Mari Copeny, a 14-year-old advocate for environmental justice who has already demonstrated more social commitment than most people do in a lifetime, will receive the Changemaker Award at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards, which will be held May 15 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The show, hosted by Sean “Diddy” Combs, will air live coast-to-coast on NBC and will stream live on Peacock.
Mari, who is often called Little Miss Flint for her efforts in bringing attention to the water crisis in her hometown of Flint, Mich., will be the third recipient of the Changemaker Award, following rapper, actor and activist Killer Mike and rapper and record executive Trae Tha Truth.
The Changemaker honor is given to pop culture figures who speak truth to power through their commitment to individual action and leadership. The award was introduced at the BBMAs in 2020, amid the national reckoning on race and social justice that followed the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
“I’m excited to be honored by the Billboard Music Awards for my community efforts and commitment to highlight America’s water issues,” said Mari. “I’m hopeful that this inspires others to fight for what’s right, even when no one else is looking.”
Mari has her own website, on which she describes herself as: “Philanthropist. Activist. Future President.”
That last ambition may be audacious, but you wouldn’t want to bet against her. Mari first gained national attention in 2016 when, at age 8, she wrote a letter to President Obama about the water crisis in Flint. On April 25, 2016, Obama wrote back saying, “Letters from kids like you are what make me so optimistic about the future.” Mari’s letter prompted the president to visit the city and survey the water crisis for himself. That visit led to him approving $100 million in relief for the city of Flint.
Mari’s work in the community and successful crowdfunding campaigns have allowed her to raise more than $250,000 and distribute more than a million bottles of water to Flint residents.
To date, she has raised more than $600,000 for her Flint Kids projects. These include giving out more than 17,000 backpacks stuffed with school supplies, hosting community movie screenings, and arranging annual holiday events to deliver thousands of toys.
Mari partnered with water filter company Hydroviv to donate and distribute her very own high-capacity lead-removal filters to families and child-centric organizations in Flint. Every dollar raised for her filter provides the equivalent of 160 bottles of water. To date, she has raised $627,000 for her filters and has shipped them out all over the U.S.
Mari was named to the U.S. Delegation to the 65th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, making her the youngest delegate ever selected.
Mari has also served as Youth Ambassador to the Women’s March on Washington and chairman of the board of directors for Kid Box in 2019. She is an active member of 18 x Eighteen, an initiative to get young people to vote once they turn 18. Mari is a member of the Michigan Department of Education student anti-racism advisory board, and a member of the Flint Youth Justice League, an advisory board through Michigan State University to advise on issues related to the kids of Flint.
Mari has expanded her effort to help communities across the nation dealing with toxic water and has helped the concepts of “environmental racism” and “toxic infrastructure” become more widely understood.
Mari has been featured in such top outlets as Teen Vogue, The Guardian, VICE, TIME, Refinery 29, The Washington Post, NBC News, Rewire and Buzzfeed.
Mari plans to run for president in 2044, the first presidential election after she turns 35 (the minimum age required to serve as president). “My generation will fix this mess of a government,” she says. “Watch us.”
Outside of her work in activism and giving back, Mari is a varsity cheerleader and is competing for Miss Michigan Teen USA in a few weeks.
The 2022 Billboard Music Awards is produced by MRC Live & Alternative. In addition to hosting the show, Sean “Diddy” Combs will also executive produce the show alongside Robert Deaton.
As previously announced, Mary J. Blige will receive the Billboard Icon Award and will also perform on the show. Other performers include Red Hot Chili Peppers (their first performance at the BBMAs since 1999), Silk Sonic (their first performance since they swept four Grammys, including record and song of the year), and Morgan Wallen (his first awards show performance since he was barred from attending and performing at various ceremonies in 2021 after he was caught on camera saying the N-word).
The BBMAs will broadcast live coast-to-coast from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday, May 15 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on NBC and will stream live on Peacock.
Nominations across 62 categories were announced on April 8. The Weeknd is the year’s top nominee, with 17 nods. Doja Cat is the most-nominated female artist with 14 nods. BTS is the most-nominated duo/group with seven nods.
Unique among music awards shows, finalists for the BBMAs are determined by performance on the Billboard charts, which have long been the most authoritative guide for ranking the popularity of artists, songs, and albums. This year’s awards are based on the chart period of April 10, 2021 through March 26, 2022.
Billboard Music Awards finalists and winners are based on key fan interactions with music, including album and digital song sales, streaming, radio airplay, and touring, tracked by Billboard and its data partners, including Luminate.
Tickets to attend the show are open to the public. Prices per ticket start at $90 USD and are available for purchase HERE. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. ET / 3:30 p.m. PT.
Billboard recently announced Billboard MusicCon, a first-of-its-kind event that will expand the footprint of the awards show through exclusive conversations, fan experiences, headline performances, and more. Visit www.billboardmusiccon.com for event details and tickets.
For the latest news on the Billboard Music Award (BBMAs) visit billboardmusicawards.com and billboard.com/bbma. For exclusive content and more, follow the BBMAs on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube) and join the conversation by using the official hashtag for the show, #BBMAs.
The Billboard Music Awards are produced by MRC Live & Alternative, a division of MRC. MRC and Penske Media are co-parent companies of Billboard.