After a heartfelt and touching introduction by her Good Place co-star and friend Ted Danson, Bell took the stage to accept the award -- making her the fourth annual winner after Viola Davis, Gal Gadot and Clair Foy.
“Sometimes I do get asked, 'What does it mean to be a woman today?' And I respond always by asking them to repeat the question so I can buy more time, because it’s a really, really hard question," Bell joked with a smile. "My immediate reaction is always to answer with words like 'strong' and 'brave' and 'powerful.'"
"But if I'm being honest, to me, being a woman isn't about being strong or being brave or being powerful. It isn't about being anything specific. It is just about giving yourself permission to be the things you already are," she continued. "Which seems very easy, but it is not, because women have been conditioned to fit into boxes. Usually tiny, pretty sparkly boxes, with bows on them generally."
"For me, the idea of womanhood is someone who sheds the perfect little box and owns their complexity. [And] I’ve been really lucky to be able to play some really complex women," she continued, giving shout-outs specifically to Veronica Mars, Frozen's Princess Anna, Eleanor Shellstrop of The Good Place and even Sarah Marshall.
"What I've learned from all that is that nobody is just one thing," she added. "We are all all of the things."
"So thank you for this, the reminder to #SeeHer and see myself in total, the brave parts and the cowardly parts and even the parts that cry at sloths," Bell concluded, referring to her famous viral video meltdown years ago when she got a chance to meet her favorite animal and broke down in sobbing tears.
According to the Critics' Choice Awards, the special honor “recognizes a woman who embodies the values set forth by the SeeHer movement, to push boundaries on changing stereotypes and acknowledge the importance of authentic portrayals of women across the entertainment landscape."
Check out the video below for more on this year's honoree.