Mickey Guyton has broken many barriers in the contemporary country music scene. When she joined Universal Music Group’s Capitol Records Nashville division in 2011, she became the first Black woman country music singer to sign to a major label. And in 2020, she became the first Black woman to perform at the Academy of Country Music Awards and the first Black woman to be nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Solo Performance for her song “Black Like Me.”

But like the title of her Grammy-nominated song suggests, being the only one to occupy these spaces can be isolating, which is what made performing at this year’s ESSENCE Fest so significant for Guyton, who headlined the annual festival of culture in New Orleans this past fourth of July weekend.

Mickey Guyton: ‘I’ve Spent My Whole Career In Spaces With People That Don’t Look Like Me’

“That was truly such a special moment,” Guyton told ESSENCE on the ESPY red carpet. “I was so emotional about that because I’ve spent my whole career, really, in spaces with people that don’t really look like me. And I remember just sitting there and just…it was really emotional for me. I felt like I was at home.”

Being comfortable in new spaces is something Guyton will have to continue getting used to as her star keeps on rising. For her, even performing at this year’s ESPY Awards came as a bit of a surprise. “I’m like, what the hell am I doing here?” she said of what it felt like to sing at the annual event that recognizes athletic achievement at the professional level. “I just can’t believe I’m here and they chose me.”

Check out our full red carpet interview with Mickey Guyton in the video above.

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