Kelsea Ballerini experienced a night of triumph and tragedy when she co-hosted the 2023 CMT Music Awards on Sunday, April 2.
The country singer dedicated the ceremony to last week’s shooting victims at Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, sharing a powerful, sad tribute and reliving her personal experience with gun violence at schools.
Kelsea Ballerini Tears Up As She Recounts Her Experience With A School Shooting
Although many have known Ballerini as a musical powerhouse, the singer showed that there was more to her, especially regarding gun violence. The 29-year-old wore her heart on her sleeve as she told attendees and at-home viewers her personal experience of losing a schoolmate to gun violence.
“On March 27, 2023, three nine-year-olds — Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney, and Hallie Scruggs — along with Dr. Katherine Koonce, Cynthia Peak, and Mike Hill, walked into the Covenant School and didn’t walk out,” the visibly teary-eyed “Mountain With a View” singer began.
The choked-up superstar emphasized that it was vital for her to “stand up here and share this moment” due to what happened on August 21, 2008, when she lost her classmate. In the words of the Tennessee native:
“I watched Ryan McDonald, my 15-year-old classmate at Central High School, lose his life to a gun in our cafeteria.”
She then dedicated the event, which was held in Austin, Texas, to the “ever-growing list of family’s friends, survivors, witnesses, and responders” who were continually impacted by gun violence.
The “Miss Me More” hitmaker finished with a prayer that “the closeness and the community” felt during the ceremony “can soon turn into action — like, real action — that moves us forward together to create change for the safety of our kids and our loved ones.”
Ballerini’s heartfelt speech was received with overwhelming applause from the crowd and fans on CMT’s official Instagram page, where a clip was dropped. “Keep sharing your heart,” one fan encouraged the Country Music Association Awards nominee as another commented, “I love her and especially how strong she was speaking.”
“Enough is enough. Something needs to be done. Not tomorrow. Not a week from now. Not a month from now. It needs to be NOW,” a third viewer passionately typed out. Meanwhile, a few people argued about the “real cause” of gun violence in the United States.
In fact, one person claimed that some of the blame could be ascribed to confusion about one’s gender. In case you missed it, the possibility of members of the trans community committing such crimes has been an ongoing debate since the perpetrator of the school shooting was identified as transgender.
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Even politicians are not exempted from the controversy as Reuters reported that U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and U.S. Senator J.D. Vance suggested in recent social media posts that the shooter’s gender identity may have played a role in the murders.
The outlet noted that many trans-Tennesseans felt maligned by the state’s efforts to control the lives of LGBTQ+ people and were constantly worried for their safety even before the shooting.
One source, Mykul Coscia, stated that while he was not scared of doctors or drag queens harming children as new laws insinuated, he was increasingly afraid of school shootings — which have become frequent in the U.S., where guns are easily obtained.
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Ballerini was more than willing to share the impact of the Christmas holidays on her feelings following her divorce from Morgan Evans last August. The Blast shared that the Black River signee unpacked the revelation with a picture that showed her wearing a green sweater.
She paired the comfy, long-sleeved outfit with minimal makeup, including a cat-eye drawn on her lids, and her hair styled into a no-nonsense bun. The American Music Awards nominee wrote beneath the candid:
“hi. Sending you a hug. Holidays can be both a beautiful time and also bring up some big, hard feelings. protect those hearts.”
The “half of my hometown” singer and her now ex-husband had been married for almost five years before parting amicably last year. The former lovebirds had allegedly spent some years in therapy in an attempt to work on their marriage. Ballerini announced the “difficult decision” to separate with a lengthy statement shared on social media.