Brits 2021: Dua Lipa and Little Mix the big winners as Taylor Swift makes surprise appearance

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Female acts have dominated this year's Brit Awards, with Little Mix and Dua Lipa among the big winners and Taylor Swift making a surprise appearance – at a ceremony which saw artists calling out sexism and a lack of diversity in the music industry.

Many winners at the show – the UK's first major indoor live music event in more than a year, held without masks and social distancing as part of a COVID-19 test scheme – also paid tribute to key workers in their acceptance speeches, with Lipa calling on Boris Johnson to improve pay.

For Little Mix, the night was history making, as they became the first female band in 41 years of the Brits to win the best group award.

Little Mix accept the award for Best British Group during the Brit Awards 2021 at the O2 Arena, London. Picture date: Tuesday May 11, 2021.

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Little Mix made history with their best group gong

Taylor Swift was named global icon at this year's Brits

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US star Taylor Swift was named global icon and appeared in person to collect her prize

Lipa was named best female solo artist and also won best album for Future Nostalgia, while Haim were named best international group and Arlo Parks picked up the breakthrough prize.

And rather than appearing virtually, US superstar Taylor Swift took to the stage in person to collect her previously announced global icon award.

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The event, which featured an audience of 4,000 people – including 2,500 key workers – marked the return of live music to London's O2 Arena after 14 months.

In their speech, Little Mix's Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jade Thirlwall paid tribute to the Spice Girls and Girls Aloud, saying they could not believe the award had never gone to a female band before.

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"Guys, we've just made history! I'm emotional," Edwards said.

"It's not easy being a female in the UK pop industry," Pinnock added. "We have seen white male dominance, misogyny, sexism and lack of diversity.

"We are proud of how we have stuck together, stood our ground and surrounded ourselves with strong women and are now using our voices more than ever."

Collecting her first award of the night, for best female solo artist, Lipa called for a pay rise for NHS staff in her acceptance speech – saying it is "very good to clap for them but we need to pay them".

The star added: "I think what we should do is we should all give a massive, massive round of applause and give Boris a message that we all support a fair pay rise for our front line."

Lipa also said she was "so proud" to see more women being recognised at this year's ceremony.

Swift's award, which had been announced before the show, commemorated the star for her "immense impact on music across the world and incredible repertoire and achievements to date".

Accepting the gong on stage, Swift said she was "really, really proud to be part of this musical community, especially in a year when we all needed music so much".

She continued: "But what we needed even more was the help and support that we got from the NHS and the key workers who are here tonight. Thank you for everything that you have done for us."

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