Olivia Rodrigo praised prior female songwriters and music artists for giving her strength while accepting Billboard’s 2022 Woman of the Year award. The former teen actor turned pop star was awarded during the event Wednesday night at the YouTube Theater in Inglewood, California. She spoke about being lucky for her career and thanked Sheryl Crow, who presented her with the honor.
“Every woman here today is working to break down those barriers and change the narrative and support each other,” said Rodrigo, who opened the show by performing “deja vu.” During her acceptance speech, she talked about being “constantly moved” by young girls who write songs every day from their bedroom floors. “I’m constantly moved by your vulnerability and your creativity and bravery, and I promise everyone here today is working to make this world and this industry a better place for you,” she continued.
Rodrigo became 2021’s biggest breakout star with her confessional debut album, breaking chart records and racking up awards and nominations. Rodrigo’s exploration of heartache, jealousy and insecurity on her first studio album “SOUR” broke streaming records and led to all 11 tracks landing in the top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. She’s the first female artist to achieve the feat.
“What I love most about songwriting is its ability to perfectly capture how I feel better than anything I could have said in a conversation,” she said. “Songwriting has always been everything to me, so for people to connect with my music is beyond a dream come true.” Bonnie Raitt, who was honored with the Icon Award, used the Women in Music stage to address the crisis in Ukraine. She performed the John Prine-written “Angel From Montgomery” with Jackson Browne then said the song was dedication to the “women of Ukraine.”
After she accepted her award, the 10-time Grammy winner and activist said she wanted more equity and opportunity women. She continued to say her “heart is heavy” for the people of Ukraine and said she’s even praying for Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I know the Russian people are not in agreement – so many of them – with what’s being done,” she said. “I pray for all the people who are working hard for peace, including the man who started the war. May he have a transformation.”
H.E.R, Doja Cat, Saweetie, Phoebe Bridgers, Karol G and Summer Walker were some of the other music artists who were recognized at the event, which celebrated the achievements of top female performers and executives in the music industry. Gabby Barrett and executive Golnar Khosrowshahi were also honored during the live stream show, which was hosted by Ciara.
It was a family affair for Saweetie and Bridgers who both had their mothers separately present the awards to them.
Saweetie’s mother, Trinidad Valentin, called her daughter a “force to be reckoned with.” Meanwhile, Bridgers mom – Jamie Bridgers – said she’s grateful that her daughter has found a way to use her voice to “highlight people and causes she cares about.”
Barrett’s husband, Cade Foehner, gave a heartfelt speech about his wife’s music success and her being a wife and mother.
The couple joined on stage to perform a rendition of “I Hope.”
“I grew up with this big dream. It certainly was not easy,” Barrett said. “I did not come from a wealthy background. A lot of people doubted me – kids, adults, schoolteachers. I heard a lot of ‘nos’ and it seemed like every door that I knocked on remained closed for a long time. But by the graciousness of God, I am here today. I continue to work hard and persevere.”
H.E.R. received the impact award, Doja Cat snagged the powerhouse award, Karol G won rule breaker award, Saweetie claimed game changer award, Bridgers took home trailblazer award and Walker was recognized for the chart breaker award.
Christina Aguilera took the stage and said she was chosen for a new NFT magazine cover. The singer said she will be donating a portion of her proceeds to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.