Accepting a Global Icon award might normally mean droning on for too long about ancient career anecdotes, but, last night, Janet Jackson proved she was worthy of the accolade, not only by performing a killer mash-up of her greatest hits, but by using her acceptance speech to advocate for women around the globe.
Jackson was granted icon status by the MTV European Music Awards in Bilbao and, after a career that spans four decades and selling over 100 million records, it’s taken long enough (thank you, Justin Timberlake). But instead of reflecting on her career, Jackson began her speech by recognising what an honour it was to be called an icon, one that “comes with a tremendous responsibility”.
“I speak for women whose voices have been stifled and I am one of those women. Women who have been gagged, both literally and emotionally. Women who have been abused, women who have been intimidated. Women who have lived in fear, I stand with you, you are my sisters.”
The 52-year-old singer also spoke about recognising the dignity of all people and the beauty of all faiths, continuing: “Tonight, I carry the hope that a new world is emerging. A caring world where men as well as women no longer tolerate gender inequality.”
It’s a long time coming that the music industry is finally recognising Janet Jackson for the icon she is, and fans took to social media to praise Jackson on her speech.
Earlier this year, she became the first black woman to receive the Icon Award from the Billboard Music Awards, and rightly so – she was the first woman in history to have five consecutive number-one albums and the biggest-selling debut tour in history.
Her speech had interesting timing, after almost one year of the #MeToo movement, and in the same year that Timberlake returned to perform at the Superbowl, 14 years after his joint show with Jackson and the so-called “wardrobe malfunction”, which resulted in her being blacklisted by the music community, while Timberlake came out unscathed. It’s taken her far too long to come back into the limelight, and we’re so glad she’s back putting out great new music and using that limelight for good.
With the current political climate in the US, we salute Janet for using her position to remind us of our strength and to stand in solidarity with each other.