The chart-topping singer and award-winning actress, 51, last night broke down while watching a video message from her 12-year-old twins Emme and Max.
Hustlers star Lopez, who wore a striking red ensemble to accept the honour, reflected on a tumultuous year and said 2020 had been a “great leveller”.
She said: “It showed us what mattered, what didn’t and for me it reinforced what matters most – people. All of us, together, helping each other, loving each other, being kind to each other.
“And the importance of that connection, that human touch.”
Lopez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, reflected on her rise to the top, saying as a Latina woman “sometimes we have to work twice as hard”.
She added: “Sometimes my big dreams and ambitions made the people around me nervous. People would say, ‘You’re a dancer, you can’t be an actress… you’re an artist, you won’t be taken seriously as a businesswoman.’ The more they said I couldn’t, the more I knew that I had to.”
Lopez said “the true measure” of her success is “in inspiring girls of all ages and of all colours, from all around the world to know you can be anything you want and do as many things as you want and be proud of who you are no matter where you come from”.
The star, who has previously won the Billboard Icon Award, finished the speech with a call for the US to “heal as a country and stand together united, proud and in harmony.”
Last night at the glittering event, held at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica with some stars attending virtually, host Demi Levato opening proceedings with a joke about the delayed presidential election result - saying: “We made sure to count everyone in Pennsylvania’s vote first”.
Winners included A-list stars Justin Bieber, who was introduced by Alison Brie as he was named male artist of 2020, Extraction actor Chris Hemsworth, who picked up the action movie star gong and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was named drama movie star for his hit musical Hamilton.
Bad Boys For Life won film of the year while its star, Will Smith, was named film star of 2020.
The Kissing Booth 2 was named comedy film of the year, while on the small screen Never Have I Ever was named comedy show of the year.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show was named the year’s best daytime talk show despite controversy over an alleged toxic environment on set.
Three top producers departed the programme in August following allegations of bullying and misconduct. Accepting the prize, host Ellen DeGeneres, who publicly apologised in September, paid tribute to her staff on the show.
Justin Bieber was introduced by actress Alison Brie, who revealed that the singer was taking home the award for the Male Artist of 2020.
Rapper Tyler, The Creator introduced actress Tracee Ellis Ross before she accepted her fashion icon award. In her acceptance speech, she paid tribute to her mother, the singer Diana Ross.
Hollywood mogul Tyler Perry was honoured with the people’s champion award. Other winners included Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo for female TV star and Mandy Moore for drama TV star for This Is Us.
Female movie star went to Tiffany Haddish for Like A Boss and Sofia Vergara won comedy TV star for Modern Family.