There’s Debate About Whether Zendaya’s Emmy Was An “Upset Win”

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At the Emmy Awards on Sunday, Zendaya became the youngest actress to win the award for Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her work in HBO’s “Euphoria.” She beat out big names like Jennifer Anniston and Sandra Oh to win this award. Also in this category were Jodie Comer, Olivia Coleman, and Laura Linney. Many were shocked when Zendaya won—Zendaya herself was maybe the most shocked. The “New York Post” was quick to post the breaking news with the phrase “biggest upset” in the title. Twitter couldn’t help but wonder just who was upset about this monumental moment. 

Zendaya is only 24 and this was her very first Emmy nomination ever, so her win is quite a feat. She also became the second Black woman, after Viola Davis, to ever win the Lead Actress in a Drama Series award. This should’ve been a moment of pure joy and excitement for the actress and her family. 

“Euphoria” is a very intense show, one that is very different from her previous Disney Channel work. Zendaya plays a sapphic drug addict who is in love with her best friend. The show handles drugs, sexuality, gender identity, familial issues, and many other rather taboo topics in a way that many young people have related to and enjoyed. This show has a huge fan base. Many fans of the show took to Twitter to share that Zendaya’s win was NOT an upset, but rather an accomplishment that she deserved.

Mandy Velez wrote, “Upset? This woman was incredible in Euphoria no one is surprised.” 


Another viral tweet read, “rt if you were NOT upset.” That tweet now has over 192,000 retweets and almost 310,000 likes. 

The “New York Post” actually addressed the headline that had angered so many. The opening line of their response article reads, “The 2020 Emmys offered a teachable moment for Zendaya fans, who were apparently confused by the meaning of ‘upset.’” The article goes on to explain that the term “upset” in this context does not mean anger, but rather uses the sports definition of surprise. 

Following the sports use of the word, Chris Walder tweeted, “An upset is the Nuggets overcoming 3-1 deficits twice. This is Michael Jordan beating the Hornets.” Twitter users in this tweet’s replies weren’t happy with him comparing legendary actresses to the Hornets, but they all agreed that Zendaya’s win was well-deserved. 

Also understanding what the “New York Post” meant, James Wester tweeted, “The comments from people not knowing the meaning of the word “upset” in this context—and the replies to those replies—are hilarious.” 


Other users who understood the form of “upset” that the “New York Post” used took to mocking the angry Zendaya fans. One user wrote, “not me thinking they meant people are upset Zendaya won… this reminds me of the time Tiffany Pollard thought break a leg meant she would get her leg broken.”

Another said, “POV you pissed off a Zendaya stan who doesn’t know what upset victory means.” 

“Plz yall upset used here means Jennifer and Laura were the expected winners and Zendaya snagged instead *sad crying emoji* this doesn’t mean someone is upset in this context,” tweeted another person. 

With even more crying emojis, someone else wrote, “twitter not understanding what an upset is and angrily replying to anyone who said Zendaya was the underdog.”

A few fans claimed that they were angry about the use of the word “upset” not because they misunderstood the word, but because they did not think this award was a surprise. One fan wrote, “i know what the term “upset” means and not the sad context but when someone who didn’t expect to win, wins. Zendaya’s acting in Euphoria was beyond phenomenal especially the scenes where she improvised like that’s ACTING! she was a winner the minute she was nominated.” 

Another said, “Zendaya’s fans aren’t mistaking the meaning. We understand the subtext of the term. We are not upset that she won the Emmy award because we saw her performance. You are using the word to mean that she was the underdog. We always viewed our Queen as the front runner in the race.” 

Though Twitter might not agree on the word “upset,” all seemed to come together to celebrate Zendaya and her first Emmy award. Congratulations to the 24 year old! She has a promising career ahead of her. “Euphoria” has already been renewed for season two and is expected to continue filming in 2021. Could another Emmy be on the way?

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