Have a dang year, Lainey Wilson! After big wins in the Album and Female Artist of the Year categories, she took the Entertainer of the Year category at the 2023 CMA Awards Wednesday night (Nov. 8).

It's not fair to call the moment an upset, but the first-time nominee's win was certainly a jaw-dropper. The tears in her eyes and the shake in her voice proved she thought so, too.

"This is all I've ever wanted to do. It's the only thing I know how to do," Wilson said during an emotional speech that included notes of gratitude to her team and family.

"It finally feels like country music is starting to love me back ... I love it with my whole heart," she shared.

Wilson was a nine-time nominee going into the show, and she said she thinks "9" must be her lucky number. It was the age she wrote her first song, got her first pair of bell bottoms and visited the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville for the first time.

"It's the year that Mommy and Daddy and brought home this horse named Tex," she recalled, remembering how difficult it was to break him and how much she wanted to quit.

"Every time it'd start bucking, I'd hold on a little bit tighter," she said, drawing comparisons to chasing a dream called country music.

As always, competition was fierce in the Entertainer category, with musical veterans going head-to-head with record-setting newer stars. Wilson beat out Luke Combs, Chris Stapleton, Carrie Underwood and Morgan Wallen.

This year's Entertainer of the Year dark horse and surprise nominee, Wilson gave underdogs everywhere a reason to cheer with this upset victory. Though her win is a surprise, it's far from undeserved: She's been busy this year. Between superstar duets with Hardy and Jelly Roll, a couple of country radio hits of her own, a spot on Combs' World Tour lineup and her own headlining 2023 Country With a Flare trek, Wilson has been tirelessly making a case for herself as Entertainer of the Year.

Wilson's win is also historic for the show: She's only the eighth woman to this category in CMA history, and the first to claim the title since Taylor Swift did so in 2011.

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The history books may well remember 2023 as the year Wilson dominated the CMAs.


2023 CMA Awards Red Carpet Pictures

See the best dressed from the 2023 CMA Awards red carpet, including ___ and more.

The 2023 CMA Awards aired live on ABC from Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 8. Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning hosted the show for a second straight year. Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton, Lainey Wilson and Morgan Wallen were nominated in the Entertainer of the Year category.

Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes

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