Kesha has been called many things: talented, honest, brave and a trailblazer — which is why she was honored with that particular award Friday at Billboard‘s Women in Music Awards — but the musician admits she has a tough time accepting the accolades.
“I didn’t really feel like standing and getting an award — I didn’t feel worthy of that,” Kesha told the crowd while accepting the honor at Pier 36 in New York City. “But I knew I had to drag myself out of my bed, put on my damn boots, walk up here tonight and say thank you to you guys.”
“I’m not used to winning stuff. Thank you so much. You guys are gonna make me cry — I’m gonna try to not cry but it’s not going to work,” Kesha began her speech after Charlie XCX presented her with the award. “I want to especially thank my fans, who I love and appreciate more than you guys will ever know.”
“And to my peers, your support over the last few years has literally saved my life,” she said on the verge of tears, referencing Iggy Azalea, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and others who fought to #FreeKesha during her contractual battle with Sony. “I’ve never really thought of myself as a trailblazer. I’m just as scared and flawed as any person I know. My message has always been to believe in yourself and love yourself just as you are. When I write those words, I do so as a reminder to myself as much as anyone else.”
Kesha referred to the last year as a “roller coaster,” thanks to an ongoing battle with former producer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, whom she filed a lawsuit against in 2014, claiming he raped and sexually, physically, emotionally and verbally abused her. Her abuse case was ultimately dismissed in April, though the singer and her team are appealing the order. Luke, 43, vehemently denies the allegations and is countersuing for defamation and breach of contract.
“If I’m lucky enough to have a voice someone will listen to, than I should use it for good, for truth,” she continued. “That is why I have recently spoken openly about some of my struggles including my crippling anxiety and beginning recovery for an eating disorder amongst many other things. I know I’m not alone. These are struggles millions of people around the world deal with on a daily basis.”
Kesha acknowledged that part of the problem is the way society sees beauty. “The irony of it is, when I was very, very sick and getting sicker, I would hear about how much better and better I was looking, and that is a problem. I’ve decided I want to be part of the solution. And that’s why I decided to stand confident in my ever-changing, totally imperfect body and try to live up to and practice the self worth and self love that I preach in my music.”
“Finding the strength to come forward about these things it’s not easy, but maybe by me standing here telling my story, I can help somebody else who’s going through something tough,” she explained. “I know it’s scary, but once you take the first steps to help yourself, your life will completely change in the best ways.”
While Kesha had always hoped to win awards, she admitted the ceremony wasn’t the way she’d imagined being honored. “I never dreamed about winning awards for talking honestly about uncomfortable things. I wanted everyone to like my songs and think I was pretty and think my videos are awesome. So, it’s mind blowing to be honored like this after the very public year I had. I feel stuck, I feel sad, and quite frankly, I feel bloated.”
And while getting out of bed may have been a struggle for Kesha Friday, she found the strength to do it — and was glad she did. “Thank you so much for reminding me that what I’m doing is worth it and thank you for caring. This is a huge reminder that I can’t give up. I have to keep fighting for the truth and I have to keep fighting for my dreams. If I can’t give up, neither can anyone else out there with dreams,” she said. And she is sticking to her word — while working on her appeal, Kesha is also writing and recording new music, and hopes to drop a new full length early next year.
“Life is hard sometimes and things don’t always work out the way you planned it. But if you keep on believing and you keep working hard, and you keep fighting and you keep showing up for yourself, you can move mountains. Sometimes your journey will take unexpected turns, but that’s the beauty of life … Get up and show up for yourself and don’t let anyone stop you, and most importantly, do not let anyone else ever take your happiness. You are worth it. And thank you for reminding me, I’m worth it too,” she said, evoking applause, a standing ovation and tears.
Billboard‘s Women In Music special airs Monday at 9 p.m. ET on Lifetime.