Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagicAt the 2018 Billboard Music Awards Sunday night, Janet Jackson became the first black female artist to receive the Billboard ICON Award. She took the stage to perform, and then gave a powerful speech about female empowerment (see related story). On the red carpet, everyone seemed to agree that Janet is indeed an ICON, citing her music, her performance ability, and her message.
Jennifer Lopez, who appeared in Janet’s video for “That’s the Way Love Goes” when she was still a relative unknown, told ABC News, “Janet was one of my idols growing up…I think I even started dancing because of her video “The Pleasure Principle!” [She’s] one of my favorites to this day.”
Ne-Yo, who knows Janet, told ABC Radio, “She made herself big enough to be to be iconic but small enough to still feel like your friend…you watch a Janet Jackson video and it’s like, ‘I wanna be friends with that person!'” He adds that Janet’s “not so larger than life that you don’t feel like you couldn’t go get a drink and just hang out [with her].”
Janet isn’t just a music pioneer: her choreography and dancing were pioneering as well. Dance pro Derek Hough noted, “It really was innovative at the time, and inspiring for a whole generation of dancers and performers…she’s an absolute trailblazer.”
Fifth Harmony member and now solo artist Normani gushed, “Janet Jackson is the queen….she’s really paved the way for me, a young African-American female. Y’know, having representation is so important and she is the inspiration and reason why I am who I am today.”
Halsey, who credits Janet as a “massive inspiration,” praised the superstar as a “risk taker” for doing things “that were a little bit provocative and risque for an artist of her era.” She also noted that Janet “made it possible for so many young artists of color today to be able to do what they do.”
But Halsey also noted that Janet was the only girl in a family of a bunch of super-talented brothers. “It’s hard to push through when the brothers are getting all the shine!” she pointed out. “You have to take your own and take your moment and, and she did so, wonderfully.”
Pioneering female hip hop group Salt-N-Pepa said they grew up watching Janet as Penny on the groundbreaking sitcom Good Times, and also praised her for the message of empowerment in her breakthrough album Control.
Said Cheryl “Salt” James, “For women who lose control of their lives — to their kids, to their husbands, to their relationship, maybe even to their careers — to just have that moment when you say ‘I’m in control,’ I think that was the quintessential Janet moment.”
’90s hitmaking vocal group En Vogue summed Janet’s appeal up by noting she’s a “consummate performer” with “timeless” music. As they put it, “Nobody can touch Janet!”
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