A few weeks ago, Fox announced the final wave of nominees for its annual Teen Choice Awards, including the category for Choice Music Web Star. Among the six nominees was Christina Grimmie, the 22-year-old pop star who was shot and killed this past June while signing autographs after a concert in Orlando.
Her tragic death made international headlines, especially because Grimmie — also known as the third-place finisher on Season 6 of “The Voice” — has a passionate fan base from her years as a YouTube star. On Sunday night’s TCAs broadcast, Grimmie won the prize for Choice Music Web Star; but it was not one of the trophies distributed on air. The network confirmed her win in a news release after the ceremony ended.
While some felt the win was a nice gesture, many Grimmie fans were upset about the way it was handled. On social media, viewers chastised the TCAs for using Grimmie’s name to promote the show, yet not mentioning or paying tribute to the singer during the actual ceremony. (In the weeks leading up to the broadcast, the TCA Twitter account urged its nearly 640,000 followers to vote for Grimmie by tweeting her Twitter handle and the hashtag #ChoiceMusicWebStar.) Though the TCAs have so many categories that producers can’t award all the winners on TV, both Choice Female Web Star and Choice Male Web Star were announced.
The most high-profile complaint came from YouTube star Shane Dawson, who last month criticized the TCA account for a tweet that read “Retweet to vote in memory of @TheRealGrimmie for #ChoiceMusicWebStar.” Dawson, who also bashed the show as “rigged” to his 3 million followeers, called the tweet “disgusting”: “Please don’t use Christina to promote your fake a– award show,” he wrote. Dawson also didn’t hold back Sunday: “I’m glad the tcas didn’t do a memorial for Christina Grimmie. I don’t want her beautiful face anywhere near that trash show.”
Other angry tweets poured in. “@TeenChoiceFOX y’all do realize the amount of viewers you have just forever lost because of the Christina grimmie stunt you pulled right?” “i think it is absolutely absurd that the #TeenChoiceAwards did not mention christina grimmie. that is so heartless.” “Using Christina Grimmie’s death to get more viewers & then not even giving her any sort of tribute? Or acknowledgment? Beyond disgusted.” Deplorable how #TeenChoice used Christina Grimmie to gain attention for the show, and didn’t even have the decency of mentioning her ONCE.”
There were many, many more. One person started a Change.org petition asking that the “Teen Choice Awards & Fox formally apologize for disrespecting Christina Grimmie.” “Millions of hearts collectively shattered at the realization that Teen Choice and Fox went out of their way to ignore and completely avoid addressing the terribly tragic passing of one of their own nominees,” the petition said.
Before the TCAs aired, the nomination was well-received by Grimmie’s manager, Brian Teefey, who posted on Grimmie’s Facebook and Twitter accounts with messages asking fans to vote. “Let’s please do all we can to ensure she takes home this win,” he wrote. Rock band Boyce Avenue, up against Grimmie in the category, also urged fans to vote for Grimmie and honor her legacy.
— Christina Grimmie (@TheRealGrimmie) July 8, 2016
Fox did not respond to a query about why producers did not address Grimmie on the show. The two-hour broadcast did have somber moments: An emotional segment featured teens whose family members were killed by guns, from Cameron Sterling, the son of Alton Sterling, who was shot by Baton Rouge police, to JT Lewis, whose little brother, Jesse, was shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Actress Jessica Alba and singer Ne-Yo, who led the tribute, told the audience to take pictures of the victims’ family members on stage and post photos with the hashtag #StoptheViolence.