Mary J. Blige Gushes Over Finally Finding ‘Real Love’ In Icon Award Speech At BBMAs

Mary J. Blige revealed what being an icon is to her and what that means when it comes to finding love.

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Mary J. Blige has officially received the Icon Award at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards! She was presented the award by previous recipient Janet Jackson, 55, who called her “one of the most successful female R&B/hip hop artists in the modern era” and applauded her “ability to create, explore, and practically pioneer an entire musical genre.” In her heartfelt speech at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on May 15, Mary explained what being an icon and finding your true love means to her.

Mary. J Blige Billboard Awards 2022
Mary J. Blige accepts her Icon Award at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards (Photo: NBC)

“Wow I’m in a dream right now, thank you so much,” she began, looking awestruck. “Janet Jackson – speaking of icon – you were always one of our biggest inspirations growing up,” she continued before warning the show’s producers that her speech is long and not to hurry her up.

“So the way the world is now, I think people think that icons are born that way, they become a legend overnight – but that is definitely not the case. It takes a lot of time, hard work, and a lot of surviving trial and error to achieve greatness,” Mary explained. “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 and that is what I am always representing.” She added, “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 still with a lot of heartache and pain, but God helped me to channel those experiences and emotions into my music which is where I started.”

Janet Jackson Mary J. Blige Billboard Awards 2022
Janet Jackson gives Mary J. Blige her Icon Award at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards (Photo: NBC)

She then continued on to speak about how she has always looked for love, but she eventually found true love in her “ghetto fabulous” self. “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,” she proudly stated as the audience cheered her on. “Who’s managing Mary J. Blige now?” she smiled.

The newest Icon Award recipient concluded her speech by thanking God, her family and friends, and notable peers such as Interscope Records founder Jimmy Iovine, P. Diddy, and Dr. Dre.

Upon learning she would be the recipient of the award, Mary released a statement expressing her gratitude. “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, per 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 honor and one that I am truly humbled by.” The first Icon Award was handed out in 2011 to Neil Diamond, 81. Following recipients include Stevie Wonder, 71, Prince, Jennifer Lopez, 52, Celine Dion, 54, Cher, 75, Mariah Carey, 52, Garth Brooks, 60, and Pink, 42.

Mary. J Blige Billboard Awards 2022
Mary J. Blige was full of gratitude during her Icon Award acceptance speech (Photo: NBC)

2022 has been a fruitful year for the nine-time Grammy and 10-time BBMA recipient. Mary released her 14th studio album, Good Morning Gorgeous, on February 11. Just two days later, Mary gave an iconic performance with fellow rap and hip-hop legends Dr. Dre, 57, Snoop Dogg, 50, Eminem, 49, and Kendrick Lamar, 34, at Super Bowl LVI. In an interview following the performance, she gushed about how important it was to have hip-hop represented in front of such a huge audience. “Like, hip-hop is here. It’s more than just a small thing. It’s just as big as rock ‘n’ roll right now,” she told Hot 97. “I’m just paying attention to how we got raised up,” she added.

Mary rose to fame after releasing her debut album, What’s the 411?, in July 1992. She has since churned out hit after hit, including four No. 1 albums. However, each one of her studio albums has hit within the top ten spots of the Billboard 200. Some of her biggest songs include 2001’s “Family Affair,” 2005’s “Be Without You,” 2006’s “Enough Cryin,” and 2006’s “Take Me As I Am.”