The Billboard Music Awards took place on Sunday night, and one of the main attractions was Janet Jackson, who was on hand to accept the Icon Award, becoming the first black woman to do so. What was less expected, though, was her performance: It was previously unannounced and a surprise part of the evening when she nailed a medley of her hits “Nasty,” “If,” and “Throb” on a stage absolutely full of lights and dancers, for her first television performance in nine years.
After Bruno Mars introduced Jackson, she accepted the honor and gave a moving speech about love and the mistreatment of women:
“I’m deeply humbled and grateful for this award. I believe that for all the challenges, all of our challenges, we live at a glorious moment in history. It’s a moment that 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 in mine. This also a moment when 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. Everything we lack, God has in abundance: compassion, sensitivity, patience, and a boundless love. So again, I want to thank all of you for this honor, and I thank God for giving me the precious energy that lets me live my life as an artist who every single day seeks to expand my capacity to love. Thank you so much.”
Watch Jackson perform and accept the Icon Award above.