Ms. Jackson, no stranger to an awards show tribute, presented Ms. Blige the Billboard Icon Award

"What defines an icon?" Janet Jackson asked a crowd on their feet and generally freaking out at her surprise appearance ("YOU!" yelled several audience members). What, or who, could bring a legend of her status to the stage of the Billboard Music Awards? Her friend and fellow icon Mary J. Blige.

Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards
| Credit: Rich Polk/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Ms. Jackson was on hand to present Blige with the Billboard Icon Award, an award she herself received in 2018. That it took that long for Jackson to get that award is already suspect, but at least MJB finally got hers.

"Mary J. Blige represents truth," Jackson said. "Her work has always given us comfort because she sings me, she sings you."

And though they weren't there in person to give Blige her flowers, Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah, Taraji P. Henson, Gabrielle Union, H.E.R. and others sent in videos praising the undisputed Queen of Hip Hop Soul.

Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards
| Credit: Rich Polk/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Blige, calling Jackson one of her biggest icons growing up, put the early kibosh on anyone cutting off her speech with the wrap-it-up music. "I got something to say," she declared before reflecting on her career and extolling the virtues of her ghetto fabulousness: "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 said. "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 made her debut in 1992 with the classic What's the 411?, carving her own lane with her gritty but always vulnerable blend of soul and hip hop. Over the years, she's proven herself a prolific hitmaker, racking up records and accolades, including two Oscar nominations in one year (the first person to be nominated for acting and songwriting).

"For so long I've been searching for a real love," Blige said, referencing her breakthrough hit. "I finally found my real love, and that real love is me."

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