The outpouring of love for 2023 Woman of the Year SZA at Wednesday night’s Billboard Women in Music Awards was the perfect example of the celebratory, overjoyed mood at the ceremony.
Not only did SZA have a very enthusiastic Coi Leray hyping up her many accomplishments this year and beyond — including her 10th week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart with her latest album, SOS — but she also had a surprise video message from fellow superstar Lizzo, singing her praises (literally): She started the pre-recorded message by singing her favorite SZA song, “Warm Winds” from 2014’s Z.
“You are the real deal. You are such a genuine human being, a genuine artist, a poet, a songwriter, an emoter who’s a once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-generation talent,” Lizzo said, adding, “We don’t deserve you!”
SZA was one of many honorees at the Billboard Women in Music Awards, and below we’re remembering our favorite moments from the night. See the best moments from Lana Del Rey, TWICE, Rosalía and more here:
Kim Petras in the Crowd
In addition to performing her latest single “Brrr” and being presented the Chartbreaker Award, Kim Petras was the MVP of the YouTube Theater crowd. She flitted among the VIP tables next to the stage to rub elbows with the other powerhouse women in attendance — including fellow German superstar Heidi Klum, who made sure to give Petras a hug before leaving the show – and danced enthusiastically for each intimate performance, especially the show-ending number “Moonlight Sunrise” from K-pop nonet TWICE, as you can see below.
Rosalía Gets Real About the Life of a Producer
The importance of receiving the first Women in Music Producer of the Year Award was not lost on Rosalía, and she used her speech to both encourage more women to join the field but also to not sugarcoat the reality of life in the studio. “A producer’s job is a job in the shadow. … It’s not very fun – whoever tells you otherwise, they’re lying. It’s 15 hours a day, nonstop maybe, working on a sound. It comes from love, it comes from obsession maybe, and that’s why you stay in that small-ass room with no windows while everybody else around you is at home, just chilling, eating something nice, laughing, having sex, living life, just regular human cool sh–.”
Doechii: A Star Is Born
If you went into Wednesday’s ceremony not knowing Doechii’s name, you definitely know it now. The Rising Star Award winner made the most of her time on the YouTube Theater stage, ripping through a frenetic mash-up of her songs “Persuasive” and “Crazy” and dancing with the energy of an arena or stadium show vs. to the 5,000-ish people lucky enough to be in the room. She performed so hard, in fact, that one of her shoes couldn’t survive the spectacle, so the first female TDE rapper had to limp over to the microphone to accept her award from her mother, Celesia Moore. “Girl, I done danced my shoe off!” she said with a laugh to kick off her speech.
A Bad Bunny Surprise, All for Ivy Queen
When an introduction started for Billboard’s top artist of 2022, the crowd started murmuring about who could be the hitting the stage, but once the intro mentioned Puerto Rico, everyone knew: Bad Bunny was surprising the crowd. And it was all for reggaeton pioneer Ivy Queen, whom Bunny presented the Icon Award to with an all-Spanish speech. He said he is the artist he is today because he has a part of Ivy Queen in his musical DNA. “She gave me the strength to be myself and to work double,” he said. “As a fan of reggaetón, I’ve waited a long time for this moment, and I think that 2023 is the time where more female reggaeton artists exist, and I’m sure it’s because of the root that Ivy planted a long time ago.”
Lainey Wilson Is All ‘Heart’
Country star Lainey Wilson might have stripped down her top five Country Airplay hit “Heart Like a Truck” for the Women in Music stage, but she didn’t strip away any of her impressive vocals for the performance, even sustaining one big power note in the chorus. And she also didn’t strip away any of her signature style, wearing a wide-brimmed black hat and gold-lamé spandex bell bottoms. “This sh– is not for the faint of heart,” she said later in her speech. “All the women who are coming on this stage and in this room here tonight being honored can testify.”
The Sisterhood of Latto & Chlöe
We knew they were collaborators, teaming up on “For the Night” last year, but now we also know what good friends Latto and Chloe Bailey are. Bailey presented Latto with the Powerhouse Award – calling her “a force to be reckoned with,” “an icon for young women everywhere” and “the personification of a powerhouse” — and the rapper squeezed the singer’s hand during her whole speech.
Becky G Comes Home
Becky G was born and raised in Inglewood, Calif., so she was extra emotional to receive the Impact Award in her hometown. She talked about how she made a promise to her family and fans in her breakthrough “Becky From the Block” song (her interpretation of Jennifer Lopez’s “Jenny From the Block”). “The promise wasn’t that I wouldn’t leave where I came from, but that I would take where I’m from wherever I go,” she said, explaining that as a Mexican-American, a “200 percenter,” she often feels not American enough for the U.S. and not Hispanic enough for Mexico. “Where we come from, that will always be in our hearts, but where we go, that’s up to us.”
Lana Del Rey Is ‘Happy’
Accepting the Visionary Award from last year’s Billboard Woman of the Year Olivia Rodrigo, Lana Del Rey said she didn’t “exactly have a long-term vision at all, but if you were curious, I am very, very happy.” That hasn’t always been the case, as the quintessential sadgirl singer described a much less friendly time in the music industry when she first started. “I feel like being happy is the ultimate goal, so I did it,” she concluded.
Of all the moments and all the performances, there was nothing more showstopping than the enthusiasm and sheer volume of the TWICE fans in the YouTube Theater. Host Quinta Brunson made a running joke out of it, including telling the audience she wanted to try something and then whispered “TWICE” into her microphone, causing the fans to scream on cue. The nine-piece girl group accepted the Breakthrough Award from certified ONCE Sabrina Carpenter, with Chaeyoung saying during their speech: “This title Breakthrough Artist proves that if you confidently push for your dream, people who support you will always be your team, you will break through.” According to the vocal crowd on Wednesday night, they’ve definitely broken through in a big way.