Janet Jackson made a surprise appearance at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards to personally hand the Icon Award to her friend Mary J. Blige.
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“What defines an icon?” asked Jackson, getting a response of “You” from some audience members. Jackson, who received the same award in 2018, shared words of praise for her longtime friend, and recipient of the 2022 Billboard Icon Award.
“Mary J. Blige represents truth,” added Jackson. “Her work has always given us comfort because she sings me, she sings you.”
Along with Jackson, Blige’s friends including Taraji P. Henson, Gabrielle Union, H.E.R., Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah, and others also shared video tributes to their friend in a pre-recorded montage.
Walked up to the stage by Billboard Awards host, executive producer, and friend Sean “Diddy” Combs, Blige, in her acceptance speech, called Jackson one of her biggest icons growing up.
“I got something to say,” said Blige. “Now everyone wants to be ghetto fabulous. What an icon means to me is overcoming obstacles to accomplish the unthinkable and be wildly admired for having influence over a multitude of people, and that is what I’ve always represented.”
Blige added, “I’ve been on this journey for a long time. One that didn’t always look the way you see me now. One that was filled with a lot of heartache and pain. But God helped me to channel those experiences and emotions into my music.”
Blige also went on to thank Diddy, who she called a “big brother,” along with Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. for inviting her to perform at the 2022 Super Bowl Half Time Show.
“The message in my music has always been that we are not alone in our struggles,” said Blige. “And I’m not alone now.”
Earning the title of the “Queen of Hip Hop Soul,” Blige debuted with her 1992 album What’s the 411? and recently released her 14th album Good Morning Gorgeous in 2022. Throughout her career, Blige has picked up numerous awards and accolades, including two Oscar nominations for the Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song for the 2018 film Mudbound.
Along with Blige and Jackson, previous Icon Award recipients include Cher, Garth Brooks, Neil Diamond, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion, and Mariah Carey.
“For so long I’ve been searching for a real love,” said Blige referencing her 1992 hit. “I finally found my real love, and that real love is me.”
Main Photo: Christopher Polk