Up for five awards, Lambert, 33, took the stage to perform her new track “Tin Man” before she was awarded the album of the year honors. When her name was called, the star leapt from her seat, receiving a hug from East, 28, before returning to the stage to accept her trophy.
“Thank you for letting me use my heartbreak and sharing it with me,” Lambert said in her speech, alluding to last year’s The Weight of These Wings, the first album she released after her 2015 divorce from Blake Shelton.
“I’m so thankful because I really used my stories and it’s basically like my diary won album of the year,” she continued in the press room. “To me, country music is about truth, about what’s really going on, whether it’s happy or sad or somewhere in the middle. For me in the past couple of years, it’s been more sad than happy, but it’s moving to another direction. I’m really glad people can relate to an emotion like that.”
Later in the evening, Lambert made history, becoming the first ever performer to take home the female vocalist of the year title eight consecutive times.
“Thank you so much guys. It really means the world to me. Carrie can sing me under the table. We’ve agreed on that. I’m just glad to see females kicking ass these days. I’m so excited to be a part of that. So cheers to all of us girls out there dreaming,” she said in her speech, acknowledging her fellow nominees — Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves and Carrie Underwood — then gesturing at East in the front row before exiting the stage.
“It is a record. I was tied with Reba [McEntire]. I heard that only yesterday, so it’s super a lot of pressure,” Lambert said shortly after in the press room. “I’m really so thrilled that I can help lead the charge for women in this business, at any level of this business. I’m so thrilled that I can keep pushing forward and making way for other women to do the same thing, but I’ll be happy when it’s someone else’s turn. I’m really humbled by it.”
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Lambert and East have remained fiercely private about their relationship. But last November — one day after attending the 50th Annual CMA Awards together — Lambert took to Instagram to slam social media trolls who left hateful comments about them online, defending her romance with “my sweet man.” East followed suit, sharing a photo with Lambert from the show, simply captioned: “I was the big winner last night!”
In addition to her ongoing My Highway Vagabond Tour, Lambert will hit the festival circuit this summer; East — who contributed a song, “What Would It Take,” to the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack — will open for Chris Stapleton on tour this summer.
The ACM Awards broadcast live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on April 2 at 8:00 p.m. ET on CBS.