Janet Jackson made a surprise appearance at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards to personally present the Icon Award to her friend Mary J. Blige.
“What defines an icon? Jackson asked, getting a “You” response from some audience members. Jackson, who received the same award in 2018, praised her longtime friend and recipient of the 2022 Billboard Icon Award.
“Mary J. Blige represents the truth,” Jackson added. “Her work has always comforted us because she sings to me, she sings to you.”
Along with Jackson, Blige’s friends including Taraji P. Henson, Gabrielle Union, HER, Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah and others also shared video tributes to their friend in a pre-recorded montage.
Taken 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 have something to say,” Blige said. “Now everyone wants to look fabulous in the ghetto. What an icon means to me is overcoming obstacles to accomplish the unthinkable and to be greatly admired to have an influence on a multitude of people, and that is what I have always represented.
Blige added: “I’ve been on this journey for a long time. One that didn’t always look like the way you see me now. One that was filled with a lot of heartbreak and pain. But God helped me channel those experiences and emotions into my music.
Blige also thanked Diddy, whom she called a “big brother,” along with Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. for inviting her to perform at the 2022 Super Bowl Halftime Show.
“The message in my music has always been that we are not alone in our struggles,” Blige said. “And I’m not alone now.”
Earning the title of “Queen of Hip Hop Soul”, Blige debuted with her 1992 album What is 411? and recently released their 14th album Hello beauty in 2022. Throughout her career, Blige has garnered numerous awards and accolades, including two Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song for the 2018 film. muddy.
Besides Blige and Jackson, previous Icon Award winners include Cher, Garth Brooks, Neil Diamond, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion and Mariah Carey.
“For so long I’ve been looking for true love,” Blige said of his 1992 hit. “I’ve finally found my true love, and that true love is me.”
Main photo: Christopher Polk