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Must-see moments from the People’s Choice Awards, from Christina Aguilera to Simu Liu

A blond woman in a yellow dress singing into a microphone onstage.
Christina Aguilera performs at the 2021 People’s Choice Awards in Santa Monica.
(Christopher Polk / NBCUniversal/E! Entertainment)

Dozens of pop culture’s brightest stars were honored Tuesday night at the People’s Choice Awards at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica.

BTS, Olivia Rodrigo, Halle Berry, “Squid Game” and “Black Widow” were among the big winners at the star-studded show, which was broadcast on E! and NBC.

Interspersed with inspiring acceptance speeches were show-stopping performances from the likes of Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton and H.E.R.

Here’s a sampling of stand-out moments from the ceremony, hosted by “Saturday Night Live” star Kenan Thompson and attended by a live audience for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aguilera delivers power and nostalgia

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Aguilera stole the show with an ambitious medley of her greatest hits, including “Beautiful,” “Stronger,” “Dirty” and a dramatic rendition of “Genie in a Bottle.”

While accepting this year’s Music Icon award, the “Somos Nada” performer said her “artistry has always been for the fighters in this world — for those who face adversity, for those wanting to invoke change.”

“I have always strived for my music to communicate messages of empowerment, whether it’s speaking my own truths or giving voice to those unable to do so on their own,” she said. “Believing in yourself is often the biggest obstacle of all, and throughout the years, I’ve heard your stories about the impact of songs like ‘Beautiful,’ ‘Fighter,’ ‘Can’t Hold Us Down’ and, yes, even ‘Dirty.’ ...

“Thank you for listening and thank you for fighting. You inspire me every day. And I want to thank all of the women who I’ve been blessed to share the stage, microphone and recording studio with over the years. You are all icons to me, and I’m proud that together we have strengthened the voices of women in the music industry.”

Dwayne Johnson gives award to Make-a-Wish recipient

While accepting the People’s Champion award, “Red Notice” actor Johnson saluted “the original people’s champion,” boxing legend Muhammad Ali, before shocking the crowd by giving his trophy to a “survivor” from the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

“I used to call myself the people’s champion ... and then in Louisville, Ky., Muhammad Ali’s hometown, his family came to watch me wrestle one night,” Johnson said.

“Muhammad wasn’t doing that well at that time, and I said, ‘Please tell Muhammad I call myself the people’s champion out of respect. If he doesn’t like it, I will not do it.’ [Ali’s wife] said, ‘He told me to tell you, you are the people’s champion. You have earned it. You take that title.’”

Halle Berry, Dwayne Johnson, Christina Aguilera and other stars will be honored at tonight’s 2021 People’s Choice Awards. Here’s how to tune in.

Johnson then invited stunned Make-a-Wish recipient Shushana to join him onstage. At the end of his motivational speech, he handed his award to Shushana, who received a standing ovation.

Johnson also was crowned the male movie star and comedy movie star of 2021.

“She has fought literally for her life. She has inspired her family, her friends ... the world that is watching,” Johnson said.

“One of my favorite quotes that [Ali] says is, ‘The service to others is the rent you pay for the room you have here on Earth.’ I want to tell you just how much you’ve inspired me and everyone around you. ... I want to give you this because you represent everything that it means to be a people’s champion. So, this is for you.”

Simu Liu dedicates award to ‘Shang-Chi’ director

After “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” won the award for action movie, Liu dedicated the trophy to Destin Daniel Cretton, who directed the Marvel blockbuster and recently signed on to helm a sequel.

Liu, the first actor of Asian descent to headline a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, also landed the award for action movie star.

“There’s a million and a half ways that this movie could have gone wrong,” Liu said. “It was based on a 1970s comic about a Chinese guy with a dad with a Fu Manchu mustache named Fu Manchu. So it took an incredible filmmaker with an incredible vision to imagine this character not as that but as somebody who was layered, who had texture, who had insecurity.

“This movie is so much more than just an action movie, and I think that’s what makes it so brilliant and what makes him so brilliant. So Destin, if you’re watching, this one’s for you.”

Kim Kardashian West thanks Kanye West

Kim Kardashian West commanded the runway in an all-black number with statement black sunglasses while accepting the Fashion Icon award. The beauty mogul gave a shout-out to the designers who dressed her when no one else would, as well as her soon-to-be ex-husband, rapper Kanye West (who recently changed his legal name to Ye).

Kardashian also accepted the honor for reality show on behalf of the “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” team.

Christina Aguilera promises an ‘epic’ reimagining of ‘Genie in a Bottle’ when she performs with the L.A. Philharmonic this weekend at the Hollywood Bowl.

“I started off as a closet organizer and a stylist, so the fact that I’m winning a Fashion Icon award, it’s like a pinch-me moment,” she said.

“Thank you to ... so many amazing designers like Riccardo [Tisci] and Olivier [Rousteing] that really believed in me and, well, probably were talked into it by getting a call from Kanye. So thank you to Kanye, even, for really introducing me to the fashion world.”

H.E.R. pays tribute to Marvin Gaye

R&B superstar H.E.R. lit up the People’s Choice Awards stage with a soulful musical tribute to Motown pioneer Gaye, whose seminal studio album “What’s Going On” was released 50 years ago.

Sporting a Gaye-esque beanie and backed by a dancing band, the Grammy nominee performed a crowd-pleasing mashup of the album’s title track and “Inner City Blues.”

“Marvin Gaye is a legend, and his message was literally for the people, and his music, it still applies to today,” H.E.R. told actor Laverne Cox on the red carpet before the show.

“I love that we’re celebrating him tonight. It was an album that touched everybody’s lives, so I’m excited. It’s an honor for me.”


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