The most unexpected royal moments: 32 funny, shocking and heartwarming moments from the royal family

The royal family have been a part of their fair share of unexpected moments, from silly moments of fun to big news that no one saw coming...

L-R: Kate Middleton dances with Paddington; Prince Louis; Prince Harry
(Image credit: Getty Images)

From the breakdown of relationships to worrying health news, and even little ones being hilarious out in public, the royal family have had their fair share of unexpected moments - both privately and publicly. 

They have experienced plenty of unexpected moments in the form of shocking controversies and heartbreak but they've also had many fun, heartwarming and tender moments that the public would never have expected from such a formal family; from Kate Middleton dancing in public, to -late Queen being part of James Bond skit.

So, take a look at a few of the most unexpected moments from the royal family, from jaw-dropping world news, to smaller moments of fun.

32 most unexpected royal moments

Harry and Meghan leaving the royal family

harry and meghan

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Prince Harry and Meghan stunned the entire world when they announced their decision to leave their official roles within the royal family in January 2020. On their former Instagram account, the couple shared a statement explaining, 'After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. 

‘We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.’ 

‘We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages.'

While their initial announcement sent shockwaves around the world, it soon became clear that in the royal world, Harry and Meghan could not maintain the balance they wanted. Instead, the couple were forced to fully and completely resign from their royal roles, in order to pursue full freedom from the institution.

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Gilded Youth: An Intimate History of Growing Up in the Royal Family by Tom Quinn | £14.29 at Amazon

Exploring what it's like to grow up in the Royal Family, Tom Quinn brings together historical sources with testimonies from palace staff. There are tales of royal mischievousness, including surprising anecdotes about Queen Elizabeth and Prince William, and it's shocking, funny and insightful all at once.

Prince Andrew’s allegations

Prince Andrew

(Image credit: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

One of the most unexpected moments from the royal family in recent years was in 2019, when Prince Andrew was accused of sexually assaulting Virginia Giuffre, after his close association with Jeffery Epstein, a convicted sex offender.

Following Epstein’s conviction – having been close friends with him – and Virginia's accusations, the Duke of York was embroiled in scandal. The controversy dominated the news for years but was eventually settled by Andrew and Virginia in February 2022, when she was paid an undisclosed sum of money. Prince Andrew was later forced to resign from his official duties as a member of the royal family due to the immense scrutiny.

King Edward’s abdication

Wallis, Duchess of Windsor (1896-1986) and the Duke of Windsor (1894-1972) outside Government House in Nassau, the Bahamas, circa 1942. The Duke of Windsor served as Governor of the Bahamas from 1940 to 1945.

(Image credit: Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

King Edward VIII surprised everyone in 1936 when he proposed to Wallis Simpson, an American actress who was currently going through a second divorce. 

Edward had been King for a few months before proposing to Wallis, but the engagement provoked a constitutional crisis, as, at the time, within the church, divorced people could not remarry if their ex-partners were still alive. 

Due to the mounting pressure, and their refusal to break up, King Edward was eventually forced to announce his abdication from the throne - leaving his brother, George VI, Queen Elizabeth’s father, to become King. This of course started a new line of royal succession and is the reason King Charles is on the throne today.

The revelation of Charles and Camilla’s affair

King Charles and Camilla

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One of Charles's most memorable moments as a monarch was when it was revealed that the then Prince Charles was conducting an affair with the then-Camilla Parker-Bowles, while still married to his first wife, Princess Diana. 

In 1992, Charles and Diana announced their separation, but in 1993, intimate recorded phone calls between Charles and Camilla were released. These calls were reportedly recorded in 1989 when Diana and Charles were still married. In 1994, Charles confessed that he had cheated on his wife with Camilla. When asked if he was faithful to Diana, he said, "Yes ... Until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried."

Prince Louis’ hilarious faces at Trooping the Colour

Prince Louis of Wales watches the fly-past on the Buckingham Palace balcony during Trooping the Colour on June 17, 2023 in London, England. Trooping the Colour is a traditional parade held to mark the British Sovereign's official birthday. It will be the first Trooping the Colour held for King Charles III since he ascended to the throne.

(Image credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

The older members of the royal family are typically very composed in public, so it was an unexpected delight to see Prince Louis – Prince William and Catherine’s youngest son – pulling a couple of hilariously silly faces during the family's balcony appearance at the 2023 Trooping the Colour. 

It was an important royal occasion, marking King Charles first official Trooping the Colour as monarch, so his children and grandchildren all gathered on the Buckingham Palace balcony to greet crowds. While everyone else smiled and waved pleasantly to crowds, Prince Louis was busy holding his nose, pointing to the sky, punching his fists into the air, saluting, and generally making silly faces during the formal occasion. Even royal kids are just kids!

Prince Harry and Meghan’s bombshells during the Oprah interview

harry and meghan during their oprah interview

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A year after Meghan and Harry’s departure from the royal family, in January 2021, the couple surprised the world with an unexpected interview with Oprah Winfrey, sharing plenty of secrets and insights from their time as a couple within the royal family, and the reasons behind their decision to leave the institution. 

The interview was undeniably explosive, and contained several significant revelations – including the fact that Harry’s relationship with his father and brother was still incredibly rocky, and that Meghan suffered so much under the public scrutiny of being a royal that she asked for help for her mental health, which was denied.

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Spare by Prince Harry | £14 at Amazon

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Kate's dance with Paddington

kate middleton dancing with paddington

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The royals are known to be fairly formal when out on royal engagements, so it was a fun break from the norm when Kate Middleton took part in a quick dance with Paddington Bear during a visit to Paddington station to mark a charity forum event in 2017. Watched by Prince William and Prince Harry, Catherine got well and truly stuck in, dancing with Paddington for several seconds; a moment which wowed onlookers and fans worldwide with her relaxed, and pretty impressive dance moves!

Harry’s unfortunate costume choice

Prince Harry Captains The English School Polo Team Against France In Warwickshire.

(Image credit: Antony Jones/UK Press via Getty Images)

Prince Harry landed himself in hot water in 2005, when he wore a Nazi costume to a friend’s fancy dress party. The costume created a storm of controversy after a picture of Harry in at the party was published in a newspaper. 

At the time, Prince Harry was hugely apologetic, issuing a public statement of regret – and has since shared his shame and embarrassment. In his 2023 memoir, Spare, he says, "What followed was a firestorm, which I thought at times would engulf me. And I felt that I deserved to be engulfed. There were moments over the course of the next several weeks and months when I thought I might die of shame." The event was also captured in Netflix’s The Crown.

King Charles’ cancer diagnosis

King Charles III and Queen Camilla, accompanied by The Reverend Canon Dr Paul Williams, attend the Sunday service at the Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on February 4, 2024 in Sandringham, England.

(Image credit: Getty Images/Max Mumby/Indigo)

Royal fans were left shocked in January 2024 when it was announced that King Charles had been diagnosed with cancer, which was found during a procedure for an enlarged prostate. 

Historically, the royals have not been public about their personal health struggles, so it was arguably a shock to hear about a potentially life-threatening diagnosis from the King. It was announced also that Charles would be undergoing outpatient treatment for his cancer for the foreseeable.

Lord Mountbatten’s assassination

Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900 - 1979), with his nephew Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in Royal Marines uniforms at the regiment's barracks at Eastney, Hampshire, 27th October 1965.

(Image credit: Douglas Miller/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

One of the most shocking moments in royal history was when Lord Mountbatten, Prince Philip’s uncle and close mentor of the then-Prince Charles, was killed during a targeted IRA attack whilst on board his boat in the Republic of Ireland. 

Thomas McMahon, a member of the IRA placed a bomb in the boat that was detonated while Lord Mountbatten and his family were sailing offshore, killing him, his 14-year-old grandson, his son-in-law’s mother, and a member of the boating crew.

The Windsor Castle fire

Fire at Windsor Castle

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You’d never expect damage of any kind to occur at an important royal palace, but in 1992, that's exactly what happened, when a fire broke out at Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip’s primary residence. 

The fire began in a chapel within the palace, as a result of a curtain catching fire on a faulty spotlight, and quickly spread throughout the property before the alarm was eventually raised. The fire burnt for around 15 hours, meaning that various rooms needed a full and extensive renovation to repair damage (a process which took five years), but luckily, all staff members and royals were unharmed.

Andrew and Sarah’s separation

Sarah, Duchess Of York With Prince Andrew, Duke Of York, Watching A Fashion Show At The Royal York Hotel In Ontario, Canada, 17th July 1987.

(Image credit: John Shelley Collection/Avalon/Getty Images)

Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson married in July 1986 at Westminster Abbey, becoming the Duke and Duchess of York. The pair went on to have two daughters, Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice, and were married for six years. But sadly, and to the surprise of the public, the couple announced their separation just a few years later in 1992, before finally divorcing in 1996. It's unclear exactly why the pair split, but Sarah herself has stated that part of the reason was due to Andrew's busy career in the Navy, and the fact that she wished to work, which wasn't possible as a royal.

Princess Diana’s Panorama interview

princess diana sat across from interviewer Martin Bashir in a black skirt suit, set in a regal looking living room

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No one expected Princess Diana to speak out publicly following her separation from the Prince of Wales, but in 1995, she did exactly that when she took part in a BBC Panorama interview with Martin Bashir. 

It was the first time anyone had spoken so openly about their time as a member of the royal family, and the revealing interview saw Diana share lots of honest details about herself, and her marriage to Charles. In what was undoubtedly one of Princess Diana's most memorable moments, she candidly shared that she suffered many mental health struggles within the royal family, and also confirmed that both she and Charles had had affairs outside of their marriage.

Queen Elizabeth’s hilarious video with Prince Harry

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Harry share a joke as they watch Prince Charles and his bride Camilla Duchess of Cornwall leave St George's Chapel in Windsor following their marriage blessing, 09 April 2005. Prince Charles and his longtime sweetheart Camilla Parker Bowles married today after two months of muddled preparations and a lifetime of waiting. (Photo by ALASTAIR GRANT / POOL / AFP)

(Image credit: ALASTAIR GRANT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth may have been known for formal and regal manner – but that doesn’t mean she didn’t know how to have fun. 

The monarch delighted the world when she did her grandson Prince Harry a favour, and took part in a brilliantly hilarious skit for the opening of the Invictus Games in 2016. 

In the short clip, Queen Elizabeth II appeared as she never had before, relaxed with Prince Harry whilst watching a video of former President Barack and Michelle Obama telling them to "bring it" at the upcoming games. Laughing with Harry at the video, she commented, "Oh, really, please", in a light-hearted, competitive way – before Harry turned to the camera, saying, "Boom" in a boast that he had the Queen on his side!

Peter Phillips' divorce

Peter Phillips on his wedding day

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Peter Phillips, Princess Anne’s only son, famously keeps a fairly low profile and isn’t a working member of the royal family like his mother. 

But it was still a significant shock when he announced the end of his seemingly happy marriage to Autumn Kelly in 2019. The couple have two daughters, Savannah Phillips and Isla Phillips, and officially divorced in 2020 after 13 years of marriage.

The Queen’s attendance at Philip’s funeral alone

Queen Elizabeth II takes her seat for the funeral service of Britain's Prince Philip

(Image credit: JONATHAN BRADY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Hearts broke around the world when we saw the first images of Queen Elizabeth II sitting alone at her husband Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021, after his death a few weeks previously. 

Given that he died during the Covid-19 pandemic, the monarch made sure to obey the protocols around social distancing at the time, which meant that she sat alone, close to the altar at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle whilst wearing a protective mask. The image of the Queen alone has since become one of the most famous - and moving - images ever taken of the monarch.

The release of Prince Harry’s memoir

Prince Harry

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The royals usually try to keep the details of their lives as private as possible, so Prince Harry made a big impact when he wrote one of the first memoirs from a royal family member, with his book Spare, released in January 2023. 

The tell-all novel was largely a documentation of Harry’s life thus far, but it also shared many intimate details of the lives of the royal family, and how people like his brother, Prince William, and father, King Charles, reacted to various moments in his life. A few of the most notable stories in Spare include the moment Prince William physically attacked Harry in his Nottingham Cottage home and the moment Harry urged his father not to marry Camilla.

Prince Andrew’s Newsnight interview

Prince Andrew

(Image credit: Getty)

Prince Andrew agreed to a now-hugely controversial interview following the sexual assault allegations levelled at him, and amid his connections to sex offender Jeffery Epstein in 2019, in an attempt to defend himself. 

In the interview, which was widely regarded as bizarre and contradictory, Andrew dismissed his friendship with Epstein and gave an odd explanation against his accuser Virginia Giuffre’s statement that he was ‘sweating profusely’ when they met in London, explaining that it was impossible, because he was incapable of sweating at the time.

Harry and Meghan’s Netflix documentary

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle kissing in a still from their Netflix documentary series.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Prince Harry and Meghan provided an unprecedented look into the world of royal family members with their Netflix documentary, Harry and Meghan, which was released in 2022, and shared their story in their own words.

Revealing stories about the beginning of their romance, and with clips and details about their much-discussed departure from the royal family, the six-part series was a huge hit. Within the series, Harry and Meghan shared plenty of information about their decision to leave the royal family, including their concerns about their security in the UK (explaining their sudden move to Canada), and the lack of support their felt from other members of the family.

Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother’s death

Britain's Queen Mother (C) in blue hat and dress celebrating her 100th birthday w. daughters Princess Margaret (L) in brown and Queen Elizabeth II (R) in lavender at Buckingham Palace.

(Image credit: Ken Goff/Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth II suffered a double heartbreak in 2002, when both her sister Princess Margaret and her mother, the Queen Mother, passed away within just months of one another.

After suffering a multitude of health problems including strokes and other cardiac issues, Princess Margaret passed away at the age of 71 in February 2002. Then, just a few weeks later, at the end of March, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, passed away at the age of 101. She was the oldest-ever member of the royal family.

Princess Anne’s divorce

Princess Anne, the Princess Royal and her husband Mark Phillips attend a garden fete at Great Somerford, Wiltshire, 21st June 1975.

(Image credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

Princess Anne married Captain Mark Phillips in 1973 at Westminster Abbey, and it was widely thought to be a happy marriage. But in the late 80s, rumours began swirling that the royal couple were not completely content. Then, in 1989, the pair announced their intention to separate – the first of Queen Elizabeth’s children to divorce their marital partner. Anne and Mark finally divorced in 1992, after welcoming two children together, Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips.

Harry and William opening up about losing Princess Diana

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry

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Though Prince Harry has since been very open about his struggles following the loss of his mother Princess Diana in 1997, he and Prince William surprised the world in 2017 by talking publicly about their grief for the very first time.

In a video shared to mark the launch of their joint charity mental health initiative with Kate Middleton, royal fans saw Kate, William and Harry sitting together candidly discussing the boys’ loss. 

In the video, William says, "Even Harry and I have said, over the years, we haven’t talked enough about our mother," to which Harry responded, "I always thought to myself, what’s the point in bringing up the past, what’s the point in bringing something up that’s only going to make you sad? 

"It ain’t going to change it, and it ain’t going to bring her back. And when you start thinking like that, it can be really damaging."

Beatrice and Eugenie’s unusual hats

Princess Beatrice And Princess Eugenie Leave Westminster Abbey.

(Image credit: Antony Jones/Julian Parker/Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)

Perhaps one of the most public, unexpected moments from the royals throughout the years, was when Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie attended Prince William and Catherine’s 2011 wedding wearing some - ahem - incredibly extravagant fascinators, which were sadly mercilessly mocked by the public and the media. 

The criticism of the bold hats, designed by milliner Philip Treacy, even reduced the sisters to tears, Princess Eugenie explained in an interview years later. She confessed to Cosmopolitan, "There was a horrible article that had been written about Beatrice and she got really upset.

"We were just about to step out [at an event]and she had a bit of a wobble and cried. I was looking after her. And then about an hour later, I had a wobble and started crying and Bea was there for me."

The Queen’s starring role alongside James Bond

An actor dressed to resemble Britain's Queen Elizabeth II parachutes into the stadium during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in London on July 27, 2012

(Image credit: OLIVIER MORIN/AFP via Getty Images)

When the Olympics came to London in 2012, Queen Elizabeth II had a starring role in the opening ceremony, surprising the world with her brilliant sense of humour.

She joined James Bond star Daniel Craig in a skit which saw the Queen and Bond travel through Buckingham Palace, before climbing aboard a helicopter and journeying to the Olympic Stadium. There, the Queen (though it wasn’t actually the Queen), was seen jumping out of the helicopter into the stadium, before appearing again to greet crowds – a brilliant moment!

Prince Harry’s letter defending Meghan

Prince Harry and Meghan visit One World Observatory

(Image credit: Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The royals rarely speak out over media intrusion, so everyone was surprised when the Duke of Sussex chose to speak out in defence of his future wife Meghan Markle back in 2018, towards the beginning of their relationship. 

Following multiple racist articles about Meghan and the press intrusion into her life, Harry shared a very personal statement, asking for the harassment to cease. 

The letter, which was shared via his personal secretary, read, "His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her. It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm. 

"He knows commentators will say this is ‘the price she has to pay’ and that ‘this is all part of the game’. He strongly disagrees. This is not a game - it is her life and his."

Princess Anne's fine

Princess Anne in stroud

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You'd probably never expect a member of the royal family to get a fine for committing a crime, but that's what happened in 2002 when one of Princess Anne's dogs bit two children in Windsor Great Park, whilst out on a walk. 

Anne attended the Slough County Court herself to plead guilty to the criminal offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act, and was forced to pay a fine for the crime. She ended up paying £500 as punishment, and £250 in compensation, as well as £148 in magistrates court costs.

Kate's privacy case

Catherine, Princess Of Wales is seen during the opening of Evelina London's new children's day surgery unit

(Image credit: Photo by Ian Vogler - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Back in 2017, Kate Middleton faced a privacy case in court, after highly personal photos of her were published of her and William holidaying in France.

The private images were published by the magazine Closer, and Kate decided to take them to court for sharing the images. Catherine won the case and was paid £91,000 in damages, while the editor of the magazine and the CEO of Closer's publisher were each fined €45,000 for the decision to print the intrusive photographs of the royal.

Camilla's editorship of a magazine

Queen Camilla in an animal print dress

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Queen Camilla – before she was Queen Camilla – opted for an unusual but inventive way of shouting about the causes she is most passionate about in 2022 when she became a guest editor of one issue of the magazine Country Life.

Editing their July edition, Camilla specifically commissioned and requested articles on causes close to her heart, spotlighting the issue of rural domestic abuse, as well as the people working in the countryside that she considers to be heroes. This memorable Camilla moment was a real family affair too; Kate was also asked to take pictures of Camilla, to feature in the issue.

Diana's surprise dance at the opera

Prince Charles and Princess Diana

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A keen lover of the ballet, Princess Diana surprised everyone one night in 1985 – including Prince Charles – when she took to the stage at the Royal Opera House to perform a short dance to Billy Joel's Uptown Girl with ballet dancer Wayne Sleep! The Princess had long loved dancing and reportedly decided to share her passion and skill during the night out.

Reflecting on the experience in 2017, Wayne told The Guardian about their rehearsals. He said, "We met in a rehearsal studio in west London. She was in leg warmers and a leotard. My first thought was, she’s too tall to dance with me, I’ll be a laughing stock: I’m 5ft 2in and she’s 5ft 11in. 

"But I soon realized she had a good sense of humour, and that we could have some fun with our height difference. She’d already decided on the music: Billy Joel’s 'Uptown Girl.'"

Prince Philip's retirement

Prince Philip

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After a lifetime of service, Prince Philip made the unexpected (though arguably not surprising) move to retire from his royal duties in August 2017, at the age of 96. 

It's not clear exactly why the Duke of Edinburgh chose to retire, though he had several health scares in the years following. But given that he was in his mid-90s, it wasn't all that surprising for royal fans. Prince Philip met with the Royal Marines for his final engagement as a royal, and was rarely seen out in public after this time, except to attend important family events.

Meghan Markle walking herself down the aisle

Meghan Markle walks down the aisle

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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's May 2018 wedding was an historic day for many reasons, but one of the most touching and empowering moments of the entire event was when Meghan opted to walk herself down the first half of the aisle at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, before being joined by her father-in-law, King Charles.

Meghan's difficult relationship with her father Thomas Markle has been well documented, so royal fans were unsure of who, if anyone, would walk Meghan down the aisle on her big day – so it was lovely to see her make this untraditional yet important move.

When Princess Margaret's secret romance was exposed

Princess Margaret

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Princess Margaret's controversial relationship with Peter Townsend, divorcee16 years her senior had been conducted in secret, and successfully buried by the palace. That was until she was spotted picking a piece of fluff off his uniform at the Queen's Coronation in 1953.

Detailing the moment a royal reporter spotted the gesture at Westminster Abbey, Dickie Arbiter, who was the Queen's press secretary from 1988 to 2000, said, "An eagle-eyed reporter saw Margaret brush a bit of fluff off Group Captain Peter Townsend’s RAF tunic."

Appearing on Channel 5's Scandals at the Palace documentary, Dickie continued, "Royals don’t brush fluff off the hired help’s tunic. So [the reporter] thought 'Aha! there’s something here'."

And they were right. 

Amy Hunt

Amy Hunt is an experienced digital journalist specialising in homes, interiors and hobbies. She began her career working as the features assistant at woman&home magazine, before moving over to the digital side of the brand where she eventually became the Lifestyle Editor up until January 2022. Amy won the Digital Journalist of the Year award at the AOP Awards in 2019 for her work on