Janet Jackson was honored with one of music's most prestigious awards, Billboard's Icon Award, at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards Sunday night (May 20). The award was presented by Bruno Mars in a surprise appearance, who was eager to rave over Jackson's four decades in the business.
"The Jacksons are musical royalty and the first family of entertainment," Mars noted, to roars of approval from the audience. "She is the first black woman to receive the Billboard Icon Award."
From there, a lengthy video tribute was shown tracing Jackson's steps in entertainment from youth to present -- but the real treat came when Jackson herself strode out in the flesh and delighted the audience with a surprisingly brief but bang-for-the-buck medley. Her performance encompassed just two songs, which she belted out in a gold oversized sweater and boots, accompanied by a full flock of male and female dancers in various colorful outfits.
Jackson started off with 1986's smash hit "Nasty," throwing out the famous line, "No, my first name ain't baby," and adding a pointed, "What's my name y'all?"
The crowd had no problem answering that, of course. From there, she moved into 1993's sensual and lesser-known "Throb," an unexpected choice given her rich catalog of immediately recognizable hits.
Jackson's true moment came, however, when she took the mic to give her acceptance speech, which touched on timely matters of women's rights.
"I am deeply humbled and grateful for this award. I believe that for for all our challenges we live at a glorious moment in history," she said. "It's a moment when at long last women have made it clear that we will no longer be controlled, manipulated, or abused.
"I stand with those women and with those men equally outraged by discrimination who support us in heart and mind," she noted, adding advice to embrace faith in God during a time where "our public discourse is loud and harsh."
The 2018 Billboard Music Awards aired live on NBC from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, and hosted a variety of A-list music stars including BTS, Jennifer Lopez, Shawn Mendes, Dua Lipa, Christina Aguilera, Demi Lovato, Kesha and Salt-N-Pepa.