Making Grammys 2023 history as a trans woman, Kim Petras celebrates her big win

Kim Petras accepts the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance award for "Unholy" at the 65th GRAMMY Awards at Arena
Kim Petras accepts the Grammy for best pop duo/group performance for "Unholy," her collaboration with Sam Smith, at Sunday's Grammy Awards. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times )
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Kim Petras made history on Sunday as the first transgender woman to win the Grammy Award for pop duo/group performance.

The singer shared the prize with Sam Smith for their smash-hit collaboration, "Unholy." During her speech, Petras spoke about the importance of the groundbreaking moment and paid tribute to her late friend, Sophie, a Scottish-born music producer who was a trailblazer for the trans community.

Sophie, whose full name was Sophie Xeon, fell from the balcony of an Athens apartment in Greece, dying in January 2021.

"I just want to thank all the incredible transgender legends before me who've kicked these doors open for me so I could be here tonight — Sophie, especially," Petras said.

"My friend who passed away two years ago told me this would happen and always believed in me. Thank you so much for your inspiration, Sophie. I adore you, and your inspiration will forever be in my music."

Petras also gave shout-outs to Madonna "for fighting for LGBTQ rights" and to her mother, "who believed me that I was a girl" when she was growing up "in nowhere, Germany." The vocalist received a standing ovation from the crowd.

"This is a huge moment for me," she continued. "Sam, thank you. You're a true angel and hero in my life, and I love you. And everyone who made the song too! I love you guys so much. Sorry I didn't write down the names. I love you."

Later in the Grammys press room, Petras elaborated on what her historic win meant to her.

"All these years are going through my head of people saying I’d be a niche artist because I’m transgender, and my music would only ever play in gay clubs — and what’s wrong with that, because I love gay clubs — but now I got a Grammy for making gay club music with my friend,” she said. “It’s the best feeling in the world.”

Petras also lauded her duet partner, Smith, and revealed how their Grammy-winning collaboration came to be. To celebrate, Petras said, she and Smith "just need to be slutty girls and hit the town," adding that she'll need to "get really, really drunk to process it."

"Sam has been a very special friend and supporter of mine for years now," Petras continued.

"In the very beginning of my career, Sam reached out and said, 'I'm inspired by you, and I'd love to make a song with you eventually.' It took us a lot of songs we sent back and forth that weren't the right fit, and finally 'Unholy' came along, and we both felt like this was our little baby."

In a statement, GLAAD executive Anthony Allen Ramos celebrated the Grammys achievements of Petras, Smith and other musicians making strides for the LGBTQ community.

"By awarding queer artists from so many segments of the LGBTQ community and representing so many musical genres as Grammy winners, the Recording Academy reminded the world just how impactful LGBTQ people are when it comes to creating music," Ramos said.

"From Sam Smith and Kim Petras breaking barriers for non-binary and transgender people in music by winning the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, to Brandi Carlile and Wet Leg dominating the Rock and Alternative Music categories with multiple wins, and Steve Lacy’s win for Best Progressive R&B album, the Grammy Awards were dominated by more openly LGBTQ artists and musicians than ever before.”

After Petras delivered her moving speech onstage, Twitter was abuzz with commentary praising the boundary-pushing artist.

"goosebumps and tears after that kim petras speech," tweeted Rolling Stone and former Los Angeles Times reporter Tomás Mier. "that's historic."

"That beautiful speech from Kim Petras is going to save lives," tweeted Variety reporter Elizabeth Wagmeister. "And the look on Sam Smith’s face of genuine happiness and support is what it’s all about."

"I love that kim petras made her speech not only about herself and shouted the dolls that have inspired her that came before her," tweeted @NATERERUN.

"kim petras thanking sophie in her speech and getting a standing ovation was so necessary & well deserved," tweeted @gagasyuyi.

"So f— proud of you @kimpetras and everything you do for pop music and the community!" tweeted @itstetrisbish. "What a beautiful speech. Been here from the start and your journey is so inspiring. We ain’t going no where, I t’s only up from here!! WOO-AHH!!!"

Times staff writers Kenan Draughorne and Nardine Saad contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.