white male counterpart, tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her, believe her,” she said. “Because one day she might stand in front of you and say thank you for allowing her to succeed because of her workplace environment and not in spite of it.”
This isn’t the first time Williams has spoken up about the gender pay gap in Hollywood. In 2017, she came forward with the discovery that she earned substantially less than her male costar in the film All the Money in the World. According to a report by USA Today, Mark Wahlberg was paid a whopping $1.5 million to reshoot scenes for the aptly-named film, while Williams was paid just $1,000.
In the press room after the 2019 Emmys, Williams spoke further about the discovery while also checking her privilege as a white woman. “And so the discrepancy in All the Money in the World is so huge that it really illustrated a larger point not just for myself, obviously,” she said. “But as I said before, there was this difficulty for me of white woman in a privileged industry. How difficult is it for women of color across all industries? Tonight is a kind of like fairy tale ending for me for my own personal story. And there really won’t be any satisfaction for me until the larger message is heard, and and that’s what I really wanted to point out tonight.”
Watch her full speech below.