All the (Frankly Awkward) Times Smug Celebs Turned Down An Award

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By Natalie Wolfe | 8:21 am, November 25, 2016

For most celebrities, the real defining moment of the career isn’t having a number one album or a hit blockbuster movie. It isn’t finally buying an elusive Hollywood mansion or traveling on a private plane.

For most of them it’s the critical acclaim and respect.

Whether it’s a little golden, naked man they seek, a miniature gramophone or a knighting from the Queen herself, for most celebrities that is the icing on the cake.

Some may yearn for it, but others don’t want any part of it at all.

Here’s the most blatant, awkward or straight up refusals of the highest sought after awards and accolades.


Aardahna eventually gifted the award to hip-hop group SWIDT.
Aardahna eventually gifted the award to hip-hop group SWIDT.Source:YouTube

Everyone who attended the New Zealand Music Awards on November 17 were shocked when singer Aaradhna refused to accept her award.

Her reason for declining the Tui, New Zealand’s equivalent to an ARIA, was because she felt “racially boxed in”.

The 32-year old won the award for Best Urban/Hip-Hop Artist for her fourth album Brown Girl.

“OK, so this song, Brown Girl, it speaks on many things. It speaks on racism, it speaks on being placed in a box,” she said.

Staring down at the award she continued, “For me, I feel like if I were to accept this award, I’m not being truthful to my song.”

She went on to tell the audience that comparing a singer to a hip-hop artist was “not fair” and that she felt like she’d been “placed in the category of brown people.”

After imploring the award show to create a separate soul and R&B category, Aaradhna passed the award onto hip-hop group SWIDT.


Well-known for his mood swings, Imagine singer and Beatles member John Lennon sent back one of the highest honors a Briton can receive more than four years after receiving it.

In 1965, Lennon and his three Beatles band mates were made Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).

When he first received the award, Lennon sparked controversy by saying, “Lots of people who complained about us getting the MBE received theirs for heroism in the war,” said John, “They got them for killing people. We got ours for entertaining. I’d say we deserve ours more.”

After years of feeling like he “sold out” in accepting the MBE, Lennon eventually decided to give the medal back in 1969 citing “Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, their support of America in Vietnam and Cold Turkey slipping down the charts” as his reasons for protesting the medal.

Last month, a draft of that letter was found in the boot of car and has since been valued at around £60,000.


One of only three people to have refused an Academy Award (the other two being screenwriter Dudley Nichols and actor George C. Scott), Marlon Brando created arguably one of the greatest Oscars moments ever when he refused to accept his 1973 award.

Brando was a shoe-in for winning the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal as the ruthless Vito Corleone.

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather received 10 nominations that year however when it came to Brando winning the Oscar, Native American Civil Rights activist and actress Sacheen Littlefeather took to the stage instead.

Littlefeather holds the statement written by Marlon Brando explaining why he refused his Oscar.
Littlefeather holds the statement written by Marlon Brando explaining why he refused his Oscar.Source:News Corp Australia

The most cringe-worthy part of Littlefeather’s speech was when the crowd started to boo her as she spoke about the ‘Wounded Knee Incident’ where Native Americans were subjected to police brutality. Whether the booing was because there had been police brutality or because Brando had refused his award is still a topic of debate.

Littlefeather explained Brando was also refusing the award as a protest against the stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans in Hollywood.


After her husband’s musical Victor/Victoria was completely snubbed for Tony nominations (bar Andrews’ nomination), Julie Andrews announced she would be withdrawing her name from consideration.

Andrews was nominated for Best Performance By a Leading Actress for the 1996 musical but after the rest of the cast didn’t receive a single nomination, it didn’t sit well with her.

During a curtail call at a performance, Andrews used the stage to make a minute long speech declaring she would “prefer instead to stand with the egregiously overlooked”.

The Sound of Music star was considered the hot favorite to win and Tony producers were counting on a performance by Andrews to boost the ratings for the award show.

Both of those facts only adding more controversy and weight to Andrews’ decision to withdraw her name from consideration.


Fat Axl Rose
Source: Getty Images

The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame boasts legendary names such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan but that doesn’t mean every band or artist wants to be a part of it.

When the British punk band the Sex Pistols were about to be added to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, Johnny Rotten posted a note to the group’s website in 2006 calling the achievement “a piss stain”, went on to tell them “we’re not your monkeys, we’re not coming. You’re not paying attention” and called the nomination “meaningless”.

Six years later Axl Rose also declined the honor but, compared to The Sex Pistols response, his was as polite as can be.

“I strongly request that I not be inducted in absentia and please know that no one is authorized nor may anyone be permitted to accept any induction for me or speak on my behalf,” he wrote.

Treading on eggshells, Rose continued, “This decision is personal. This letter is to help clarify things from my and my camp’s perspective. Neither is meant to offend, attack or condemn.”


The always trailblazing David Bowie turned down not one but two honors from the Queen.

First he turned down a Commander of the British Empire and three years later, the royals tried to make the singer a knight, an honor which he again turned down.

“I would never have any intention of accepting anything like that,” he said. “I seriously don’t know what it’s for. It’s not what I spent my life working for.”

John Cleese was another Brit who declined a peerage.

The Monty Python and Fawlty Towers star refused to be knighted on a much simpler reason.

“I realized this involved being in England in the winter and I thought that was too much of a price to pay.”

Cleese, the same as Bowie had turned down a CBE three years earlier.

Author Roald Dahl turned down an OBE in the late 1980s as well as poet Benjamin Zephaniah who refused his in 2010.

He explained why saying, “I get angry when I hear the word ‘empire’; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds me of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalized.”

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