After the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy was announced, tweets suggested that the winner, Aziz Ansari, was the historic first: First Asian American to win in that category.
There was some debate on Twitter whether Aziz Ansari was Asian American or not. So let’s begin here. As defined by Merriam-Webster, Asian-American is “an American of Asian descent.” The definition for English Language learners is “an American who was born in Asia or whose family is from Asia.” The definition for students is “an American who has Asian ancestors.”
My 2007 version of the Associated Press Stylebook says “Use Asian or Asians when referring to people.” There are terms that apply to parts of Asia such as Asian subcontinent, Far East, Middle East and Southeast Asia. The Middle East “applies to southwest Asia west of Pakistan and Afghanistan” and includes Lebanon.
Ansari was born in South Carolina. His parents were Tamil Muslims from Tamil Nadu, India.
Angry Asian Man declared that “Aziz Ansari is the first Asian American actor to win a Golden Globe for television
#GoldenGlobes. Haing S. Ngor won Best Supporting Actor for The Killing Fields in 1985.” The Huffington Post also wrote “Aziz Ansari Becomes First Asian-American to Win Golden Globe for Best Actor in TV Show.”
The first person to win Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes was Tony Shalhoub in 2002 for his portrayal of Adrian Monk on “Monk.” Shalhoub’s parents are both Lebanese-Americans (as well as being Arab Americans). Lebanon is located in West Asia. Shalhoub had been nominated five times.
Shalhoub was in the cast of this year’s winner for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy.
The first Asian American to win Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama was Mike Connors in 1969 for his portrayal of Joe Mannix in “Mannix.” Connors was born Krekor Ohanian. Born in Fresno, California, he faced prejudice against Armenians at school. According to the CIA World Factbook, the Republic of Armenia is located in Southwestern Asia although it “views itself as part of Europe.”
To my knowledge no Asian American actor has won Best Supporting Actor in a TV Series, Miniseries or Television Film.
For Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture, the first winner was Akim Tamiroff in 1943. Tamiroff was born in Russia to an Armenian family. In 1962, Omar Sharif won for “Lawrence of Arabia.” Sharif was born in Egypt (an intercontinental country) to a father who was originally from Lebanon and a mother who was originally from Syria. Syria and Lebanon are both in Asia. Ben Kingsley, whose father was of Gujarati descent won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama for “Gandhi” in 1982.
In 1984, Haing S. Ngor became the first person from the Far East to win (“The Killing Fields”).
For Best Actress in a Television Series, Marlo Thomas was the first Asian American, winning in 1966 for “That Girl.” Her father, Danny Thomas is Lebanese-American. Her mother is Sicilian American.
In 1980, Yoko Shimada, a Japanese actress, won Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama for the mini series “Shogun.”
In 1973, half-Armenian Cher tied with Jean Stapleton for Best Actress in a Television Series – Comedy for “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.”
For Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, Cher won in 1983 for “Silkwood.” For Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series, Sandra Oh, a Canadian of Korean descent, was the first ethnic Asian winner.
Asia is not a race, but a continent. Yes, India is part of Asia (Asian subcontinent). Ansari is the first Asian Indian American to win Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy but not a historic first Asian American.