November 20, 2019 at 11:28 am PST | by John Paul King
Out rapper Lil Nas X wins American Ingenuity Award

Photo: Gettyimages/Roy Rochlin

Lil Nas X, fresh off the heels of becoming the first out gay performer to win a Country Music Association Award, is already being honored again.

On Tuesday, Smithsonian magazine announced that the rapper-singer-songwriter, who rose to stardom with his genre-bending, record-breaking single “Old Town Road,” is the recipient of their American Ingenuity Award for Youth.

The award is one of seven bestowed by the magazine annually, across a wide range of categories: Youth, Visual Arts, Social Progress, Technology, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Performing Arts.

Here’s the full list of winners:


Lil Nas X, rapper-singer-songwriter who rose to stardom with his genre-bending, record-breaking single “Old Town Road,” honored for Youth.

Amy Sherald, painter known for her portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama, whose work seeks to fit African Americans into the canon of American portraiture, honored for Visual Arts.

José Andrés, restaurateur and founder of World Central Kitchen, the nonprofit that is revolutionizing the way emergency food aid is delivered, honored for Social Progress.

Alex Kipman, Brazilian-born inventor and visionary behind many of Microsoft’s most pioneering products, including the “mixed-reality” headset known as HoloLens, honored for Technology.

Ewelina Mamcarz, Stephen Gottschalk and Brian Sorrentino (posthumously), the team of doctors at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital who developed a cure for X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency—a genetic disorder colloquially known as “bubble boy” disease, honored for Life Sciences.

Sheperd Doeleman and the Event Horizon Telescope Team, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Harvard University, who led a team of more than 200 researchers in the international effort to create the first-ever image of a black hole, honored for Physical Sciences.

Heidi Schreck, writer and star of “What the Constitution Means to Me,” a play that opens an honest debate over the meaning, value and limitations of America’s founding document, honored for Performing Arts.


“Our American Ingenuity Awards honor those individuals who are spearheading revolutionary change in society,” says Smithsonian magazine creative director Maria Keehan. “We are celebrating visionaries across a multitude of platforms, from those aiding disaster victims worldwide to those developing a life-saving gene therapy or redefining what is means to mix genres in music. We are proud to honor this year’s class, all of whom are at the top of their respective fields.”

The winners are featured in Smithsonian magazine’s special December American Ingenuity Awards issue, available now at and on newsstands Nov. 26.


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