Mary J. Blige has long been recognized among Black women as an icon. Now, she has the formal distinction from the Billboard Music Awards as well.
Blige was honored with the Icon Award at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards on Sunday evening, hosted by Sean “Love” Combs. The host and CEO of Bad Boy ushered Blige to the stage after a montage video featuring appearances from Gabrielle Union, Taraji P. Henson, and Queen Latifah giving the songstress verbal flowers.
“She sings me, she sings you,” Jackson said of Blige as she prepared to hand over the icon trophy. “Mary has made a commitment to her fans to always be her authentic self.”
Being her most authentic self is what brought Blige to the height of the R&B game, which has won her a grand total of eleven Billboard Music Awards over the years. She is also only the seventh female artist to achieve this honor.
But the proclaimed Queen of R&B Soul acknowledges that status as legendary as her own takes time and experience to establish.
“The way the world is now, people think icons are born that way,” said Blige, 51, while accepting her honor. “But that is definitely not the case. It takes a lot of time, hard work, and a lot of surviving trial and error to achieve greatness.”
“What an icon means to me is overcoming obstacles to accomplish the unthinkable and be widely admired for having influence over a multitude of people, and that is what I’ve always represented.”
Blige also acknowledged the ‘heartache and pain” it took to get her to this point of polish and accolades, as well ass the somewhat new appreciation of her aesthetic and style, which was initially viewed as a bit rough around the edges.
“God helped me to channel those emotions into my music,” she said. “I was ghetto fabulous and I still am. So ghetto, so fabulous…and people were threatened by that. And now everybody wants to be ghetto fabulous.”
“The message of my music has always been that we are not alone in out struggles,” Blige continued. “And I’m not alone now. For so long I was searching for a ‘Real Love,’ but I finally found my real love. And that real love is me. Who’s managing Mary J. Blige now? Me.”
Take a look at Mary J. Blige’s full icon award acceptance speech below: