Rihanna took home top honours at the American Music Awards.

The singer won Favourite Soul/R&B Female Artist for the third time at the fan-voted awards on Sunday night.

She was also celebrated with the first-ever Icon Award, dubbed "the voice of our time" during an introduction by comedian Bill Maher.

Rihanna's mother then presented the star with the honour, making for an emotional moment on stage.

"Tonight I applaud and admire for being so strong and so positive and so humble and so focused. It's amazing how you I'm so blessed to be part of this historic moment," the matriarch said, as Rihanna told her she loved her.

"Just about 20 years ago I began giving your life a living hell with my husky... man voice, as you called it," she mused. "I annoyed every one of my neighbours... I can't believe at 25-years-old I'm holding an Icon Award. That sounds weird saying that out loud."

Other big winners of the night included Justin Timberlake, who took home Favourite Pop/Rock Male, and Taylor Swift, who took home Favourite Female Country Artist and Favourite Country Album for her latest release, Red.

"I cannot believe what you've done in the last year. This album came out almost exactly a year ago and the fact that six million of you went out and bought it is crazy," she said, addressing her fans.

One Direction also took home Favourite Pop/Rock Group and Favourite Pop/Rock Album, while Macklemore and Ryan Lewis won Favourite Rap/Hip-Hop Album and Ariana Grande was crowned Best New Artist.

The 20-year-old singer performed her new hit, Tattooed Heart, while Katy Perry opened the show with Unconditionally. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis also delivered a performance via satellite from Miami and Rihanna sang her hit single, Diamonds.

The 2013 American Music Awards, held at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, were hosted by Pitbull.