From the Oscars to VMAs to Emmys, these are the most memorable award show moments ever

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We’re looking back at some of the biggest award show moments from years past.

From triumphant wins and musical performances to powerful speeches that have stood the test of time, theGrio has a list of some of the most memorable award show moments from years past.

‘Moonlight’ wins Oscar for best picture

After months of “Moonlight” vs. “La La Land” dominating the 2017 awards season, everything came to a head on Oscars night, when we would finally learn which film would take the coveted Academy Award for Best Picture. While “La La Land” and “Moonlight” earned rave reviews from critics and audiences, the latter, from Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, offered a new kind of tender, Black, queer love story we had never seen before, making its eventual win for best picture that much sweeter.

Before this, however, was one of the biggest fiascos in the award show’s history. “La La Land” was announced, live on air, as the winner, with the creative team taking to the stage to celebrate their win. That was until it was revealed by “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz that there was a serious mishap: “Moonlight” was indeed the winner for Best Picture.

In front of a stunned and cheering crowd, the “Moonlight” team eventually got on stage to accept the award. A shocking, puzzling, and truly one-of-a-kind happening, the “Moonlight” win even now feels bittersweet, as both parties were not given the time to truly enjoy their moments. Still, the win stands as a moving moment where Black talent got to shine.

Moonlight Cast Oscars 2017, Most memorable award show moments ever
onstage during the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California.

Mariah and Whitney sing ‘When You Believe’ at the Oscars

A musical moment for the ages occurred when two of the biggest singers at the time, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, took to the Oscars stage in 1999 to perform “When You Believe,” their soaring duet from “The Prince of Egypt.” Although the two had performed the song together multiple times, this iteration was by far their grandest, as the songbirds, backed by a massive choir, belted to the heavens at the 71st Academy Awards.

Stephen Schwartz, the song’s composer, took home the Academy Award for best song that night, punctuating a wonderful victory lap for the ballad.

Beyoncé’s ‘Love on Top’ pregnancy announcement

Picture this: It’s 2011, Beyoncé is performing her latest single off “4,” and delivers one of the biggest VMA moments of all time. Seconds after singing “Love on Top” to millions at home, Queen Bey drops her mic and opens her blazer to reveal her pregnant belly.

Yes, the Queen announced she was expecting her first child, Blue Ivy, who we would meet and also fall in love with in the months to come.The moment, still celebrated today, was pure, uninhibited joy, as many of us saw a performer we had watched for years share one of the most precious things a person can reveal with the entire world.

Halle Berry’s Oscar win

In 2002, Halle Berry became the first Black woman to win the Oscar for best actress. We remember Berry’s powerful, tearful speech at the 74th Academy Awards.

“This moment is so much bigger than me,” Berry stated before citing the women who came before her, including Dorothy Dandridge and Lena Horne. She mentioned the women who “stand beside her,” such as Jada Pinkett Smith and Angela Bassett, and “every nameless, faceless woman of color” who now had a chance because of Berry’s win. Berry remains the only Black actress to take home the coveted award.

Halle Berry Occar,
American actress Halle Berry accepts the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in “Monster’s Ball”, at the 74th Annual Academy Awards, held at the Kodak Theater In Hollywood, California, March 24, 2002. (Photo By Getty Images)

Eddie Murphy at the 1988 Oscars

One of the most memorable Oscars moments, courtesy of Eddie Murphy, was not from a particular win or performance. In a powerful speech while presenting the award for best picture, Murphy went off-script, detailing how he told his manager he did not want to present when asked.

“My first reaction was to say no … I said, ‘I am not going because they have not recognized Black people in motion pictures.” Long before campaigns like #OscarsSoWhite, Murphy called out the academy for the lack of representation and respect for Black talent in the industry. “I just feel that we have to be recognized as a people.”

Viola Davis’ historic Emmy win

Another historic moment in Hollywood came in 2015, when Viola Davis became the first Black woman to win an Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a drama series. Her moving speech, which kicked off with an inspiring Harriet Tubman quote, spoke to the power of diversity in front of and behind the scenes in Hollywood.

“The only thing that separates women of color from anybody else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there,” she said before shouting out creators such as Shonda Rhimes and fellow actresses including Taraji P. Henson and Kerry Washington.

Actress Viola Davis, winner of Outstanding Lead Actress
Actress Viola Davis, winner of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for “How to Get Away With Murder,” poses in the press room at the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Prince wins the BET Lifetime Achievement Award

A larger-than-life moment for a larger-than-life icon, the celebration of Prince at the 2010 BET Awards remains a highlight for music fans. Followed by tribute performances from the likes of Janelle Monae, Esperanza Spalding, Alicia Keys, and Patti LaBelle, Prince accepted the award and gave a speech to remember.

In a plea to the creators and musicians in the audience and at home, the “Let’s Go Crazy” singer said, “You don’t have to do what I did. You don’t have to make any of the mistakes I made.” The singer also took the time to inspire, saying, “The future’s in your hands now, and the world is really yours.”

 the Lifetime Achievement Award during the 2010
Musician Prince accepts the Lifetime Achievement Award during the 2010 BET Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on June 27, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Denzel Washington’s second Oscar win

Another memorable and moving Oscar win belongs to Denzel Washington, who in 2002 took home the award for best actor, making him the second Black actor to do so. While this was not Washington’s first Academy Award (he won the best supporting actor award for his work in 1989’s “Glory”), this second Oscar was marked by a particularly powerful speech shouting out Sidney Poitier, who was in attendance and an honoree during the same ceremony.

“Forty years I’ve been chasing Sidney, what do they do, they give it to him the same night,” Washington quipped. “I’ll always be chasing you, Sidney. I will always be following in your footsteps. There is nothing I would rather do, sir.” The moment, which highlights two generations of Black powerhouses in film, stands as one of the most thrilling and emotional tributes to hit the Oscars stage.

Denzel Washington Osca
Winner of the best actor Academy Award for his performance in “Training Day,” Denzel Washington, poses at The Governor’s Ball after the 74th Annual Academy Awards March 24, 2002 at The Kodak Theater In Hollywood, CA. (Photo By Getty Images)

Queen Latifah inspires at theGrio Awards

At theGrio Awards in 2022, Queen Latifah brought down the house with a rousing speech about the industry, her career, and her peers. While the speech honored her fellow award winners of the night, the highlight was when Latifah spoke to “leaving the door open” for talent coming up, truly diving into what it means to have and leave a legacy.

“I pray that God continues to give me the strength to fight the same devilishness that I’ve seen since I was a child,” Queen Latifah said in her speech. “To fight the same wrongs that are still here … to share this. Don’t open that door and let it close behind you! What’s wrong with you? Leave it open. Leave it open.”

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