'International legend': 'Abbott Elementary' star Sheryl Lee Ralph receives Order of Jamaica award

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Tuesday, October 18, 2022
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Emmy winner Sheryl Lee Ralph wowed the crowd with her memorable acceptance speech, which included a Dianne Reeves song about empowerment.

KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Sheryl Lee Ralph continues to show the world what believing looks like!

The "Abbott Elementary" star, whose career spans four decades and now includes an Emmy win, received the prestigious Honorary Order of Jamaica for her "sterling contribution as an actress, cultural ambassador of Jamaica and for contribution to the international film industry."

She was among 143 Jamaicans recognized at the National Honours and Awards at King's House in Kingston on Monday, Oct. 17, which is observed as National Heroes' Day in Jamaica.

Ralph was one of 10 to receive the nation's fifth-highest honor, which is "bestowed on citizens of outstanding distinction," according to Jamaica Observer.

"Well, it is now official! I am The Honourable Sheryl Lee Ralph OJ," Ralph wrote in an Instagram caption. "Warrior Woman! #ThisisWhatBelievingLooksLike"

"Abbott Elementary" creator Quinta Brunson, fellow actress Kerry Washington and more showed their support in the comments.

"Absolute Legend. International legend," commented co-star Lisa Ann Walter, who plays Melissa Schemmenti on the ABC show.

This year, Ralph won an Emmy as a first-time nominee at the age of 66, taking home best supporting actress in a comedy for her role as Barbara Howard, a beloved, matriarchal Kindergarten teacher on "Abbott Elementary," the ABC "mockumentary" sitcom about high-spirited teachers in a woefully underfunded Philadelphia public school.

MORE: 'Abbott Elementary' star Sheryl Lee Ralph delivers powerful acceptance speech

Sheryl Lee Ralph accepts the Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for "Abbott Elementary" at the 74th Emmy Awards.
(Photo by Phil McCarten/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)

During her acceptance speech at the Sept. 12 ceremony, the veteran actress brought the audience to their feet by bellowing powerful lyrics about being an "Endangered Species" and imploring others to never give up on themselves no matter how long it takes to be seen.

"To anyone who has ever, ever had a dream and thought your dream wasn't, wouldn't, couldn't come true, I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like," she said. "This is what striving looks like, and don't you ever, ever give up on you."

The honor came after decades in the business with multiple iconic roles - from "Dreamgirls" on Broadway in the 1980s, to stepmother to the title character on the 1990s sitcom "Moesha."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The video in the media player above was used in a previous report.