“The people have spoken” read the event’s ubiquitous decor in white capital letters nearly two stories high.
This definitive slogan was tied to the People’s Choice Awards, a Sunday night shindig that, after airing on CBS for 44 years, made its debut this year on E!, the network that famously turned the long walk into an awards show into a show in itself.
“This is the first air-conditioned carpet I think I’ve ever been on,” Jimmy Fallon told reporters just before the show began at Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar. “I’m not melting like I usually am!”
The rebooted ceremony distinguished itself from the usual awards show by including honors specifically highlighting online content.
“I wouldn’t say ‘it’s about time,’ but more ‘it was only a matter of time,’” said Jackie Aina, who was nominated for the newly added beauty influencer category. Ria Ciuffo of the nominated pop podcast Chicks in the Office added, “It’s crazy — we’ve spent our time interviewing the people who are here tonight, and now we’re their fellow nominees.”
But the winners of these groups weren’t announced during the two-hour live telecast. Instead, the cameras zoomed in on A-listers such as Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Johnny Galecki, Sarah Silverman and the stars of a slew of shows in the NBCUniversal family of channels (which includes E!).
Many of the evening’s speeches paid tribute to the important issues of the particularly strenuous week. Multiple winners, including “The Spy Who Dumped Me” actress Mila Kunis and “Avengers: Infinity War” star Danai Gurira, called for donations to the Los Angeles Fire Department as it works to contain the wildfires blazing throughout California.
“To the first responders, your courage, your bravery, what you do to serve those out there who need you is beyond words,” said Gurira while accepting the award for Movie of the Year alongside Scarlett Johansson and Pom Klementieff. “Thank you for what you do.”
When Chrissy Teigen presented the women of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” with the Reality Show award, Kim Kardashian West — alongside Khloe Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, Kendall Jenner and Kris Jenner — mentioned the fires as well as the Thousand Oaks tragedy earlier this week.
“Our hearts are broken from the horrific shootings and those who have lost their lives and homes, as well as the hundreds of thousands of us that have been evacuated from the devastating fires that are currently burning,” she said. “Our country is stronger when we come together, and we cannot face devastation alone. We must continue to reach out to each other in trying times.”
Melissa McCarthy used her People’s Choice Icon acceptance speech to reiterate the importance of voting, especially in light of the recent midterm elections (and their uncalled results).
“I’m thankful to you because you actually engaged and you cared about things … and you put the time and the effort to make your voice heard,” said the actress. “We’re never gonna agree on everything … but tonight, your collective voice matters.”
And with a nod to Veterans Day, “Avengers: Infinity War” actress Johansson dedicated her win for Female Movie Star “to the armed forces who put their lives on the line every day so we don’t have to.” Blake Shelton, accepting the award for top country artist, wore a Veterans Day pin in tribute to his father.
See the red-carpet arrivals at the People’s Choice Awards:
“Black Panther” and “The Walking Dead” actress Danai Gurira(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
A “Wynonna Earp” group shot includes actress Katherine Barrell, left, producer Emily Andras, actor Tim Rozon and actress Melanie Scrofano, all attending the People’s Choice Awards 2018 at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica.(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
“The Real” co-host Jeannie Mai(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
“Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments” actress Alisha Wainwright(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
“Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments” actor Matthew Daddario(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
“Rel” and “Uncle Drew” actor Lil Rel Howery(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
Actresses Bailey McKnight and Brooklyn McKnight(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
“The Bold and the Beautiful” and “Big Brother” actress Jessica Graf(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
Wrestlers Brie Bella, left, and Nikki Bella(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
“Riverdale” actress Camila Mendes(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
“Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments” actor Isaiah Mustafa(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
Actress Manu Gavassi(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” actor Terry Crews and Rebecca King-Crews(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
Jenni ‘JWoww’ Farley(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
“Avengers: Infinity War” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" actress Pom Klementieff(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
Courtney Act(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
“Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments” and “Crazy Rich Asians” actor Harry Shum Jr.(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
Giuliana Rancic(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
“This Is Us” actress Susan Kelechi Watson(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
“Extra” host Renee Bargh(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
Actress Aisha Jade(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
Actress Nadia Fairfax(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
Lufy(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
Actress Alejandra Azcarate(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)
Though the night was sprinkled with moments of levity — such as when Fashion Icon Award recipient Victoria Beckham quoted Spice Girls lyrics onstage, or when performer and double winner Nicki Minaj humorously dedicated an award “to Kim Kardashian’s ass in that dress” — the most joyful section of the show came from Bryan Stevenson.
After a performance and introduction by John Legend, Stevenson, the renowned activist and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, delivered a four-minute speech discussing the problems of America’s justice system.
“To end hate, some of us are going to have to stand up when people say sit down, some of us are going to have to speak when they tell us to be quiet,” he said.
“To end the hate, we have to embrace hope because hopelessness is the enemy of justice. …,” Stevenson continued. “We got to be hopeful and do uncomfortable things. We’ve got to do some difficult things. If we do them together, we can create a new America. There’s something better waiting for us.”
Though celebrities’ comments at televised award shows can often feel like lip service, his speech — or rather sermon — felt like the most authentic address of the evening, eliciting a genuine standing ovation.
Thanks to Stevenson, the show’s slogan was true: The people had indeed spoken.