In case you missed it, on Sunday night Janet Jackson was honored with the Icon Award at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, after lighting up the stage with a medley of some of her hits — which included "Nasty" and "Throb."
Jackson, who turned 52 this week, performed on live TV for the first time in almost a decade with a trio of dopely dressed dancers and the kind of stamina that we should all hope to have at her age. After her short but impressive performance, singer Bruno Mars presented Jackson with the Icon Award, which was established in 2011 to recognize an honoree's contributions to the music industry. While presenting the award, Mars noted that Jackson is the first Black woman to receive it. The award itself hasn't been around that long, but it begs the question, what took the BBMAs seven years to honor Jackson and her music career which spans over almost 40 years?
Previous Icon Award recipients include music artists like Celine Dion, Prince, Jennifer Lopez, and Stevie Wonder. But Jackson has had a career longer than some of the previous recipients. Her being the first Black women awarded is a testament to Hollywood's trend of making talented Black women apart of the "F.O.D club"; a phenomenon coined by Shonda Rhimes in her book "Year of Yes," where women of color are often the First.Only.Different when it comes to industry representation and recognition.
It would appear that when women of color enter spaces of prestige and wealth, like those within the entertainment industry, that it would be easier to receive the appropriate accolades. But much like in the regular working world, women of color, and Black women especially have a much longer road to being celebrated for their achievements.
During her acceptance speech, Jackson said "Women have made it clear that we will no longer be controlled, manipulated or abused. I stand with those women, and with men who support us, against discrimination."
Although Jackson has never been known for taking a public stance on political issues, her sentiments can be applied to the progress that women, and certainly women of color have made. Here's hoping that the BBMAs and other awards organization take note, and that it won't be another seven years before another talented Black woman is recognized as an "icon."
Tiffany Curtis is a Philly-based freelance writer, podcaster, and sex positivist whose work focuses on empowerment for women of color, race and culture, and sex positivity. She has written for sites like Blavity, Refinery29, and Hello Giggles.