The Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards on Saturday night included celebrities getting slimed, a prize for one of Instagram’s most popular pet dogs, and plenty of politically charged statements from Hollywood’s youngest stars.
Nickelodeon’s annual ceremony honored those who participated in the March for Our Lives, the student-led rally to urge Congress to address gun control and stop mass shootings. And nearly every star who won a televised award, from age 14 to early 20s, mentioned the march.
While that might surprise adults who don’t pay attention to kid-centric programming, Nickelodeon’s parent company Viacom (other channels include MTV, VH1, CMT, BET, Comedy Central and TV Land) has made an effort to emphasize politics since MTV’s early Rock the Vote days, and particularly in the last month since the high school shooting in Parkland, Fla. Two weeks ago, multiple Viacom channels went dark during the national school walkout over gun violence. This weekend, MTV joined with the NAACP to pay for buses to take teens to the march in Washington.
At the top of the Kids’ Choice Awards, host John Cena (one of the voices in Nickelodeon’s new “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”) paid tribute to the march, as pictures flashed on a giant screen of kids holding signs: “Protect Our Future.” “Enough is Enough.” “
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“We are live to millions right now, and I know it’s going to be an amazing night. But kids everywhere have already made it an amazing day. So I just want to take a moment to celebrate what kids across the nation accomplished today,” Cena said as the audience cheered. “Washington, D.C., Florida, even here in Los Angeles, all over the country, all over the world: Kids made their voices heard with the incredible March for Our Lives. And it all happened because you want to make the world a better place.”
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The 90-minute telecast also was filled with typical silliness: Celebrities from Heidi Klum to Shawn Mendes got covered in slime; Marsai Martin from “Blackish” wore socks filled with guacamole during a game of “Eat It or Wear It”; and JiffPom the Pomeranian won for favorite Instagram pet.
Then there were the more-serious moments, especially from young celebrities known for making political statements. Millie Bobby Brown, the 14-year-old star of Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” won favorite TV actress and wore a March for Our Lives shirt that said “Never Again” on the front, and listed all of the names of the people killed in Parkland on the back.
“The March for Our Lives demonstrations that took place all over the world today have inspired me, and it impacted us all in one way or another,” said Brown, who made headlines at the MTV Movie and TV Awards last year for wearing ribbons to support the ACLU and GLAAD. “I appreciate the love and support of my fans, and the opportunity that our show, ‘Stranger Things,’ has created for me. But more than anything, I get to be up here, and I’m privileged to have a voice that can be heard, one that I can use to hopefully make a positive difference and help influence change.”
Fifth Harmony member-turned-solo artist Camila Cabello, who spoke of her Cuban-Mexican heritage at the Grammy Awards in support of “dreamers,” said she had attended the march in Los Angeles earlier in the day.
“I felt so inspired by you guys, seeing all these kids there, these young people being brave and being kind and compassionate for each other and speaking up,” said Cabello, 21, as she accepted the prize for favorite breakout artist. “And I just want to tell you guys, every kid in this room and every kid watching at home: The future is yours. The world is yours.”
Presenter Jaden Smith, 19, noted that he was at the march. So did Zendaya, 21, the winner of favorite movie actress for “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “The Greatest Showman.”
“Everyone that I marched beside this morning and everybody out there, thank you for what you’re doing. And continue to know that your voice is a real thing and it’s a powerful thing and it’s a beautiful thing,” said Zendaya, who gave a similarly political speech at the Teen Choice Awards last summer. “You should never let anybody tell you that your age should limit you from actually doing whatever you think you need to do in the world.”
YouTube star Liza Koshy, 21, was emotional when she won favorite funny YouTube creator, and — as is Kids’ Choice tradition — got slimed. But during her speech, she turned serious.
“This generation is an inspiration to generations even older, so thank you for making the choices you make,” Koshy told the crowd. “I’m just so proud of today, March for Our Lives — continue to march, stand and kneel for what you believe in, because you are our future. And you are creating it every day.”