Grammys: Dua Lipa Calls Out Recording Academy CEO for Sexist "Step Up" Comment

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Dua Lipa

Lipa took on Neil Portnow's previous comments that women needed to "step up" in order to deserve nominations while she accepted this year's best new artist award.

Dua Lipa subtly called out Recording Academy president Neil Portnow during her acceptance speech for best new artist at the 2019 Grammy Awards on Sunday.

Lipa began her speech by stating that she was honored "to be nominated alongside so many incredible female artists this year." She continued, "I guess this year we really stepped up."

The statement was a reference to Portnow's comment following last year's ceremony in which he said that female performers needed to "step up" in order to be nominated and win awards.

The nominations for the 2019 awards ceremony reflected a large shift in female representation among the nominees. Fifteen women were nominated in the big four categories, which was significantly more than the six women that were nominated in the same categories last year.

Backstage, the artist was asked why she chose to comment on the "step up" remarks onstage. She replied: "I feel that first of all being in the new artist category and having so many female artists nominated is a big change. It’s a big difference than the previous years. … To see so many women honored, I was like 'this is amazing.' It only felt right to be able to do that."

Shortly after Lipa's speech, Portnow took the stage. "Thank you to all the artists who performed on the Grammys stage, who both by faith and intention represent a remarkable and diverse group, including some of the most thrilling new and legendary female voices of our times and to me that only feels right because this past year I've been reminded that if coming face to face with an issue opens your eyes, wide enough, it makes you more committed than ever to help address those issues," he said.

"The need for social change has been a hallmark of the American experience, from the founding of our country to the complex times we live in today," Portnow continued. "We must seize this unique moment to bring change within our own industry to ensure that there is diversity and inclusion in all the we do and we will."

Portnow's previous comments that women did not have a disadvantage in the music industry were met with criticism, though he said he credits the criticism for the now-inclusive nominations.

"Reflection, re-evaluation and implementation have been the driving forces at the Recording Academy over the past year," he said before the 2019 nominations were announced. "From convening our Task Force On Diversity & Inclusion and launching our new community-driven membership model, to increasing the number of nominees in the General Field, and to playing a leadership role in the successful passage of the landmark Music Modernization Act, the Recording Academy has reaffirmed its commitment to music creators across all facets of our industry. And, it’s our awards process that has taken a front seat during this evolutionary period to ensure the Grammy Awards reflect the ever-changing needs of the creative community. We are proud of this year's nominations results and congratulate all of the talented and deserving nominees."

Alicia Keys hosted the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. The ceremony took place at  Staples Center in Los Angeles and was broadcast on CBS.