Teyana Taylor hosted the 2020 Billboard Women in Music Event on Thursday evening (Dec. 10) on her “Dirty 30” birthday — but she wasn’t the only woman being celebrated.
Even though it felt like the world stood still this year with the nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Taylor rewinded through 2020 and remembered how the female artists being honored — Dua Lipa, Jennifer Lopez, Jessie Reyez, Chloe x Halle, Dolly Parton and the 2020 Woman of the Year Cardi B — got everyone up on their feet to dance at home, protest for racial justice and head to the polls.
“Tonight’s honorees helped us look through the darkness and find the light. Their music inspired our Zoom dance parties, they used their platforms to fight a global pandemic, to fight for equality and encourage voters to make their voices heard,” Taylor proudly exclaimed in her opening speech. “They even inspired old white men to do the ‘WAP’ TikTok challenge, chile! Look, while the world was in lockdown, these women were standing up, doing what women do best: getting to the work and getting to the money.”
Below, find 11 more can’t-miss moments from the 2020 Billboard Women in Music event.
Dua Lipa kicks things off with elegant “Boys Will Be Boys” performance
Lipa sang and dressed like a true Powerhouse, with the help of a magnificent string arrangement and a tiered tulle black ballgown. The song’s conclusion — “But girls will be women” — speaks to how much faster women have to grow up than men due to the societal double-standard. It was an all-too-fitting message on a night honoring the industry’s glass-ceiling breakers.
Sen. Bernie Sanders talks about how Dua Lipa creates new rules for a more just world
Sen. Sanders honored the Future Nostalgia singer’s activism by nodding to her first top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit “New Rules” while virtually presenting her with the Powerhouse Award. “She has said loudly and clearly with her actions that now is the time to fight for a better future for all. She’s fighting for young people, women, refugees, the LGBTQ community. … She’s raising her voice to command real change,” he said during his presentation. “It is clear to me that she knows the rules have to change, that it is time for new rules to create a world that works for all of us and not just the very wealthy.”
After her Marry Me co-star and “Pa’ Ti + Lonely” collaborator presented her with the Icon Award, Lopez got emotional while talking about her “first love”: music. “My mom used to put me on the kitchen table and there’s where she showed me how to do the booty shake and together, we’d sing the oldies or whatever was on top of the Billboard charts at the time,” she recalled fondly. “Those were my first performances.”
Jessie Reyez compares being born a woman to “being born walking uphill” in acceptance speech for American Express Impact Award
Whether it’s bluntly speaking out about sexism in the music industry, family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border or the Black Lives Matter movement, Reyez will fearlessly grab the mic time and time again. She’s also unafraid to wear boys’ clothes or cut up curtains to make dresses because she doesn’t abide by dress codes, or any codes for that matter. “I’ve always said that being born a woman on this Earth is very much like being born walking uphill,” Reyez said while accepting the American Express Impact Award. “There are so many burdens and bags that we carry yet manage to do so with grace. … Billboard Women in Music, thank you for recognizing my uphill walk as a young woman.”
Executives of the Year Brianna Agyemang & Jamila Thomas recall how they transformed their exhaustion and passion into action
June 2, 2020. is a day Agyemang and Thomas will never forget because they pressed pause on the multibillion-dollar music industry with #TheShowMustBePaused campaign. Both women grew weary of racial injustice seen in the streets and in the hallways of major companies, but the two kept the midnight oil burning as they drafted a list of demands. And their passion for equal opportunities for Black people continues to fuel them. “We managed to take a moment that derived from exhaustion and a passion to help and turned it into a movement with a call to action to pause,” Thomas said.
Beyoncé recorded a special video message for her Parkwood Entertainment darlings before they accepted the Rising Star Award presented by Honda. “Ladies, I am so, so proud of you,” she said. “You’ve done this with authenticity, with grace, with raw talent. And you managed to shine in every room you enter. And I’ll always love you.”
Chloe x Halle do it for the girls around the world during sparkling “Baby Girl” performance
The duo sure managed to shine during their performance of “Baby Girl” from their sophomore album, Ungodly Hour, which earned the sisters a Grammy nod for best progressive R&B album. The singers began rattling off beloved attributes of women — passionate, beautiful, elegant, intelligent, capable, loving, majestic, powerful — before launching into their performance. Diamonds dotted their eyeliner and draped over their locs for what will definitely go down as a high note of the night.
Cyrus couldn’t have penned a more acclamatory speech for her godmother. And the pressure might’ve felt immense, considering the 74-year-old Hitmaker has 26 No. 1 singles on Billboard’s country charts to her name, unlike any other female singer-songwriter. The Plastic Hearts rock star gave credit where it’s due by retelling the story about how Parton refused to let Elvis Presley record her 1974 No. 1 hit “I Will Always Love You.” “When Elvis sought to record Dolly’s ‘I Will Always Love You,’ Dolly famously said, ‘No’ — keeping control of her song that Elvis wanted half of the publishing royalties to,” Cyrus said proudly. “Slay all day, Dolly!”
Parton keeps chugging along with “9 to 5” performance
Dolly did what Dolly does best: work till there’s no more work left to be done. She performed her 1981 No. 1 hit “9 to 5,” and she only works in style, as her jewel-fringed dress shimmered among the Christmas trees in the factory setting.
Breonna Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer honors Cardi B for her activism regarding her daughter’s campaign for justice
Palmer, who lost her 26-year-old daughter after she was fatally shot during a Louisville police raid in her own home on March 13, praised Cardi for being “one of Breonna’s most outspoken advocates for justice over the last nine months.” Nine months later, Cardi’s Instagram profile picture still spells out Breonna Taylor’s name.
Cardi B reminds girls “there’s hope for your dreams” while accepting Woman of the Year honor
Billboard’s 2020 Woman of the Year proved how she sticks up for the girls following in her footsteps. While accepting the night’s biggest honor, the “WAP” rapper retraced her steps and expressed how she hopped to the top with every project she put out.
“Throughout the years, if you listen to my mixtape, if you listen to my music now, I have progressed because I wanted to progress. I want to be the best I can at anything that I do,” she said. “Life is about making your dreams come true. But in order to make your dreams come true, don’t think it’s gonna come and fall from the sky into your lap. You actually have to put in the work. You gotta be ambitious, you gotta network, you gotta become better at what you do…. There’s hope for your dreams.”