Carey said she started making music out of necessity, as a way to survive and express herself. "I just wanted to create something so I could feel worthy of existing," she said. "And if I've learned anything, anything at all in this life it's that truly all things are possible with God. Without getting into all the drama, all the ups and downs of my career, we've all seen them, we all make mistakes...there's been a few memes," she said with a giggle as Taylor Swift shouted, "We love you!" from the crowd.
"I guess I've always felt like an outside, someone who doesn't quite belong anywhere. And I still feel like that lost interracial child who had a lot of...nerve to believe I could succeed at anything at all in this world," Carey said to more shouts of support from the star-packed Las Vegas crowd. "But I did believe, because I had to. The truth is I've dedicated my life to my music. My saving grace. And to my fans, who are unlike any other entity that I've ever known. They've lifted me out of the depth of hell and brought me back with their devotion and love."
She also thanked all the people who've been with her on this journey, through the highs and lows, through their struggles and hers, and dedicated the award to anybody "who doesn't allow themselves to be broken and keeps getting up and keeps holding on and keeps standing tall, keeps on believing and keeps rising. I celebrate you tonight. And to anyone who's ever told me that a song I wrote helped save your life, I thank you, because you saved mine."
Since her first charting single in 1990, Carey led the Billboard Hot 100 in each year of the 1990s, making her the only artist to top the chart in every year of any decade. She's had 18 total No. 1s on the chart, the most among any soloist. Additionally, her 79 total weeks ruling the Hot 100 are the most of any artist. Six of her albums claimed the No. 1 spot of the Billboard 200 albums chart.
In accepting the honor, Carey joined previous legendary Icon recipients including Janet Jackson, Neil Diamond, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion, Cher and more.
Watch a clip of the moment below.