Janet Jackson has become the first woman of colour to win Billboard's prestigious Music Icon award.

On Monday, the legendary singer-songwriter used her award speech to say she stands with all women who have been "manipulated or abused".

"I believe that for all the challenges – all our challenges – we live at a glorious moment in history," she said.

"It's a moment when at long last women have made it clear we will no longer be controlled, manipulated or abused. I stand with those women and with those men equally outraged; by those who support us in heart and mind."

Jackson, whose successful career that has spanned four decades, said public discourse has been "loud and harsh" in recent months. As a result, she says she has had to lean on her faith more than ever before.


Janet Jackson performing at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards.

Photo: AP

"Everything we lack, God has in abundance," she told the crowd. "Patience and abundant love. I want to thank all of you for this honour. And I thank God for giving me the precious energy that lets me live my life as an artist."

Last year, Jackson split with her husband Wissam Al Mana three months after giving birth to her first child. Her brother later told People magazine that the marriage was "quite an abusive situation", with the singer allegedly being verbally abused and made to feel like a "prisoner" in her own home.

Jackson's speech came after she performed her hit single Nasty on stage with a small army of backup dancers dressed in colourful, '80s-inspired costumes.

The Icon Award-winner was joined on stage by a sea of dancers wearing colourful, '80s-inspired constumes.

Photo: AP

Apart from women's rights, attitudes towards guns weaved its way through the 2018 Billboard Awards. Host Kelly Clarkson opened the ceremony by urging viewers to take "a moment of action" against gun violence instead of a moment of silence.

"I'm so sick of moments of silence," she said, referencing Friday's mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas. "It's not working. Mummas and daddies should be able to send their kids to school, to church, to movie theatres… without that kind of fear."

Khalid, who took home the award for best new artist, later performed in a T-shirt that said "protect our guns" with the word "guns" crossed out and replaced with "children".

Taylor Swift, meanwhile, took home the award for top female artist while Ed Sheeran nabbed the trophy for best artist.

"I haven't been to an awards show in a few years," Swift said during her thank-you speech. "I want to thank all the female artists who paved the way… [and give a] shout-out to the future female artists who picked up a guitar or learned to play a piano. Thank you so much."

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Broede Carmody

Broede Carmody is an entertainment reporter at Fairfax Media.

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