Mary J. Blige received the highest honor at the 2019 BET Awards on Sunday.
While presenting the Queen of Hip-hop and R&B with the Lifetime Achievement Award during the ceremony in Los Angeles, Rihanna praised Blige for the blueprint she set.
“She changed the game with her unique style: the backwards cap, the baggy jerseys, y’all know the Mary J. look. She took it there with those thigh-high boots,” Rihanna said, going on to praise Blige for her many successes, including becoming the first person to ever be nominated for an Oscar in both music and acting in the same year.
“Happy Mary, sad Mary ... we’re here for all of it,” Rihanna said. “Mary J. Blige, you have set the bar for relatable, timeless, classic music. You opened multiple doors for female artists in this industry. And on behalf of all the women that came after you, like myself, thank you for being you so we can feel comfortable being ourselves. Thank you for pouring yourself into every track and giving us a song for every feeling. Thank you for showing us that love is all that we need. But we didn’t know how much we needed you.”
Blige accepted the award and told Rihanna the feelings of inspiration were mutual. She went on to thank BET, her family, friends, Diddy, Andre Harrell, other collaborators, her team and fans.
“People always ask how do I sustain and stay relevant in this industry,” Blige said. “It’s because although I am a leader, a queen, a living legend, although I’m all of these things, I’m a servant as well and I’m here to serve. Being a servant is not always glamorous or popular, but it’s the job and assignment I was given. It’s because in order to be an authority, I had to learn how to come under authority. It’s because when the glory is placed on me, I give it back to God immediately. This journey has always been bigger than me and my job is not only to survive, right now it’s to thrive and continue to make history while I do it.”
Following her speech, Blige hit the stage to perform a medley of her greatest hits, including “My Life,” “No More Drama,” “I’m Going Down” and “Real Love.” Lil’ Kim and Method Man joined her on stage during the performance.
Since she was first signed to Uptown Records in 1989 as the label’s first and youngest female artist, the Bronx native has had eight multiplatinum albums, earned nine Grammys and 12 Billboard Music Awards. She has also expanded into more acting roles in recent years, receiving nominations for two Academy Awards and four Golden Globes.
Watch a clip from BET’s tribute to Blige below: