Billboard music awards

Mary J. Blige Reflects on ‘Overcoming Obstacles' in Billboard Awards Speech

Blige then took to stage as former Icon Award recipient Janet Jackson presented her with her trophy

Mary J. Blige
Christopher Polk/NBC

No more drama, real love.

At the 2022 Billboard Music Awards — held at MGM Garden Area in Las Vegas on May 15 — legendary singer-songwriter Mary J. Blige received the honorary Icon Award.

Before Blige accepted her honor, a video tribute highlighting the 10-time BBMA winner's nearly 30-year career played, featuring testimonials from the likes of Taraji P. Henson, Missy Elliot, Gabrielle Union, H.E.R. and Queen Latifah.

Blige then took to stage in a sparkly cut-out mini-dress as former Icon Award recipient Janet Jackson presented her with her trophy.

"The way the world is now, I think people think icons are born that way, but that is definitely not the case," Blige began her acceptance speech. "It takes a lot of time, hard work, and a lot of survival and trial and error to achieve greatness.

She continued, "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. I've been on this journey for a long time — one that didn't always look the way you see me now. One that is filled with a lot of heartache and pain. God helped me to channel those experiences and emotions into my music, which is where I started in music."

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Mary J. Blige Through the Years

The "Family Affair" singer then reflected on how the music industry has changed since she was introduced as the "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul" back in the '90s, calling those early days "the beginning of a movement."

"Every inner-city girl was recognizing their own and could relate to everything I was saying," she said. "And every female artist that came into the game wanted to do everything I was doing and still does to this day. I was ghetto fabulous and I still am. People were threatened by that. Now everybody wants to be ghetto fabulous."

Blige explained the message of her music "has always been that we are not alone in our struggles," and revealed she finally found the real love she had always been looking for.

"I'm not alone now, she said. "For so long I was searching for a real love. But I finally found my real love and that real love is me," adding, "Who's managing Mary J. Blige now? Me."

The 51-year-old joins an exclusive list of only 10 other musicians to receive the award since its inception in 2011. And she's in A-List company: Past recipients of the trophy include Jackson, Neil Diamond, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion, Cher, Mariah Carey, Garth Brooks and Pink.

Ahead of the award show, Blige — who amassed a huge fanbase by releasing 14 albums, all of which have reached the top 10 on the Billboard 200 chart — said that she was grateful for the honor and reflected on her journey to music stardom.

"My career has been such an incredible and unexpected journey that has included many turns into avenues I never could have imagined like acting, producing, launching businesses and now even my own music festival," she said in a statement. "Through it all, I always one way or another gravitated back to my first love, music. To be recognized in this way at this moment, with the Icon Award at the Billboard Music Awards, is an incredible honor and one that I am truly humbled by."

Blige's big night at the BBMA comes just three months after she rocked the stage at the 2022 Super Bowl in February, alongside Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent. When asked to perform at the all-hip-hop halftime show, Blige said she jumped at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"That call made my day," she dished to E! News' Justin Sylvester in February. "I couldn't even get excited until I got off the phone 'cause I didn't want to look so crazy. But it was amazing. I was like, 'Absolutely, 100 percent. I'm there, what you need, when you need it?' That's how it happened."

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