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Variety’s Breakthrough of the Year Awards Rocks Vegas

Performances from Janelle Monae, Skylar Grey top night honoring emerging talent and tech

CES might be winding down, but it’s going out with a star-studded bang Thursday at Variety’s Breakthough of the Year Awards.

Held Thursday evening at the Las Vegas Hilton, the ceremony recognized a select group of rising stars in entertainment and technology. Hosted by “America’s Got Talent’s” Nick Cannon, the event was held in partnership with the Consumer Electronics Association.

PHOTOS: Variety’s Breakthrough of the Year Awards

Anchored by a high-energy performance from Janelle Monae, an acoustic set from Skylar Grey (winner of the night’s Breakthrough: Up Next Music award) and a raunchy stand-up performance from comedian and Breakthrough: Comedy winner Amy Schumer, the gathering recognized innovators and pioneers in film, television, sport, music, comedy, technology and social media.

Unlike many award shows filled with thanking of family and agents, though, the Variety innovators turned their gratitude outward.

“The honor really goes to the 91,000 backers from Kickstarter,” said “Veronica Mars” creator Rob Thomas, who – along with star Kristen Bell – won the Breakthrough award for film. “They are the people who clapped hard enough to keep Tinkerbell alive – only in this case, instead of clapping, they sent cash.”

Added Bell: “To have a dedicated fan base like ours, who puts their hard-earned money where their mouth is, we’ll be forever grateful.”

Monae, who took home the Breakthrough award in music before powering through a six-song set, gave an emotional speech citing her role models.

“As I think of the words breakthrough, I can’t help but think of my mother, who broke through the stereotypes and stigma of being a teen mother,” she said. “She taught my sister and me to fight through opposition.”

Monae also cited astronaut Sally Ride, Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks as inspirations.

Comedian Will Forte, who took home the Breakthrough award for acting, acknowledged his late bloomer status, telling the crowd “at 43, you’re hoping to get an opportunity to try new and different things but you’re not expecting to get that opportunity. So, this last stretch of time has been so unexpected – and so appreciated.”

Audi captured honors for most buzzed about technology at CES, which saw Consumer Electronics Association president Gary Shapiro present. The car maker drew raves for its Sport Quattro Laser Light Concept Car.

The evening’s other award winners included Olivia Munn (Breakthrough: Actress), who was introduced by “The Newsroom” creator Aaron Sorkin; the creators of the Vine app (Breakthrough: Emerging Technology); Web series “Burning Love” (Breakthrough: Internet Sensation) and CBS’ “Under the Dome” (Breakthrough: Television).

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