Zendaya's 'Upset Win' Sparks Intense Dialogue About the Phrase Itself

While Euphoria actress Zendaya took home the Emmy Award for "Outstanding Leading Actress" on Sunday, some people labeling her victory an "upset" has stirred controversy over the term.

Zendaya beat out other major actresses who have been working in film and television. The other nominees were Jennifer Aniston (The Morning Show), Olivia Colman (The Crown), Laura Linney (Ozark), Sandra Oh (Killing Eve), and Jodie Comer (Killing Eve). As The New York Post notes, 24 year-old Zendaya is significantly younger than all the other nominees, besides Comer who is 27.

People on Twitter seemed to be responding to a tweet from The New York Post, which labeled Zendaya's win the "biggest upset" for Sunday's award show.

Biggest upset: Zendaya wins Emmys 2020 over Jennifer Aniston, Laura Linney https://t.co/UDjTrVIrmf pic.twitter.com/2mNSgtYglo

— New York Post (@nypost) September 21, 2020

A Twitter user responded to Post-section Page Six, which tweeted something similar, and asked why it wouldn't call the victory a "celebration," implying a racial bias, using the hashtag "#pagesixsowhite." Other people hopped on, criticizing the language in the tweet, saying that Zendaya's award was well-deserved. Daily Beast editor Mandy Velez tweeted that no one should be shocked by the win, given the actress' excellent performance in Euphoria. Another person said it wouldn't have been called an upset for anyone who had watched the HBO series.

Why label it an upset when it’s a celebration? #Emmys #Zendaya #pagesixsowhite

— Tori De (@RealToriSpark) September 21, 2020

*well-deserved win https://t.co/euhHTTf6zY pic.twitter.com/yfoPEKf2H0

— Tre Ward (@TreWardWBAL) September 21, 2020

Upset? This woman was incredible in Euphoria no one is surprised https://t.co/64rPt53Flk

— Mandy Velez (@mandy_velez) September 21, 2020

rt if you were NOT upset https://t.co/lXynUm4k2E

— Denver (@_JustDenver) September 21, 2020

If you watched the show then you’d know why it wasn’t an upset https://t.co/lPRirY98Gp

— T.J Barnes Ⓥ (@ILLUMANINETY) September 21, 2020

While people discussed whether or not the win was an upset, some people jumped in to explain that an upset is merely a term for a surprise victory and isn't meant to imply that the victory was upsetting. International Data Corporation Research Director James Wester tweeted a screenshot of a definition for upset that says that one is "an unexpected result or situation, especially in a sports competition."

The comments from people not knowing the meaning of the word "upset" in this context--and the replies to those replies--are hilarious. https://t.co/oZmtXwqccP pic.twitter.com/ye7nHaoFOv

— James Wester (@jameswester) September 21, 2020

Have they been saying that the term ‘upset’ is racist somehow? Oh lordy

— JJWhitehead (@JJWhitesnake) September 21, 2020

Despite some people defending the term "upset win" in the context of Zendaya winning, other people like sports reporter Chris Walder, explained that the term doesn't really apply here, given her performance.

An upset is the Nuggets overcoming 3-1 deficits twice. This is Michael Jordan beating the Hornets. https://t.co/9oXAK01Bi4

— Chris Walder (@WalderSports) September 21, 2020

The New York Post also weighed in on the controversy with a story titled, "Zendaya fans mistake the meaning of 'upset' after historic Emmys 2020 win," discussing the controversy on Twitter.

Suzy Weiss who wrote the article called the controversy a "teachable moment" and touched on people who pointed out what the term is often used to describe. "Some were quick to point out that in the context of a competition, like a sports game or awards show, "upset" is used to mean a surprise victory, especially for an underdog like Zendaya who was up against industry heavyweights," she wrote.

Zendaya's publicist did not respond to Newsweek's emailed request for comment in time for publication.

Zendaya
Zendaya attends the 2020 AAA Arts Awards at Skylight Modern on January 30, 2020 in New York City. Getty/Jamie McCarthy