Celebs' Most Savage Moments During Acceptance Speeches

When we think about it, what better time is there for a celeb to push their personal agenda to the masses than during an awards show acceptance speech? Thanks to a captive audience, uninterrupted airtime, and the guaranteed slew of memes that will make the rounds on social media afterward, an unexpected turn during an acceptance speech can truly live in people's minds forever. 

Of course, when celebs go rogue behind the podium, it sometimes ain't too pretty — but other times, it makes for some simply glorious live TV. While Hollywood has definitely seen its fair share of unconventional moments amid the awards show circuit, none are quite like the ones highlighted below. Breaking from the traditional route of just thanking the academy in question, the blanket cast and crew, or their own grandmother, these famous faces practically originated what it means to drop the mic. From the political to the personal to the downright inappropriate, let's take a look back at some of the most savage celebrity moments during acceptance speeches.

Fiona Apple said what was on her mind

Singer Fiona Apple was 100 percent honest when she took the stage to accept the best new artist award at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards. "I'm not going to do this like everybody else does it," she warned the audience, before sharing an impromptu rally cry with her generation. "This world is bulls**t," Apple began, telling viewers, "You shouldn't model your life about what you think we think is cool and what we're wearing and what we're saying ... Go with yourself." According to People, host Chris Rock quipped, "Let's hear it for Fiona X!"

Considering the time, the musician's speech unfortunately ruffled some feathers, with one NY Rock critic calling it "one of the most ridiculous soliloquies ever to be witnessed at an MTV Awards event" (via Pitchfork). Well, that's a bit harsh. According to Rolling Stone, Apple later explained on her website that she "felt like a sellout," writing, "All of those people who didn't give a f**k who I was ... were now all at once just humoring, appeasing me, and not because of my talent, but instead because of the fact that somehow, with the help of my record company, and my makeup artist, my stylist and my press, I had successfully created the illusion that I was perfect and pretty and rich." She added, "I'd saved myself from misfit status, but I'd betrayed my own kind by becoming a paper doll in order to be accepted."

The time Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift

Kanye West stunned the world when he interrupted future frenemy Taylor Swift's best female video acceptance speech for "You Belong with Me" at the 2009 VMAs. Just when the country-turned-pop star was about to speak, the rapper hopped up on stage, grabbed the microphone, and said, "Yo Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'ma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time!" West handed the mic back to a mortified Swift with a shrug, the audience booed, and an equally shocked Beyoncé later invited Swift back on stage to "have her moment." The "Bad Blood" hitmaker took the whole thing in stride, telling the press, "I don't know him and I don't want to start anything."

For his part, West opened up about the infamous move on The Ellen DeGeneres Show the following year. Explaining that he saw himself as a "soldier of culture" who needed to point out deserving artists who were continually denied acclaim, he also realized, "No one wants that to be my job." However, he later chalked his public apologies up to peer pressure, telling The New York Times in 2013, "If anyone's reading this waiting for some type of full-on, flat apology for anything, they should just stop reading right now."

Kate Winslet refused to thank Harvey Weinstein

When actress Kate Winslet won best actress at the 2009 Academy Awards for her performance in The Reader, she purposefully left now-disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein out of her acceptance speech ... not that we blame her. "I remember being told, 'Make sure you thank Harvey if you win.' And I remember turning around and saying, 'No I won't,'" the actress later told the Los Angeles Times in 2017. "And it was nothing to do with not being grateful. If people aren't well-behaved, why would I thank him?"

In addition to distributing The Reader, the Weinstein Company also distributed Winslet's 1994 debut film, Heavenly Creatures. She went on to claim to the publication that Weinstein himself would constantly imply that she owed him something, with the reminder, "Don't forget who gave you your first movie." Despite knowing the former Hollywood honcho throughout her "entire career," the movie star explained that she thankfully hadn't been a victim of his alleged sexual abuse. Saying that she'd "dodged that bullet," Winslet noted, "He was bullying and nasty. Going on a business level, he was always very, very hard to deal with — he was rude."

Needless to say, when Winslet won her 2009 Oscar and thanked "some of the people along the way who had faith in me," Weinstein was left off the list for good reason.

Meryl Streep called out Donald Trump

Meryl Streep made headlines after taking a jab at then President-elect Donald Trump at the 2017 Golden Globes. Following a campaign speech in late 2015, Trump had faced major backlash over an offensive impression of The New York Times' Serge F. Kovaleski. So, when Streep accepted her lifetime achievement award, she used the opportunity to publicly shame Trump for mocking the journalist's disability. 

"There was one performance this year that stunned me," the beloved actress said. "It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good ... There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back." Streep added, "It kind of broke my heart when I saw it."

For his part, Trump later defended himself on Twitter. In addition to calling Streep "one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood" (...okay), he claimed, "For the 100th time, I never 'mocked' a disabled reporter (would never do that)."

Regina King made a public vow

When accepting her supporting actress in a motion picture award at the 2019 Golden Globes for If Beale Street Could Talk, Regina King made a surprising, but admirable public vow. "In the next two years, everything that I produce — I am making a vow, and it's going to be tough — to make sure that everything that I produce is 50% women," she said. "And I just challenge ... anyone out there who is in a position of power, not just in our industry, in all industries — I challenge you to challenge yourselves and stand with us in solidarity and do the same."

While speaking with Entertainment Tonight shortly after, King revealed that actresses Jessica Chastain and Emma Stone, as well as producers Bert Salke and Tyler Perry, were among the first to reach out to her after her empowering speech. Noting that she wasn't scared of making such a big commitment, King said that she'd already seen how powerful words can be. "It's kind of like when I started directing," the actress explained. "All I had to do was start saying it out loud and the amount of support I got and people that helped find workshops and programs for me to go through to hone those directing skills, it happened as soon as I said it."

Cuba Gooding Jr. didn't let the music play him off

Known for his "Show me the money!" catchphrase from 1996's Jerry Maguire, Cuba Gooding Jr. wasn't about to soften the enthusiasm when he won best supporting actor at the 1997 Academy Awards. Stepping on stage to accept his award, the actor turned around and double fist-pumped for the audience before walking to the podium. 

"I know I have a little bit of time so I'm gonna rush and say everybody, and you cut away, I won't be mad at you," he began. The play-off music predictably started to play after he thanked his wife, his parents, and God, and despite playfully giving his word, Gooding amped things up even more and shouted out the rest of his speech over the music. Pointing repeatedly at the crowd and raising the award in the air, he yelled, "I love you!" multiple times to the movie studio, his co-stars, and various other people. "I'ma keep going!" the actor continued, as many audience members leaped to their feet, clapping in support.

Shonda Rhimes called one award a 'participation trophy'

Hollywood was abuzz after writer and producer Shonda Rhimes delivered a powerful speech while accepting the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award at The Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment Breakfast in 2014. At the time, the showrunner of hits like Grey's Anatomy and Scandal made a risky statement that touched a lot of hearts — and got a lot of people talking. After calling the prestigious award a "participation trophy," Rhimes pointed out that she's really just one woman in a long line of women who have fought for equality.

"When I hit finally that ceiling, it just exploded into dust. Like that," Rhimes explained. "My sisters who went before me had already handled it. No cuts. No bruises. No bleeding. Making it through the glass ceiling to the other side was simply a matter of running on a path created by every other woman's footprints. I just hit at exactly the right time in exactly the right spot." Rhimes, then, was part of a "group effort" of women across generations. "Thank you to all the women in this room," she concluded. "Thank you to all the women who never made it to this room. And thank you to all the women who will hopefully fill a room 100 times this size when we are all gone." 

The speech was so poetic that media outlets like BuzzFeed News simply published the transcript in full.

Marlon Brando turned down an award to make a powerful statement

Since Marlon Brando skipped out on the Academy Awards in 1973, no one knew what was about to happen when he was announced best actor for his performance in The Godfather. In lieu of the actor himself, a Native American woman instead stepped on stage, waved the prize away when the presenter tried to hand it to her, and stood at the podium in full tribal dress.

"Hello. My name is Sacheen Littlefeather," she addressed the crowd. "I'm Apache and I am president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committed." Littlefeather continued, "I'm representing Marlon Brando this evening, and he has asked me to tell you ... that he very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry — excuse me — and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee."

Despite Littlefeather's powerful statement, the sentiment of the 1970s probably wasn't as sympathetic as it might've been now. Later in the show, actor Clint Eastwood presented The Godfather with best picture and sarcastically remarked, "I don't know if I should present this award on behalf of all the cowboys shot in all the John Ford westerns over the years."

Jack Palance did one-armed push-ups on stage

When actor Jack Palance won his first Oscar at the age of 72, he apparently wanted everyone to know he still had it. During his acceptance speech for best supporting actor in 1992, the veteran actor opened up with a snarky comment about a certain 5'7" City Slickers co-star, saying, "Billy Crystal. God. I crap bigger than him." The audience laughed and clapped as he continued, "You know, there are times when you reach a certain age plateau where the producers say ... 'Well, what do you think? Can we risk it? Can we do it? Can we use him?'"

Palance added, "They forget to ask that you go out there and you do all these ... things. Like for instance, you know, you go out there, and you do these one-armed push-ups." At that point, the actor left the podium to literally do one-armed push-ups on stage as the crowd cheered. For his part, Crystal, who had served as host that evening, went on to make a ton of ad-libs attesting to Palance's manliness throughout the rest of the show, according to Yahoo! Entertainment. In reference to a child chorus stage number in Hook, the comedic actor quipped, "Jack Palance is the father of all those kids," and later joked, "Jack Palance just bungee-jumped off the Hollywood sign."

Cardi B threw shade at Nicki Minaj

After winning best new artist at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards, Cardi B thanked everyone who supported her while apparently dissing Nicki Minaj. ICYMI: The fan-favorite rappers had reportedly been feuding since at least the year before. Among other disagreements, Minaj once hinted during a TIDAL Q&A that she didn't consider Cardi B to be her competition because "having a big push from a label doesn't make you great." Meanwhile, the "Bodak Yellow" rapper appeared to clap back in an Instagram Live video, saying if a record label could guarantee hits, they'd be buying #1s for all their artists.

After months of going back and forth in separate interviews, Cardi B delivered her acceptance speech at the VMAs. "All the love that my fans, that my friends, that everybody shows me is genuine, is beautiful," she said, before appearing to throw shade at Minaj. "And that's something that God [gave] me that you can't buy, b***h." The two still didn't seem to get along weeks later, when Cardi B reportedly threw a shoe at Minaj during New York Fashion Week.

Oprah Winfrey delivered an empowering Time's Up speech

At the Golden Globes in 2018, host Seth Meyers joked during his opening monologue that Oprah Winfrey would "never be president." However, the media mogul's impassioned acceptance speech for the lifetime achievement Cecil B. DeMille Award later that evening seriously made us think otherwise. 

"I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue," Winfrey said, while turning her attention to the Time's Up and #MeToo movements. Calling them the "women whose names we'll never know," she noted that we'd lived "too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men." Winfrey continued, "For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up. Their time is up!" 

After the audience gave her a full standing ovation mid-speech, Winfrey concluded by sharing her hope for a time when "nobody ever has to say 'me too' again." While the whole speech did sound pretty presidential, the multi-hyphenate later insisted that she had no intentions to run for office in 2020.