Kelsea Ballerini Thanks ‘Strong, Empowering, Bold Women’ at Billboard’s Women in Music Event [WATCH]
"Before I was a songwriter, and before I was an artist, I was a fan," Ballerini said from stage, after being introduced by Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott. "I stood in like to meet Hillary, and I stood in line to meet Taylor Swift, and I remember going to Wal-mart to buy [Lady Gaga's] Born This Way record, and I remember saving up to go see Demi Lovato in Nashville.
"I learned by watching strong, empowering, bold women how to become one," the rising star continued. "... I'm so proud to be a part of this event representing women in music. I'm a fan of everyone in this room."
After her speech, Ballerini performed a stripped-down version of "Love Me Like You Mean It," her debut single. The tune peaked at No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart, making Ballerini the first female to lead that ranking with a debut song in nine years (the last woman to do it was Carrie Underwood, with “Jesus, Take the Wheel” in 2006).
"I'm not a legend ...," Lynn tells Billboard with a chuckle. "I'm just me."
Martina McBride presented the country icon with her award.
"She's done things her own way her whole life ... She was an innovator; she wrote about stuff that nobody was talking about during the time ...," McBride tells Billboard. "She just wrote from her heart and about the challenges of being a women in this industry and in this world, and she just is one of a kind."