The disgraced figure skater watched as Janney accepted the award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in I, Tonya, which gives an inside look at Harding’s life and scandal-laden career.
During her acceptance speech, the actress, who portrayed Harding's mother LaVona Golden, expressed gratitude for her willingness to embrace the idea of creating a film about her life.
“I would like to thank Tonya for sharing her story,” Janney said, pointing to Harding the audience at the Beverly Hilton ballroom.
“What this movie did is tell a story about class in America, tell a story about the disenfranchised, tell the story about a woman who was not embraced for her individuality, tell a story about truth and the perception of truth in the media and truths we all tell ourselves,” she continued. “It’s an extraordinary movie, and I’m so proud of it.”
As the camera panned to Harding, she looked emotional as she held her hands to her chest and fought back tears.
I, Tonya follows the true story of Harding, who grew up with an abusive mother and became the wife of an abusive husband. Throughout her career as an American figure skater, she says she was put down for being creative and was overlooked by skaters from higher-class families — by Nancy Kerrigan in particular.
It was reported earlier in January that Harding admitted she was aware of a plot to attack Kerrigan ahead of the 1994 Olympic Games.
“I knew something was up,” Harding recalled of the time before Kerrigan was clubbed in the knee, practically ending her bright career. She denies playing any role in the attack, though, which was later revealed to have been orchestrated by her husband Jeff Gillooly and bodyguard Shawn Eckardt.
“I did, however, overhear them talking about stuff where, ‘Well, maybe we should take somebody out to make sure she gets on the team.’ I go, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ ” Harding confessed in the ABC special Truth and Lies: The Tonya Harding Story. It marked the first time she openly stated she knew danger may lie ahead for a fellow skater.
Harding said that while she had nothing to do with the malicious plot, she viewed herself as a “pawn” who largely took the fall for the incident, which was carried out by Shane Stant, a man hired by Gillooly and Eckardt.
“I’m always the bad person. And I never understood that,” she added.
Following the scandal with Kerrigan, Harding was stripped of her 1994 US Championship title and was banned from participating in US Figure Skating Association events as a skater or coach.
In I, Tonya, Harding’s character is played by Margot Robbie, who was also nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in the film.
“Margot set the bar for all of us with her incredible fearlessness approaching this role, her incredible commitment to it, she made my job so much easier,” Janney said of her costar.
The film was nominated for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, but was defeated by indie hit Lady Bird.