LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mr. SexyBack said he wasn’t always one of the cool kids.
Justin Timberlake said at the iHeartRadio Music Awards that he was called “weird” as a teenager, and offered encouraging words to children experiencing teasing and bullying. Timberlake earned the 2015 iHeartRadio Innovator Award for his accomplishments as an entertainer.
“Growing up in school, no one ever called me anything close to an innovator, they called me different, they called me weird, they called me a couple of other words I can’t say on TV,” he told the audience Sunday at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. “So thankfully my mother taught me that being different was a good thing, that being different meant you could actually make a difference, so tonight I want to thank my mom.”
Timberlake, who recently had his first child with Jessica Biel, also thanked his wife, who didn’t attend the awards show.
“Finally, I want to thank my best friend, my favorite collaborator, my wife Jessica,” he said. “Honey, I can’t wait to see our greatest creation yet.”
Timberlake was just one of the big stars at the iHeartRadio Music Awards, which also included Taylor Swift, Madonna and Snoop Dogg.
Rihanna performed her new single, “B---- Better Have My Money,” for the first time. The b-word wasn’t bleeped throughout the performance, where Rihanna sported a bright green mink with matching knee high boots and sunglasses.
Swift was an early winner, appropriately taking home the award for best lyrics for her hit song, “Blank Space.”
“This is amazing because writing lyrics is my favorite part of this job,” Swift said about her song about the media portrayal of her relationships.
Swift is also up for three other awards, including artist of the year.
Iggy Azalea and Jennifer Hudson kicked off the show with a jail-themed performance: Azalea was dressed as an inmate and Hudson as a police officer as they performed “Trouble” with a set design that included bathroom stalls and a jail cell with laser light bars.
Nick Jonas followed the theme with his arms and neck tied in thick chains, while he sang his latest hit, “Chains,” as dancers wearing black and white stripes danced around him.
Jamie Foxx was hosting the show, and offered some jokes about celebrities, including Bruce Jenner, Suge Knight and Marvin Gaye.
“Marvin Gaye had an incredible year. Marvin Gaye had the No. 1 song featuring Pharrell and Robin Thicke,” he said. “He’s making beats in heaven. He might be dead, but he ain’t dead broke.”
Meghan Trainor, Florida Georgia Line and Kelly Clarkson also performed, and the night is set to feature more performances, including Snoop Dogg, Jason Derulo, Alesso and Nate Ruess of fun.
Smith and Azalea were the top nominees with five apiece. They, along with Ariana Grande and Luke Bryan, will compete with Swift for artist of the year.
Guests at the iHeartRadio Music Awards sat at traditional tables — in the vein of the Golden Globes — instead of typical awards show seats. Chris Brown sat with Ludacris, while Snoop Dogg’s table included Swift, Timberlake and Ryan Seacrest.
Jason Aldean won the award for country song of the year for “Burnin’ It Down.”
“I want to thank my new wife Brittany over there,” said Aldean, who got married last week.
Smith won best new artist and accepted in a video message while Jeremih and YG won hip-hop/R&B song of the year for “Don’t Tell Em.”
“Since I didn’t get my Grammy nomination for best rap album ... I’ll roll with this,” rapper YG said.
The three-hour, fan-voted event is airing live on NBC and iHeartMedia’s radio stations.