The 15th Annual Billboard Women in Music Awards was filled to the brim with inspiring performances, moving speeches, and an ever-so-awkward speech from Cardi B. The award show — which aired on Dec. 10 — itself served as a perfect highlight for all of the kickass things that women have done in 2020.
Presented by the iconic Teyana Taylor, the night opened dramatically with Dua Lipa’s poignant performance of “Boys Will Be Boys.” Decked out in a stunning black gown, Lipa’s lyrics reverberated through the room, accompanied by a luxurious string quartet. It was rather fitting that the words that reverberated around the room were, “Boys will be boys / but girls will be women.”
Aside from opening up the night, Lipa was also the first award recipient, receiving the Powerhouse Award. The Powerhouse Award was bestowed upon Lipa not just because of her absolute domination in physical sales and streaming, but because of her dedication toward using her platform to empower women, minorities, refugees, LGBTQIA+, and the youth at large.
Lipa’s absolute dedication to investing in the political process has evidently made an impact. She seized this moment to highlight the inequality in the music industry, which according to Forbes, is completely abysmal. Currently only 2.1 percent of women work as producers; 12.3 percent work as songwriters; and only 21.7 percent work as artists. Lipa acknowledged these dreadful numbers and once again used her platform to fight for and champion change.
Other awards went out to Jennifer Lopez and Jessie Reyez, who won the Icon Award and American Express Impact Award respectively. Presenters for both awards were Maluma and Lilly Singh.
Aside from the slight drama associated with Singh’s appearance, Reyez spoke clearly about the reality of being a woman, not just in the music industry, but in general. As she recounts easily relatable experiences from managers advising her to “dress more feminine” or “wear a bra on television to appease the ‘pious audiences.’” If we’re being honest, we can’t count how many times we’ve also been told to “dress more feminine.” Therefore, when Reyez had the courage to speak up about universal experiences, we thought it was truly impactful.
The Executive of the Year Award went to Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas for their work in establishing #TheShowMustBePaused movement, a campaign that seeks to bring attention to the systemic racism that countless Americans face on a daily basis. In their exhaustion, Agyemang and Thomas sought to turn their anger and despondency into a moment of power. Since then, the moment of power has blossomed into an influential movement that has undeniably changed the music industry (for the better).
We would be remiss if we didn’t talk about this dynamic duo when talking about impactful and influential superstars. Recipients of the Honda Stage Rising Star Award, presented by Beyoncé, Chloe x Halle were the true stars of the night. Aside from accepting the award, the duo performed their smash hit “Baby Girl.” Chloe x Halle’s performance was absolutely immaculate and deserves to be in the MOMA. Granted, that is just my humble opinion. Aside from their gorgeous performance, Chloe x Halle also exuded an infectious positivity as they spoke at length about how critical it is to “hold out a hand for our fellow sisters” and support other women in creative positions.
Subsequent awards like Billboard’s Hitmaker Award went to the influential and iconic Dolly Parton, a woman who undoubtedly “held out a hand” to support other women; as evidenced by her goddaughter and presenter of the award, Miley Cyrus. In presenting the award, Cyrus illustrated how Parton recognized her worth all the way back in 1974 – with the release of “I Will Always Love You” and her denial of recording rights to Elvis Presley, who wanted half of all royalties. Granted, in modern times we don’t need to look back to the ’70s to witness more examples of women who know their worth. Billboard’s Woman of the Year definitely recognizes her worth and isn’t afraid to flaunt it.
Billboard’s Woman of the Year was presented by Tamika Palmer — Breonna Taylor’s mother — to Cardi B for her activism and fearless advocacy in the lives of women of color. Admittedly with such a strong introduction, there was an expectation that Cardi B might deliver another rousing speech, especially after a night filled to the brim with inspiring performances and moving speeches. Though some of Cardi B’s comments fell flat, especially considering they were delivered during a night that overall served to be a moving testament to women, she did seem ever so grateful to receive her award.