Billboard’s annual Women in Music event on Thursday night virtually assembled some of the music industry’s 2020 powerhouses for a celebration hosted by the illustrious Teyana Taylor.
“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 said during her opening speech. “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.”
The livestream show included performances by Chloe x Halle, Dua Lipa, and Dolly Parton, who were honored throughout the night. It also featured several A-list presenters including Beyoncé, Lilly Singh, Miley Cyrus, Maluma, and Senator Bernie Sanders.
But the focal point of the evening was none other than Cardi B, who was honored as Billboard’s Woman of the Year not only for her music, but her political activism during the 2020 election process. The top honor was presented to the rapstress by Tamika Palmer, mother of the late Breonna Taylor.
"One of Breonna's most outspoken advocates over the past nine months has been Cardi B," Palmer said in a pre-recorded statement. "From the beginning, Cardi has used her platform to spread the truth about what happened to Breonna and to reaffirm that Black women's lives matter."
Taylor’s murder by Kentucy police officers earlier this year galvanized a deeper conversation about how we should be uplifting and protecting Black women within and beyond the Black Lives Matter movement. It also prompted Cardi, her collaborator Megan Thee Stallion, and other women in the industry to speak up about violence against Black women.
“Cardi B's impact reaches far beyond music,” Palmer continues. “That’s why I am so proud and honored to present Billboard's Woman of the Year award to Miss Cardi B."
During her acceptance speech, Cardi addressed how COVID-19 threw a wrench in her creative process this year.
"This year, when it came to music, I had so many things planned," Cardi said. "I had so many projects that I wanted to come out. Unfortunately, due to COVID, I couldn't put out the visuals the way that I wanted, it messed up my creative space. You know, I think everyone this year was just messed up.”
The “WAP” rapper went on to celebrate her hit single of the year and discuss how the song polarized the nation, drawing criticism from right-wing pundits like Ben Shapiro, Candace Owens, and others.
“So I'm just grateful and thankful that the song that I actually did put out this year, which was 'WAP' featuring Megan Thee Stallion, not only was it an amazing song that broke so many records, but it was a conversation that I never thought was going to be so big. I mean, it pissed off a whole bunch of Republicans for no reason, you know what I'm saying?" she laughed. "It was just weird."
Later in her speech Cardi encouraged young women like herself to work incredibly hard to make their dreams come true.
"You actually gotta put in the work. You gotta be ambitious. You gotta network. You gotta become great at what you do. You gotta be able to take criticism. ... There's hope. There's hope for your dreams," she said.