Mary J. Blige has been an icon for years, but the legendary songstress has acquired a new trophy to confirm it! The 51-year-old accepted the coveted Icon Award on Sunday at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards. She is one of only 11 other artists to receive the honour.

While accepting her award, presented by Janet Jackson, Blige reflected on the status of an “icon” in culture, and the public perception of artists deemed icons.

“The way the world is now, I think people think icons are born that way, that they become a legend overnight, but that is definitely not the case,” she shared. “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 wildly admired for having influence over a multitude of people, and that is what I’ve always represented,” she continued. “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.”

“I was ghetto fabulous and I still am! So ghetto, so fabulous, and people were threatened by that. And now everybody want to be ghetto fabulous,” Blige explained. “The message of my music has always been that we are not alone in our struggles and I’m not alone now. For so long I was searching for real love, but I finally found my real love — and that real love is me.”

The Icon Award recognizes artists who have achieved excellence on the Billboard charts and have made a lasting mark on the music industry, and Blige has done just that, with 10 BBMA wins total. The singer has had 14 top-10 Billboard 200 studio albums, four Billboard Hot 100 top-10 singles as a lead artist in the United States, and has had a total of 16 top-40 charting singles in the United States.

Blige joins an elite class of honorees including Pink, Garth Brooks, Cher, Neil Diamond, Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey.

Prior to accepting the award, Blige gushed over the honour in a statement last month.

“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,” Blige told Billboard. “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 honour and one that I am truly humbled by.”

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2022 Billboard Awards Red Carpet