There were plenty of highlights at the Emmys last night – including Selena Gomez's vampy purple lipstick, Suki Waterhouse's maternity fashion moment, and Aubrey Plaza's dress (a wry homage to a Post-It note) – but the most heartwarming moment was undoubtedly Christina Applegate's star turn on stage.
The Dead To Me actress appeared to present the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series award, and was met with a standing ovation and rapturous applause. Applegate, who shared in 2021 that she is battling multiple sclerosis, wore a wine-red velvet dress by Christian Siriano (one of her favourite designers) and supported herself with a cane as she walked on stage, looking visibly touched by the cheers from the crowd.
Helped by host Anthony Anderson (who, unlike Jo Koy at the recent Golden Globes, was met with rave reviews for his hosting skills), Applegate was left in tears by the moving welcome. "Thank you so much! Oh my God! You're totally shaming me [and my] disability by standing up," she said, prompting lots of laughter from the audience.
"Body not by Ozempic," she added, showing the comedic skill that's made her a household name. "We don't have to applaud every time I do something," she continued, a meaningful reference to her disability. Ayo Edebiri accepted the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series award for The Bear from Applegate, and the pair shared a warm hug.
In the years since Applegate was diagnosed with MS – right as she was filming the third and final season of the Netflix hit Dead To Me – she’s stayed mostly out of the public eye, even suggesting that last year's SAG awards would be the last ceremony she attended. (She memorably arrived at the show sporting a cane with the letters 'FU MS' on it.)
Her presence at the Emmys was a surprise to many, but one full of heart and vulnerability, where she acknowledged the realities of her autoimmune disorder with her typical candid humour. In 2023, the actress spoke to Vanity Fair about how hard her diagnosis has been, and said that she was considering leaving behind acting on camera because of it. "With the disease of MS, it’s never a good day," she said. "There are just certain things that people take for granted in their lives that I took for granted. Going down the stairs, carrying things – you can’t do that anymore. It fucking sucks."
Applegate was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, aged just 36, and underwent a double mastectomy. "I didn't speak up for my boundaries back then. I should have asked for some more time after one of my surgeries," she told Vanity Fair. "I went back to work two weeks after my reconstruction. And that was really difficult for me to do. And I should have asked for more time but the people that I was working for – not the showrunners, mind you, the people at the network – were not very sympathetic or empathetic human beings, to be honest with you. And I didn’t feel like I could have that voice."
When it came to her MS diagnosis, Applegate was determined to do things differently. "It’s impossible for anyone else to understand. And we know that. And we’re not trying to make people understand because they never will understand," she said. But at the Emmys, she was unapologetic and visible – with the voice she previously felt she couldn't have.
While the Emmys – which heroes the best television series of the year – is normally held in September, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes led to the awards being pushed back until January. The best TV shows of 2023, from Succession to The Last of Us, went head to head, with shows like The Bear and Beef winning big.
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