by Tyler Glover & Julian Spivey
This past Sunday (June 12), Jennifer Hudson joined an elusive club of only 16 other performers who are EGOT winners. EGOT stands for Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Hudson completed her status by winning as a producer for the musical, “A Strange Loop” at the Tonys. Hudson had previously won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for “Dreamgirls,” has two Grammys: one for Best R&B Album for her self-titled album and one for Best Musical Theater Album for “The Color Purple,” and won a Daytime Emmy for producing “Baba Yaga.”
You may wonder if this is really a big deal and the answer to that is: Yes, it is! To better understand the true impact of its significance is to go back to your childhood. The biggest thing we all want practically from the womb is to be told we are doing a good job at almost everything we do. This is even more true when it comes to something we are passionate about. Few are able to truly make it as successful actors, producers and directors. So, if you are able to make it, create your art, and then receive praise for it, it does not get much better than that for an artist. To win even one of these awards is receiving validation that you are succeeding and excelling at what you are passionate about. But, to win all four of them and receive that validation from four different esteemed establishments? That truly is a remarkably high honor indeed.
The truth is that the Emmys, Grammys, Oscars and Tonys are the highest achievement in their mediums. The Emmys are the most prestigious award for television, the Grammys for music, the Oscars for movies and the Tonys for theater.
In recent years, one controversy that seeks to ruin the prestige of an EGOT winner is that chances of winning one has increased by increased categories. The Grammys and Emmys, especially, have lots of categories that cover about everything you could imagine in their fields. While this is great for inclusion, it could be considered that more accessibility and chances can take away some of its merit. If this continues, I believe it could lose some of its shine, but this will truly be up to the academies of these establishments to truly consider what constitutes an award and what does not.
However, at the end of the day, I genuinely believe that the honor of being an EGOT winner is something to take great pride in. In life, we are all seeking acceptance. We all seek validation. The biggest way in entertainment to receive that validation is from a majority of other artists that know the struggle. They know the blood, sweat, and tears. They know all of the positives and negatives of their careers. They look at you and say, “Yes! Out of all the leading actors this year, YOU are the best! Receiving even just one of these awards changes people’s lives, but ALL four of them? Jennifer Hudson can say that she has “R.E.S.P.E.C.T” from everyone in all four of the fields of entertainment. - TG
So, it’s my job to tell you why an EGOT is not a big deal.
First of all, nobody had even heard of an EGOT before 38 years ago when “Miami Vice” actor Philip Michael Thomas – he played Det. Ricardo Tubbs opposite of Don Johnson’s Det. Sonny Crockett – told an interviewer that he wanted to win an EGOT withing the next five years. He then began wearing an EGOT necklace. Thomas has never been nominated for any of the four awards.
The first time I’d ever heard of EGOT was thanks to Tina Fey’s brilliant TV satire “30 Rock” when character Tracy Jordan (played hilariously by Tracy Morgan) set out to achieve winning an EGOT, equipped with his own gold necklace, in a season four episode of the series.
There are some major names on the EGOT winners list like Audrey Hepburn, Mel Brooks, Mike Nichols, Rita Moreno – but there’s also people you might suspect would’ve been EGOT winners who aren’t like Barbra Streisand (she doesn’t have a Tony), Julie Andrews (doesn’t have a Tony), Elton John (doesn’t have an Emmy), Stephen Sondheim (never won an Emmy) and more. Is film/tv/stage songwriter Robert Lopez or producer Scott Rudin any more important in the history of entertainment than Streisand?
It just seems trivial almost – and if you could name all 17 EGOT winners that would certainly be impressive (I wouldn’t be surprised if Tyler could). There’s certainly a lot of hard work that goes into winning an EGOT (for the most part), but there’s also a lot of luck that goes into it.
Let me be straight … I’m supposed to be arguing why the EGOT is not that big of a deal. But even I don’t always buy that it isn’t. Some EGOTs mean more than others. Mel Brooks freakin’ earned his EGOT. He won the Oscar in 1968 for writing “The Producers.” He’s won four Emmy Awards, three of which came for guest starring on the hit ‘90s NBC comedy “Mad About You” (which I adore). He’s won three Grammys, most importantly in my mind in 1998 for the comedy album The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000 with his lifelong friend Carl Reiner. He won three Tony Awards, all in 2001 for “The Producers.” The man turned his non-musical comedy for which he won an Oscar for writing into a musical – that takes a lot of talent. If you tell me Brooks’ EGOT means nothing I’m going to have a problem with you.
Most EGOT winners probably deserve their winnings. Mike Nichols, yes. Audrey Hepburn, yes. Rita Moreno, yes.
But I do not think Jennifer Hudson’s EGOT is the same as those won by the artists in the prior two paragraphs – which is where I come down on the side of “not all EGOTs mean the same and therefore EGOT isn’t the biggest deal in the world.
Hudson won her Oscar for “Dreamgirls.” Very legitimate. Both of her Grammy Awards are legitimate, especially the one she won for Best R&B Album in 2009. The Best Musical Theater Album win for “The Color Purple” is a cast award, so yes it’s legitimate but it’s more of an ensemble win than individual.
But I don’t quite feel the same for producing wins as I do for performance wins. They feel less earned.
Now I know there are multiple jobs that a producer can do, but in many cases they are the money behind the project.
Producing is how Hudson won her Emmy Award – which was a Daytime Emmy Award, which doesn’t seem near as impressive to me as a Primetime Emmy Award (I realize I’m a snob) – for executive producing the virtual reality animated film “Baba Yaga,” made for Oculus Quest, which won in the interactive media for a daytime program category. I don’t know what any of that shit is, but apparently it’s television.
Michael R. Jackson’s “A Strange Loop” won Best Musical at the Tony Awards this weekend and with that came a Tony Award for Hudson as one of the show’s producers, which included at least a dozen people many of whom you’ll recognize like RuPaul Charles, Alan Cumming, Don Cheadle, Mindy Kaling and Billy Porter – all of whom won Tonys for whatever role they played in producing the musical, which I assume means monetary contributions.
Because of this it doesn’t quite feel like this EGOT win – and I’m betting there are other scenarios like this one among the other 16 EGOT winners – isn’t the same as being the main creative force behind a work of art or performance.
Can you throw money at an EGOT? Maybe so. That’s partially why it doesn’t mean all that much to me. - JS