Billboard’s Women In Music luncheon took place today (Dec. 2) at New York’s The Pierre Hotel, and Fergie, who was honored as the 2010 Woman of The Year, said it best when describing all the powerful women in the room.
“Congratulations to all the women of the year. I’m so humbled to be in a category with so many strong females in the business,” Fergie, who was accompanied by her husband, actor Josh Duhamel, said in excitement. “For what used to be just a boys’ club, us bitches are coming up.”
Video: Highlights from the Dec. 2, 2010 Women In Music event.
Fergie, who was interviewed by Ann Curry of NBC’s “Today” show, wasn’t the only winner in the room. Billboard’s first Triple Threat honoree, “Glee'”s Lea Michele, as well as the 2010 Rising Star, Jazmine Sullivan, who performed for the room, were also in attendance.
The event kicked off with Michele being interviewed by Billboard’s Senior Editor, Ann Donahue, as the attendees, which included Universal’s Sylvia Rhone, BET’s Debra Lee, Atlantic’s Julie Greenwald and Mike Kyser, former N’SYNC member Lance Bass and Black Eyed Peas members Taboo and Apl.de.ap, looked on over lunch.
“I didn’t know until the first time I performed on stage on Broadway at the age of eight,” Michele said when asked when she realized she wanted to be a performer. “I was eight and my best friend was going on an audition for a Broadway show, so I tagged along and I got the part. A few weeks later I was performing on Broadway and since then, I told my parents that night that I wanted to keep doing this.”
Michele also talked about overcoming negativity throughout her career. “I was always told I wouldn’t make it as a recording artist because I had a musical theater voice and I wouldn’t be able to branch out into other fields… Thankfully ‘Glee’ came along and I was singing Rihanna. It was amazing to see the other sides of me that other people wouldn’t give me the opportunity to explore.”
Michele shared that the cast of Glee will be embarking on an international tour next year and that the most challenging scenes for her have been any Black Eyed Peas songs and Rihanna renditions. “I’m not an R&B singer nor do I have her swagger – I was like the whitest white in the recording studio trying to sing ‘Take a Bow,'” she shared with a chuckle. “But that was the first lesson I learned – it’s not about topping the artists, it’s about making the songs your own. It’s about taking a song that’s already so amazing and honoring it and having fun with it.”
As for what cover has been her favorite, Michele simply said “anything Barbra [Streisand].”
Next Steve Madden introduced Rising Star Jazmine Sullivan, who provided the event’s main entertainment. “Thank you so much for this award,” the R&B powerhouse said to the crowd, sending a special thank-you to her grandparents, who were in the audience. “They believed I was a rising star before anyone knew my name, so, I am appreciative of them,” Sullivan added.
“I’m going to sing for you all, the song that started my career,” she continued, before breaking into “In Love With Another Man,” for which she received a standing ovation.
Fergie’s tribute came next, with a heartfelt and comical speech from bandmates Taboo and Apl.de.ap (will.i.am was not present due to a previous engagement out of the country). “In 2002 we met Fergie at a studio. I remember her dancing in front of the mirror, practicing, and wondering, ‘Who is this?’ It was Fergie,” he recalled. “We were looking for someone to sing on a song called ‘Shut Up’…. When she came on, she blew us away. She was a professional, so on point and we wanted to put her on more songs. To make a long story short, thank God we put her on a lot more songs… We can attribute so many things to our success, and Fergie’s been a part of that. I’m so grateful to have her as a sister.”
Apl continued, congratulating his “sister for being an inspiration and role model for women out there and also men. Not only is she a strong, talented woman with a beautiful voice, I can also talk to her about women and get girl advice from her,” he joked. “Congratulations Fergie — you’re my sis and my best friend. Thank you for being in my life.”
While accepting her award, Fergie thanked her family and friends, including those not present, and encouraged other women to dream big. “I did and it worked, and look at what beauty has come into my life,” she said.
During the Curry-helmed Q&A portion, Fergie said that her biggest inspirations to go after her dreams have been her mother and her therapist. She also added that one of the keys to her success has been staying true to herself. “I don’t think I can not do that,” she said about remaining authentic. “There’s nothing wrong with the boys’ club, but I love seeing powerful women and our evolution and being so strong.”
Before a closing tribute performance by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Fergie said that although she is in no rush to release another solo album, when she does come back with it “it’ll be a damn masterpiece, in my eyes.”