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Lady Gaga’s earnest, emotional appearance at Billboard‘s annual Women in Music event — which took place Dec. 11 at New York’s Cipriani Midtown and was televised Dec. 18 on Lifetime — laid plain for everyone watching why the publication named the outspoken artist and activist its 2015 Woman of the Year. The singer was introduced by her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, before hitting the stage dressed in an all-red pantsuit, backed by a small string ensemble to perform a powerful version of her latest tune, “Til It Happens To You,” on piano. The song, about sexual assault, showcased her gifts as an artist, as well as her devotion to issues of importance to her.
In her acceptance speech, Gaga noted how difficult being a woman in the music industry can be. “It’s really hard sometimes for women in music. It’s like a f—ing boys club that we just can’t get into. … Women provide a wisdom to music that is very unique and special. It is a perspective no one else can have because we bear life. And because we go through things no one else goes through. And because it’s right. Because we’re all equal.”
She ended her remarks with a shout-out to the people throughout her life who told her success wouldn’t happen for her. “I couldn’t wait to prove you wrong,” she said to cheers. “Because I may not be a lot of things, but I can write songs, and I can sing.”
The event, which aired at 8 p.m. ET on Friday, also honored Selena Gomez, Kelsea Ballerini, Fifth Harmony, Loretta Lynn, Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard, Missy Elliott, Tori Kelly, Demi Lovato and Lana Del Rey, giving each a moment on stage to speak movingly about the women who inspire them — from moms to industry executives who have supported and believed in them through their careers.
Several of the honorees also performed. Fifth Harmony ran through a medley that included their own hit “Worth It” as well as inspired covers of girl group’s past, like Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Woman.” Gomez showed her softer side with a stripped down version of her latest hit “Same Old Love”; Howard gave a clear demonstration why she seriously deserved her Powerhouse honor with “Joe”; and Lovato brought the house down with a performance of her Confident ballad “Stone Cold.” And Elliott fought through tears (and brought on tears of everyone watching) while discussing her 20+ years in the music industry.
A full list of honorees is below:?
Lady Gaga, Woman of the Year?
Selena Gomez, Chart-Topper?
Kelsea Ballerini, Rising Star?
Fifth Harmony, Group of the Year
?Loretta Lynn, Legend?
Brittany Howard, Powerhouse?
Missy Elliott, Innovator?
Tori Kelly, Breakthrough?
Demi Lovato, Rulebreaker
?Lana Del Rey, Trailblazer
This story first appeared on billboard.com
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