Janet Jackson Accepts Icon Award; Invokes Female Solidarity at Billboard Awards

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Honoree Janet Jackson performs onstage during the 2018 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 20, 2018 in Las Vegas. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Onstage at the Billboard Music Awards, Janet Jackson finally got her due.

In the 14 years since the “wardrobe malfunction” incident at the 2004 Super Bowl, fans have drawn attention to the music industry’s blackball of Jackson as a clear case of sexist double standards, considering that Justin Timberlake, who was actively involved in the incident, emerged unscathed. Meanwhile, a mix of racism, sexism and the abstinence-only cultural climate of the Bush era meant that the media dragged Jackson's name through the mud, and the five-time Grammy winning artist receded from the spotlight.

Now, with the ongoing #TimesUp movement against gender inequality in the music industry, the moment is ripe for Jackson to have her long overdue comeback.

Sunday at the Billboard Music Awards, Jackson became the first black female artist to receive the Icon Award, which honors an artist "whose body of work has made a profound influence over pop music on a global level."


"We live at a glorious moment in history," Jackson said as she accepted the award. "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.”

Jackson then delivered her first television performance in nine years—a powerful display of female solidarity, with dancers of diverse body types and ethnicities on the stage. "Nasty" particularly struck a chord, when the dancers fiercely assembled (got in formation?) along the steps of a pyramid with Jackson at the top. The song is a warning to disrespectful dudes, and the anti-Trump reclamation of the "nasty woman" epithet also came to mind as Jackson and the dancers stared boldly at the audience.

With this inspiring night and Jackson's upcoming headlining set at Outside Lands in San Francisco this August, 2018 is proving to be her year.