The award was presented by Phoebe Bridgers, who honored her friend in front of the crowd for always telling the truth in her songwriting, saying, "I'm grateful to have grown up in a world with Taylor Swift in it," she said. "Or the world (Taylor's Version)."
Several big names paid tribute to Swift's legacy, including Dolly Parton, Jonathon Van Ness, Simone Biles, Selena Gomez and Ed Sheeran. Parton called her fellow Tennessee native "bold," telling her to keep doing what she's been doing, while Sheeran praised her songwriting abilities, adding that "Anti-Hero" is one of the best pop songs ever written. Queer Eye's JVN also praised Swift for using her platform to lift up the LGBTQ+ community.
While accepting the award, the "Lavender Haze" singer reflected on what it means to be an innovator, saying that she simply tried to make the right decision for her at the time, whether or not it was ever done successfully before, especially when people aim to replicate something that has been proven to work before.
"I think the coolest ideas or moves or choices are the new ones, the ones that set a precedent," she said. "I'm very privileged because my fans have backed me up in a lot of the choices I've made, like switching genres or re-recording all of my old music."
She also said that the award honors not just her successes but her failures, because they got her to where she is today.
"The thing with these exciting nights and moments and specifically this award that I'm so lucky to have gotten is that they're shining a light on the choices I have made that worked out, the ones that turned out to be good ideas," she said. "But I really want everyone to know, especially young people, the hundreds or thousands of dumb ideas are what led me to my good ideas."
She added, "You have to give yourself permission to fail. I try as hard as I can not to fail 'cause it's embarrassing, but I give myself permission to and you should too, so go easy on yourself and just make the right choices that feel right for you and someday someone might think that you've been innovative."
Swift was presented with the Innovator Award to honor her impact on global pop culture throughout her career. With her army of devoted fans, she has broken multiple records with her tours, with 2019's Reputation stadium tour being the highest-grossing U.S. tour in history and 2023's Eras tour literally breaking ticket sales.
If you need to see just how big her impact has been, look at her highly-anticipated and long-awaited Eras Tour, which she recently kicked off in "Swift City." The massive show is filled with dazzling displays showcasing the different eras throughout her storied career, from her self-titled debut to her recently-released Midnights album. It has even inspired couples to get engaged mid-concert and at least one that said "I do!"
The Innovator Award wasn't the only trophy Swift was looking to take home at the 2023 iHeartRadio Music Awards. She was up for several awards throughout the night, including Song of the Year ("Anti-Hero"), Artist of the Year, Best Fan Army, Best Music Video ("Anti-Hero") and Best Lyrics ("Anti-Hero"), among others.
Relive this year's iHeartRadio Music Awards special, now through April 17 on Hulu.