You know when Rihanna takes the stage to introduce someone, it’s not to be taken lightly. And sure enough, Rihanna was at the 2019 BET Awards to pay homage to the legendary Mary J. Blige, recipient of BET’s lifetime achievement award. Rihanna hailed Mary for paving the way for her and other women in music: “Thank you for being you so we could feel comfortable being ourselves,” Rihanna told her.
After a video montage where Queen Latifah, Diddy and others spoke to her impact, Blige took the stage and repaid Rih’s compliments. “Thank you so much, Rihanna, I don’t think you know how much I love and respect you. I’m a huge fan and you inspire me right back,” she said.
Making a joke about her sizable blonde mane — “I know, a lot of hair, it’s a big day,” she explained — she thanked her mom, who was present and understandably teary-eyed in the crowd. She thanked Diddy “for believing in me more than I believe in myself” and showed love to her fans. “To my fans — words cannot express how grateful I am and thankful to have you in my life. Thank you for weathering these storms with me and rejoicing when I have victory.”
She even flexed for a second, albeit in the most modest way possible. “Although I am a leader, a queen, a living legend, I’m a servant as well, and I’m here to serve. Being a servant is not always glamorous or popular… but when the glory is placed on me, I give it back to God immediately.” The camera cut to an enraptured Lizzo at that point, who was clearly feeling what Mary was saying.
But Mary didn’t just inform us she was a living legend — she demonstrated it with a medley of some of her most beloved hits. Starting out drenched in white fur against an elegant backdrop, Blige crooned “My Life,” a throaty “No More Drama” and “I’m Going Down” before her dancers rolled up, the fur came off and she kicked the night into a more upbeat lane with “Real Love,” “You Remind Me” and “Love No Limit.” Lil Kim came out to go HAM on “I Can Love You” and Method Man joined her for “You’re All I Need to Get By” just before she wrapped with a version of “Just Fine” that had the whole crowd shimmying in their seats.
Watch some of Mary’s medley below.