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Rihanna Wins First-Ever 'Icon Award' at American Music Awards

The award was presented by her mother

Bill Maher, Rihanna and her mother Monica Fenty backstage at the American Music Awards.
Kevin Mazur/AMA2013/WireImage
November 24, 2013 10:20 PM ET

Following a stunning performance of her song "Diamonds," Rihanna accepted the first-ever Icon Award at the American Music Awards tonight. It was presented to her by her mother, Monica Braithwaite, following a video commemoration from Jay Z and a video montage showing her career highlights. "I know the journey and your career has not always been an easy one," Braithwaite said. "But tonight I applaud and admire you for being so strong and so positive and so humble and so focused. . .  I'm so blessed to be part of this historic moment."

See Why Rihanna Made Our 50 Best Rock-Star Instagram Account List

The award presentation came about midway through the show when Bill Maher came out to emcee the proceedings. "She has become, I think, the voice of our time," he opined. Then he introduced a montage of her accomplishments, including a sound bite of Jay Z talking about how he knew there was something special about her when he first met her. It also displayed all her accomplishments, including being the "Best-Selling Digital Artist of All Time," her social media numbers and quote from artist Damien Hirst claiming she's strong and that she's making a generation of strong women.

Rihanna then performed her song "Diamonds," off her most recent full-length, Unapologetic. Wearing a long black dress with a frilling neckline that plunged down to her navel and diamond-studded hair adornments and a neckpiece, she waved her arms wildly, holding up a single finger as she sang, "I knew that we'd become one right away." An orchestra, complete with conductor, accompanied her as a rock band carried the beat – something she drummed along to – until she shuffled her feet and arched her back walking back in Maher's direction.

Rihanna used the moment to recall her youth. "Thank you so much," she said. Turning her direction to her mother, she continued, "I'll start by saying just about 20 years ago is when I really started making your life a living hell with my 'annoying little husky man voice,' you'd call it. And I mean just disrupting the entire neighborhood. . . I annoyed every one of my neighbors." She then fast-forwarded a decade to the audition that landed her the record deal that eventually led her to Jay Z. 

Following thank yous to a bevy of people including Jay Z and producer Antonio "L.A." Reid, she ended her speech by expressing her disbelief. "I can't believe that at 25 years old I'm holding an Icon award," she said.

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“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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