Harry Styles paid tribute to his former One Direction bandmates as he claimed his second win of the night at the Brit Awards.
The biggest names from the world of music, from Stormzy to Sam Smith, have descended on London’s O2 Arena for the annual ceremony.
Styles, who was nominated in four categories going into the evening, first won the award for best pop/R&B act, which is voted for by the public via TikTok.
After punching the air and taking to the stage, he thanked his fans before adding: “I have so many wonderful memories at the Brits so thank you for another one. It is so good to be home.”
Then while accepting the gong for best artist, he added: “I want to thank my family for being the most supportive, understanding, patient, loving family I could have ever asked for.
“I want to thank my mum for signing me up for The X Factor without telling me, so I literally wouldn’t be here without you.
“I want to thank Niall, Louis, Liam and Zayn because I wouldn’t be here without you either. Thank you so much.”
In an apparent reference to the online backlash to comments he made at the Grammys last weekend, he added that he was “very aware of my privilege up here tonight”.
The Brits have faced a backlash this year, their second with gender-neutral categories, after the best artist list was dominated entirely by men, with Central Cee, Fred Again, George Ezra, Stormzy and Styles featuring.
This was despite an increase in female artists or all-women groups across the board.
In his speech, Styles namechecked Charli XCX, Rina Sawayama, Mabel, Florence + The Machine and Becky Hill – all female acts who might have been tapped for the award.
A shocked looking Wet Leg claimed their first Brit Award, for best new artist.
Vocalist Rhian Teasdale appeared to poke fun at Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner’s acceptance speech at the 2014 ceremony by quoting it.
She said: “That rock and roll, hey. That rock and roll, it just won’t go away. It might hibernate for time to time, then sink back into the swamp.”
Laughing, she then added: “But in seriousness thank you so much. This is so scary because being on the telly can be such a boys’ club thing” before thanking all the women involved in making their debut album.
Beyonce, Aitch and Becky Hill were also among the early winners at the Brits.
Beyonce won the prize for best international artist, beating Lizzo, Burna Boy, Kendrick Lamar and Taylor Swift.
The pop superstar was not present but in a video message said: “Thank you so much for this incredible recognition” before thanking her British fans and adding: “The renaissance begins!”
Actress Jodie Turner-Smith and footballer Declan Rice presented the award for hip hop/grime/rap act to Aitch.
The Manchester rapper said: “Wow, I’m not going to lie, I never get scared… but I’m shitting myself.”
He thanked the fans for voting, his team and his record label and added “not many” people from where he is from in Manchester win awards.
“Big up everyone, respect. Thank you,” he added.
Former footballer and TV presenter Alex Scott and actress Emily Atack presented a Brit award to Becky Hill.
The 28-year-old vocalist won the dance act prize for a second consecutive year.
On stage, Hill said: “It’s heavy, OK, wow, I did try and plan something but it might go to shit.”
She echoed Beyonce when she said “we have the queer community” to thank for dance music.
Tearfully, Hill added that she was touched by the comments on being nominated and felt she was getting over her “imposter syndrome”.
Host Mo Gilligan kicked off the ceremony with a skit in which he arrived at the O2 Arena via a helicopter organised by Lizzo.
Styles then opened the show with a performance of his hit As It Was wearing an unbuttoned glittering gold jacket and flared trousers.
Black was the dominant colour on the red carpet ahead of the show, with Styles, Smith, Salma Hayek Pinault and many more opting for all-black outfits.
Performers on the night include Stormzy, Styles, Wet Leg, David Guetta, US pop star Lizzo, Smith and British singer-songwriters Ella Henderson and Becky Hill.
The Brit Awards continue on ITV and ITVX.