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Emmys 2019: Michelle Williams’ acceptance speech hailed “best speech ever” as she appeals for equal pay

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Lauren Geall
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Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams used her lead actress acceptance speech to appeal for equal pay in the industry, and spoke about the inequalities faced by women of colour.

Michelle Williams’ life changed forever in late 2017, when she found out she was paid less than 1% of the money given to her male co-star for reshoots of Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World.

Embroiled in a Twitter uproar which launched the conversation back into the headlines, Williams took it upon herself to become a vocal and outspoken figure in the battle for equal pay in the industry. Since then, she has appealed to politicians to address the gender pay gap, and served as a prominent example for other women in the fight to establish equal pay. And now, she’s used her Emmys acceptance speech to further the cause once more.

Claiming the award for ‘Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie’ for her role as Gwen Verdon in Fosse/Verdon, Williams used her speech to appeal to industry executives to take action on equal pay. 

Michelle Williams at the Emmys 2019
Emmys 2019: Michelle Williams spoke openly about the value of being paid equally

“I see this as an acknowledgement of what is possible when a woman is trusted to discern her own needs, feel safe enough to voice them and respected enough that they’ll be hard,” Williams opened.

“When I asked for more dance classes, I heard ‘Yes,’ more voice lessons, ‘Yes,’ a different wig, a pair of fake teeth not made out of rubber, ‘Yes’,” she continued. “And all of these things, they require effort and they cost more money but my bosses never presumed to know better than I did about what I needed in order to do my job and honour Gwen Verdon.”

The actress continued her speech with a thank you to the film’s production company and studios for supporting her during the filming process and paying her equally, and made an impassioned plea to producers and filmmakers to listen to women when it comes to pay.

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“They understood that when you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value,” she explained. “And then where do they put that value? They put it into their work.

“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, 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,” she continued.

There was widespread praise for Williams’ speech on Twitter, with people from across Hollywood and beyond sending messages of support.

“This is the best speech ever. Google it. Watch it. Learn from it. My friend Michelle Williams. Wow!” wrote fellow actress Jamie Lee Curtis.

“MICHELLE WILLIAMS. Thank you. Your Emmy speech was so powerful in its Truth and grace,” said Debra Messing. “Congratulations, your performance was breathtaking. And @FXNetworks, now I want to work with you. Good on you for your leadership.”

“Can #MichelleWilliams get an Emmy for her #Emmys speech?! She is such an inspiration!” added Reese Witherspoon.

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