Janet Jackson is the first black woman to receive the Icon Prize at the Billboard Music Awards – and she used her moment in the spotlight to underline her stance on the #MeToo movement.
Janet Jackson accepted the prestigious Icon Award at the Billboard Music Awards on Sunday (20 May).
It was Bruno Mars who introduced the “youngest member of the Jackson family” to the stage, rattling off all of her accolades and reminding the audience that Jackson is still the only artist to have 18 consecutive Top 10 hits on the Hot 100. That she is one of only four acts to score a number one album in each of the last four decades.
And that she is “the first black woman to ever receive the Billboard Icon Award”.
This was Jackson’s cue to deliver her first televised performance in nine years, and the singer launched into an electrifying medley of some of her greatest hits, including Nasty, If and Throb.
As the crowd chanted her name, Jackson – whose 1986 breakthrough album, Control, dealt with themes of feminism and taking charge of her own identity – stepped up to the microphone and addressed the arena.
“I’m deeply humbled and grateful for this award,” she said. “I believe for all our challenges, we live at a glorious moment history.”
Jackson went on to address the fact that, over the past 12 months, the entertainment industry has been rocked by allegations of sexual harassment. However, she added that this has prompted movements such as #MeToo and Time’s Up – a fact which she views as incredibly positive.
“It’s a moment when, at long last, women have made it clear that we will no longer be controlled, manipulated or abused,” she said.
“I stand with those women and with those men equally outraged who support us in heart and mind.”
Jackson ended her speech by thanking God, and telling fans that “everything we lack, God has in abundance.”
“Our public discourse is loud and harsh. My prayer is that, weary of such noise, we will turn back to the source of all calmness, that source is God,” she said.
“Everything we lack, God has in abundance: compassion, sensitivity, patience and boundless love.”
Jackson added: “Again I want to thank all of you for this honour and I thank God for giving me the precious energy that lets me live my life as an artist who every day seeks to expand my capacity to love.”
Last year, Jackson became emotional as she performed her song What About, which details the abuse she suffered at the hands of a toxic lover.
At the time, she introduced the song (which features the lyrics ‘What about the times you yelled at me? What about the times I cried? You wouldn’t even hold me’) by telling her fans, “This is me”.
It was the first time she had performed the song, taken from the 1997 album The Velvet Rope, in 18 years.