We'll let you in on a little secret.
Most award shows are orchestrated to within an inch of their lives. They have to be, of course, or else they all risk running wildly off course, let alone wildly over time.
But another secret is, the script is set so that the unexpected moments have a safe space to blossom, so that the emotional F-bombs cause as little collateral damage as possible, so that everyone involved can feel free to have that spontaneous fun that separates one ceremony from another.
Enter the 2019 People's Choice Awards.
Actors, singers, athletes, social media stars and influencers on one (Noah Centineo was hobbled by a knee injury) two, and four (Doug the Pug was in the house) legs gathered at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif., to celebrate an evening of honors chosen directly by all the lovely People out there.
Because, as Robert Downey Jr., who kicked off the proceedings tonight (with spoilers, so hopefully you'd already seen Avengers: Endgame), reminded everyone, "It's important for us industry types to remember, we actually work for the audience."
More than a billion votes were cast in 42 categories, not all of which E! tried to cram into a prime-time ceremony—and you are welcome. But we did plan on bringing you the crème de la crème, so without further adieu, here's what stood out on a night all about the fans and their favorites:
All Hart: Fittingly, the first award of the night, Comedy Act of 2019, went to Kevin Hart, who was making his first official appearance since being injured in a car accident on Sept. 1, suffering damage to his spine that required surgery and 10 days spent in the hospital. His first-ever Netflix stand-up special, Irresponsible, premiered in April.
First and foremost he thanked God, "because I definitely don't have to be here," said the actor and comedian, who had updated fans on his progress via social media but was otherwise lying low for the last couple of months. "Being that I am, it makes me appreciate life even more, it makes me appreciate the things that matter. I want to thank my wife and my kids, who really stepped up to the plate for me… The people, man, you have no idea the effect that you have on us as entertainers: your energy, your support, it truly means the world and I want to thank you for being there for me in my difficult time."
The Best Friend: Adam Sandler went all out (he wore a tie and told an amazing, presumably fake story about them skipping out on a check 30 years ago) presenting the People's Icon of 2019 Award to Jennifer Aniston, who's back on TV (or on whatever device you use to engage in TV-watching-like habits) in Apple TV+'s The Morning Show, which has already been picked up for a second season.
"She's exactly the way you think she is, everybody," Sandler said in extolling her greatness.
Of course, her reputation proceeded her, the TV and movie star having smashed a world record last month by getting to a million followers on Instagram in five hours and 16 minutes, faster than anyone else has done it, ever. (Though, really, having access to a photo of all six Friends stars reunited did give her an unfair advantage.)
"When I first heard that I had won this Icon Award, the first thing I thought was, Holy shite, have I been around this long?" Aniston quipped.
She and Sandler returned to the stage at the end of the evening to accept the last award of the night, Comedy Movie of 2019, for Murder Mystery, which is streaming on Netflix right this second if you need more than just a few minutes with these two.
Without a Doubt: Gwen Stefani, honored with the Fashion Icon Award tonight, literally took our breath away on the red carpet in her high-low Vera Wang gown, white with a massive black bow in the back, which she paired with black over-the-knee boots and black elbow-length gloves. She wore her hair down and loose, Veronica-Lake-old-Hollywood-style, a smoky eye with a neutral lip, and a simple diamond necklace.
Oh, and the skirt of her dress was embroidered with the words "Fashion Icon" in the same style of lettering as her Wind It Up album.
Such is the stuff jaw-dropping red carpet moments are made of—perhaps made all the more so in this case because she first appeared hand-in-hand with a jeans-wearing Blake Shelton. His nicest dungarees, to be sure, but the juxtaposition of his this-is-as-fancy-as-I-get look while she shined like a diamond added an extra level of charm, just like their entire SoCal-meets-Oklahoma relationship.
"Thanks to Pink," Shelton said during his win for Country Artist of 2019, because now I know we can cuss on this show, and I want to say to Gwen Stefani, I love the s--t out of you."
Queen of the Night: It's Zendaya's world, we're just trying to get dressed in it and look somewhat presentable.
The actress and star whose outfit you can't wait to see on red carpets no matter the occasion was a dual winner Sunday, winning Female Movie Star of 2019 for Spider-Man: Far From Home and Drama TV Star of 2019 for Euphoria, the controversy-courting HBO series that managed to push an envelope we had assumed was stamped and mailed long ago.
But while the show has some people obsessed and others frantically figuring out how to work the parental controls on their cable box, it's unequivocally a drama that shines a spotlight on some pressing issues facing today's youth and the most underrepresented, at-risk members of society. (At the opposite end of the spectrum you have the Marvel Universe, whose characters don't hurt for representation.)
"Euphoria and Rue is one of the most beautiful things to ever happen to me," Zendaya, wearing a gown by Christopher Esber, said Sunday. "I just want to say thank you, obviously to HBO and A24 and [series creator] Sam Levinson for giving me the chance to be a part of something beautiful. But thank you to all of you for receiving it with open hearts… and to anyone who has felt seen by our show, I think on behalf of the cast and crew and everyone, that's all we really ever wanted, so thank you for allowing us to do that. This is amazing, thank you."
Pink was named the People's Champion of 2019—and for countless good reasons.
"My dad's nickname when I was little was Mr. Cause," the Grammy winner, activist (PETA and UNICEF to name a couple of her causes) and nascent winemaker—joined by husband Carey Hart and their children, Willow and Jameson—explained to Jason Kennedy on E! Live From the Red Carpet before the show. "He was a letter writer. I was marching on Washington with him and the other veterans, and doing car washes and homeless dinners on Thanksgiving. It's just important. I don't like bullies and I don't like injustice, and I have a big mouth and the thick skin to be able to fight battles. There's a lot to be done right now. The time is now."
She expanded on that message inside after Alex Morgan, a member of the World Cup-winning U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, handed her that statue.
"Tell me one person can't make a difference," Pink challenged the audience. "I am a dumbass derelict from Doylestown (Penn.), and I have managed to change a little part in my little world— and there is so much to be done. I don't care about your politics. I care about your kids. I care about decency and humanity and kindness. Kindness today is an act of rebellion. There are people that don't have what you have. Help them get it. There is a planet that needs help. It feels good to help. It feels powerful to help."
"Stop fighting each other and help each other. Get together with your friends and change the f--king world."
See? You never know when it's going to happen, you just know that it will.