“To be called an icon is a tremendous honor, but one that comes with a tremendous responsibility,” Jackson said. “Tonight, I feel moved to speak for women’s voices who have been stifled. I am one of those women. Women who have been gagged, both literally and emotionally. Women who have been abused. Women who have been intimidated. Women who have lived in fear. I stand with you. You are my sisters.”
The audience roared at that line. This past year, there has been renewed outrage over the way Jackson was treated by the entertainment industry, particularly after the infamous wardrobe malfunction at the 2004 Super Bowl, at which she performed with Justin Timberlake. While Timberlake’s reputation was left relatively unscathed, Jackson was shunned. When Timberlake returned to headline the Super Bowl this past year, fans revolted and got #JanetJacksonAppreciationDay trending on Twitter.
Onstage at the EMAs, Jackson continued: “Tonight, I carry the hope that a new world is emerging. A world in which caring people, male as well as female, will no longer tolerate gender inequality,” she said. “Women, our voices will be heard. We will be heard when we speak out for justice. Speak out for the spirit that crosses all borders, recognizes the dignity of all people and affirms the beauty of all faiths. Speak out for acts of true charity, small and large. Speak out for an all-embracing love. Because it’s love that will heal our wounds.”
Earlier in the show, Jackson brought down the house when she performed a medley of hits, including “Made for Now,” “All for You” and “Rhythm Nation.” (She mixed it up from the Billboard Music Awards, when she performed a medley of “Nasty,” “If” and “Throb.”)
Elsewhere at the EMAs, pop star Camila Cabello was the big winner, as she took home the awards for best song and video for “Havana,” as well as the best artist award. Other performers included Nicki Minaj, Little Mix, Panic! at the Disco, Rosalia, Muse, Bebe Rexha, Halsey, Jason Derulo, David Guetta, Alessia Cara, Jack & Jack, Anne-Marie, Bastille, Marshmello and Hailee Steinfeld, who also hosted the show.