Awards

How Lizzo Bested Oprah & Made History at 2020 NAACP Image Awards

Lizzo
Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images for BET

Lizzo accepts Entertainer of the Year award onstage during the 51st NAACP Image Awards, Presented by BET, at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on Feb. 22, 2020 in Pasadena, Calif. 

Lizzo's triumph was especially welcome because she missed out on key prizes at other awards shows, losing best new artist to Billie Eilish at three key shows.

Largely unknown just a year ago, Lizzo was named entertainer of the year at the 51st annual NAACP Image Awards, which were presented on Jan. 22 at the Pasadena (Calif.) Civic Auditorium. That's the fastest that anyone has climbed from obscurity to receiving this top award since the award was introduced in 1986.

The previous record-holder was Oprah Winfrey, who won entertainer of the year in 1991, six years after her Oscar-nominated film debut in The Color Purple, and five years after the debut of her long-running syndicated talk show.

Beyoncé, Steve Harvey, Ava DuVernay, Whitney Houston, Halle Berry and Eddie Murphy also received the NAACP's entertainer of the year award within a decade of their breakthroughs.

Beyoncé won entertainer of the year for the first time in 2004, seven years after the release of Destiny's Child's breakthrough hit, "No, No, No."

Harvey won the award in 2001, eight years after he began a long stint as host of Showtime at the Apollo.

DuVernay won the award in 2018, eight years after the release of I Will Follow, her first film as a producer/writer/director.

Houston won the award in 1994, nine years after the release of her eponymous debut album, which logged 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Berry won the award in 2000, nine years after her first film role in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever.

Murphy won the award in 1990, 10 years after he joined the cast of NBC's Saturday Night Live.

Lizzo's triumph was especially welcome because she missed out on key prizes at other award shows. She won three Grammys on Jan. 26, but lost in each of the Big Four categories to Billie Eilish. She lost best new artist to Eilish at the MTV Video Music Awards, American Music Awards and the Grammys. At the Image Awards, the charismatic star finally got her due -- and made history in the process.

Lizzo also won a second Image Award: outstanding music video/visual album for "Juice."