“Hey, ladies—all the ladies—louder now, help me out. Come on, all the ladies ... ”
So sang rap royalty Salt-N-Pepa when they took over the stage at the Billboard Awards Sunday night to sing several of their most memorable hits. Dressed in an updated riff on their ’90s finest, their performance culminated in a reunion with
the original Destiny’s Child R&B’s still fly and funky (and very glamorous) divas, En Vogue, who joined Salt and Pep—and DJ Spinderella, of course—to sing “Whatta Man.” Several decades after the height of their careers, the sextet of beauties looked and sounded so good, it was clear these ladies have still got it.
It was the conclusion of a night that had a decidedly “grown-ass woman” theme, as evidenced by the predominance of well-established female performers—often eclipsing their younger counterparts. Host Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera and Demi Lovato (in a diva belt-off) all gave powerhouse performances Sunday night, in addition to the aforementioned all-female nod to the 1990s that closed out the show.
But the biggest honoree of the night was the incomparable Janet Jackson (Ms. Jackson, if you’re nasty), on hand to accept a well-deserved Billboard Icon Award—the first awarded to a black woman in the award show’s 28-year history.
Arriving on the red carpet like the unrivaled queen she is in a tulle ball skirt paired with a tight white tee, cinched belt and around-the-way-girl jewelry, Jackson had her honey-colored hair half pulled up into a topknot, and her eyes drawn in a perfect cat’s-eye. As always, the casually fine icon made 52 look unbelievably fresh.
And she didn’t stop there: After a gushing introduction by Bruno Mars and a montage of her now over-four-decades-long career, Jackson hit the stage to blaze through a medley of hits, wearing a glittery gold oversized sweatshirt and matching thigh-high and gartered lace-up sneakers, adorned with a stack of Zulu-style beaded necklaces.
Jackson, who has earned more than 100 Billboard No. 1s over the course of her career, was no doubt aware that we’ve missed her much since she ended her tour last year, making her first television performance in nearly a decade a welcome return. But aside from her high-energy performance, the highlight of Jackson’s appearance may have been her nod to the #MeToo movement during her acceptance speech:
I’m deeply humbled and grateful for this award. I believe that for all the challenges, for all our challenges, we live at a glorious moment in history. 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.
But it wasn’t only the divas who came out to play at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards; ingenues, up-and-comers, influencers and established artists (including John Legend, performing mere days after welcoming son Miles Theodore Stephens) were all in attendance to celebrate the top of the charts.
Did any of your faves hit the red carpet?