Why Dua Lipa referenced Neil Portnow’s ‘step up’ comment in her Grammys speech

Dua Lipa won best new artist at the 61st Grammy Awards.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Fresh on the heels of her Grammy win for new artist, British artist Dua Lipa had choice words for Recording Academy president Neil Portnow, who suggested last year that female artists need to “step up” in order to deserve nominations.

“Women in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers and want to be part of the industry on an executive level, they need to step up because I think they’d be welcome,” he told Variety last January immediately following the 2018 Grammy Awards. Portnow quickly came under fire for the remarks and expressed his regret days later.

More than a year later, Lipa took direct aim at Portnow’s comments during her acceptance speech on Sunday. After saying she was honored “to be nominated alongside so many incredible female artists this year,” Lipa added, “I guess this year we really stepped up.”


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Backstage in the press room she expounded on her comment.

“Being in the new artist category and having so many female artists nominated is a big change,” she said. “And it’s the change that we hope to see for many years to come. It’s a big difference from the previous years, and I feel so grateful to have been a part of the nominations when they came out … and to see so many women on it.”

This year, 15 women were nominated in the four major categories — a sharp rise from six the year prior.

Portnow took the stage shortly after Lipa’s speech to thank the artists who performed, “including some of the most thrilling new and legendary female voices of our times.

“To me, that only feels right because this past year I’ve been reminded that if coming face to face with an issue opens your eyes wide enough, it makes you more committed than ever to help address those issues,” he continued in his final Grammys address as president of the Recording Academy.

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Backstage, Dua Lipa also commented briefly on rapper 21 Savage’s absence from the awards following an ICE arrest last Sunday.

“I think it’s quite upsetting given that he hasn’t actually done anything and he’s also given so much to American culture even being a Brit,” she said.

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