Kumail Nanjiani, Padma Lakshmi at the 2018 Emmy Awards

The opening dance number at the September 17 Emmys starred big TV names like Kate McKinnon, Kenan Thompson, Kristen Bell, Sterling K. Brown. Ricky Martin then jokingly noted that Hollywood had solved its diversity problem. For all that boasting, however, what was missing this year was concrete South Asian representation.

Weekend Update stars Colin Jost and Michael Che, the hosts of the night, pushed the notion further by talking about how slowly but surely, there’s been a rise in diversity this year. While it’s true in some ways — the talented Sandra Oh became the first Asian-American woman to be nominated as a lead actress for “Killing Eve” — the dismal South Asian representation speaks volumes.

The lack of South Asian nominees on Monday was a sharp contrast to just last year. That’s when actor Riz Ahmed won the award for his performance in “The Night Of.” Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe also took home Emmys after sharing the trophy for writing the “Thanksgiving” episode of “Master of None.” Red carpet fans also got to see superstars like Priyanka Chopra in the audience.

This year, however, things took quite a dip. South Asians from the diaspora who were at the Emmys were limited to a mere handful.

Here’s a sum total of those who elevated the show (and the diversity of it) just by being there. As Oh rightfully said in that opening number, “It’s an honor just to be Asian.”

Tan France

“Queer Eye” star and fashion inspiration Tan France was present. In fact, he was the only person of South Asian descent who even got up on stage. Along with his castmates, he presented the Best Actor – Drama award to Matthew Rhys for “The Americans.”

France, who is of Pakistani descent, looked dapper in a Thom Browne checkered suit. “Queer Eye” won the award for Outstanding Structured Reality Program this year, beating out long-time winner “Shark Tank.”

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EMMY’S 2018. Thank you @thombrowneny

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Special, special moment with my boys.

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Padma Lakshmi

The multi-talented Indian-American author, chef, actress, host was present at the Emmys, looking radiant in a J Mendel red gown. She broke the norm of wearing trendy couture by repeating the dress, which she wore last year  Women of the Year awards in India. She said that it is wasteful not to wear a dress more than once, especially since artisans devote hours of labor to create it.

Lakshmi, who is the host and executive producer of reality show “Top Chef,” was also an Emmy nominee. The show was nominated for Outstanding Reality Show Competition but lost to “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

She made an even bigger statement by wearing an ACLU pin on her dress. In a red carpet interview, she voiced her support for the organization and the work they are doing to reunite children who are separated from their families on the US-Mexico border.

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I’m excited to wear this beautiful @j_mendel gown (again.) The first time was to the @vogueindia Women of the Year awards last October in Mumbai. I think we should stop sending the message to young women and girls that we all have these endless closets of couture we’re never allowed to wear more than once. It seems wasteful not to enjoy these dresses. The hours that it takes, the artisans’ labor and the gorgeous fabrics all deserve to be worn again and treasured. Also instead of fretting so much with fittings, I’d rather go to the park and throw a ball with #littlehands or tinker in the kitchen with her bonding over delicious food. I’m proud of everyone’s work that got @bravotopchef here to the Emmys and I’m proud to wear this gown again. 💃🏽 #emmys2018 #ladyinred #secondtimearound

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Hasan Minhaj

The Indian-American comedian attended the Emmys with his wife Beena Patel. While his own Netflix talk show “Patriot Act” will debut this fall, he was there to support his former home, “The Daily Show,” which was nominated for Outstanding Variety Talk Series but lost to “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”

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Mr. and Mrs.

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Roc la familia @thedailyshow #Emmys2018

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Kumail Nanjiani

The Pakistani-American actor was a nominee as well because the comedy in which he stars, HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” was up for Outstanding Comedy. It lost to “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” In his usual cheeky style, Nanjiani addressed this on social media.


My hope is that when major award shows like the Emmy’s decide to take on diversity in Hollywood, they remain inclusive of all the minorities in the industry. Until then, I’ll be basking in the glory of those who represented the diaspora along with the Emmy win for W. Kumau Bell’s episode “Sikhs of America” on his show “United Shades of America.”


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