With the #MeToo movement hitting its stride, 2018 was a year ripe for change for women in the entertainment industry. While this was a year of women's voices being uplifted, representation hasn't improved all that much. Spotify's top-streaming artists are all men, Forbes' list of highest paid musicians only had two women in the top 10, and women only topped the Billboard No. 1 albums list six times in 52 weeks. That made last night's Billboard Women In Music Awards event all the more crucial.
Women from all genres of music, like Kacey Musgraves, SZA, Hayley Kiyoko, Cyndi Lauper, Janelle Monáe, and Ariana Grande came out to not just celebrate their own accomplishments, but those of the other artists in the room — not despite, but because they were women.
Even new artists like Maggie Rogers, whose debut album is slated to come out this January, are aware of the way the industry likes to pit women against each other, which is why she walked the red carpet arm-in-arm with friend and fellow new musician Fletcher.
"The biggest thing is that so often music creates competition between women and that's crazy, because music is about feeling and bringing people together," Rogers told Refinery29 on the red carpet. "Everyone is so different, there's space for everyone in music."
One of the women making that space is Janelle Monáe. Monáe presented the band St. Beauty with the American Express Impact Award after serving as their mentor during their career, calling their music "real, relatable, and empowering." The two women behind the band, Alexe Belle and Isis Valentino, used their acceptance speech as an ode to the Dirty Computer singer.
"Alexe and I, we used to be coworkers at a vintage store," Valentino told the audience. "We became a band there, and we started performing in the basement and that's how we started St. Beauty, and the fact that Janelle showed up and saw something special in us? It means the world to us and it's an honor to have her as our mentor."
Monáe and St. Beauty weren't the only close pals to take the stage: Lauren Jauregui presented her friend and singer Kiyoko with the Rising Star Award, and Patti LaBelle presented Grande, with whom she bonded with during their 2014 performance for President Obama.
Then, Alicia Keys came on stage to prove that the industry was also walking the walk with She Is The Music, an initiative with Billboard helping women in the music industry connect with one another to get better representation not only in front of the microphone but in the recording studio and in the nitty-gritty trenches of engineering our favorite songs. Because while it's important to have the support of men, it's clear that first and foremost women are the ones who will lift each other up and create the world we deserve.
"When I was starting they had quotas of women." Lauper remembered in her speech accepting the Icon Award. "I guess it's kind of still like that, but you [honorees] are kicking down doors and that is awesome…I stand on the shoulder of women who came before me," Lauper said in the conclusion of her speech. "As you guys are standing on mine and others will come and stand on yours."
Watch the shoulder-standing in action below.