Awkwafina kicks off MMVAs, featuring early performances by Shawn Mendes and Megan Trainor

TORONTO— Awkwafina says hosting the iHeartRadio MMVAs while her movie Crazy Rich Asians sits atop the North American box-office hasn’t changed her a bit.

“I’m still that girl with the voice of a pro-wrestler and the body of a Pikachu,” the vibrant YouTuber told the crowd as the awards show with the street-party atmosphere got underway Sunday evening.

Awkwafina, fresh off appearances in Ocean’s Eight and Crazy Rich Asians, was the host on Sunday.
Awkwafina, fresh off appearances in Ocean’s Eight and Crazy Rich Asians, was the host on Sunday.  (Frank Gunn / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

But she also wanted to clarify one thing for viewers who might be seeing her on TV for the first time.

“I am not Sandra Oh, all right?” she said, referring to the Ottawa-born actress who’s Emmy-nominated for her turn in Killing Eve.

“That’s another Asian woman — and she’s great.”

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Awkwafina delivered her punchy opening monologue after heartthrob Shawn Mendes kicked off the show performing “Lost in Japan.”

Megan Trainor was another early performer, with a charged mash-up of her new song “No Excuses” alongside other fan favourites that included the Top 40 hit “Me Too.”

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Model and TV host Tyra Banks showered Trainor with compliments after the performance.

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“What I love about Megan Trainor is she keeps it beautiful and she keeps it real,” Banks said.

Early awards handed out included best collaboration, which went to Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line for the summer hit “Meant To Be.”

Rexha raced onto the stage to accept the award, pausing for a moment to let out a hearty scream.

Other awards were doled out on the red carpet before the official show started.

Electronic duo Elijah Woods and Jamie Fine, who were victorious in the CTV singing competition The Launch, were selected as best new Canadian artist or group.

Shawn Mendes performs at the iHeartRadio MMVAs in Toronto on Sunday.
Shawn Mendes performs at the iHeartRadio MMVAs in Toronto on Sunday.  (Christopher Katsarov)

Viral pop singer Halsey was awarded the “artist for change” recognition for her work on mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

“I think if you end up with a platform, you need to use that platform to uplift the people that gave you that platform to begin with,” the singer said in her acceptance speech.

“If I can be a voice for my fans who don’t have the opportunity to speak their minds or stand up for what they believe in, maybe I get to do it for them.”

Toronto-based filmmaker Karena Evans picked up the best director award for the music video “God’s Plan,” which featured Toronto rapper Drake giving away money to surprised strangers in Miami.

Other acts scheduled perform included Australian pop group 5 Seconds of Summer and 1990s boy band 98 Degrees, whose Nick Lachey was feeling some major nostalgia as he walked the red carpet.

Lachey and 98 Degrees were interviewed by personality Ed the Sock at the 1999 MMVAs.

“We did an interview with a sock puppet with a cigar in its mouth — there’s nothing more unique than that,” Lachey said Sunday evening.

“This is a celebration of music, the fans, and it’s great to be back and part of the energy here.”

Other presenters included Michael Jackson’s son Prince, who took a moment to urge the audience to get behind causes that matter to them, such as education reform and ending homelessness.

Hometown favourite Alessia Cara takes photos with fans on the red carpet on Sunday.
Hometown favourite Alessia Cara takes photos with fans on the red carpet on Sunday.  (Frank Gunn)

“You’re never too young to speak out and stand up,” he said before introducing pop singer Bulow.

This year’s show has undergone a number of changes, aside from officially abbreviating its former name — the MuchMusic Video Awards.

The party was shifted from its usual mid-June date to late August to help capitalize on back-to-school season.

It also gave the show an opportunity to introduce a number of new categories, including one that crowns the song of the summer. That prize went “Body,” by Canadian duo Loud Luxury.

TORONTO STAR

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