Some of the music and entertainment industry’s biggest and brightest women attended Essence’s 9th Annual Black Women in Music event in New York City at the Highline Ballroom last week to celebrate Missy Elliott. The GRAMMY® award-winning rapper, singer, and producer was awarded the Visionary Award for her contribution to music and the impact her career has had on redefining and reshaping representation of women in the industry.
Attendees of this year’s event included Naturi Naughton, Lil’ Mo, Remy Ma, Janelle Monae, MC Lyte, June Ambrose, Tarana Burke, Marsha Ambrosius, Danielle Brooks, Elle Varner, Sylvia Rhone, Teyonah Parris, Yandy Smith, Angie Martinez, and Cardi B. Recording artists Rapsody and Leikeli47 took to the Highline Ballroom stage to pay tribute to Elliott with high-energy performances of her hit songs, “Hot Boyz” and “She’s a B****.” Following the musical tribute performance, media mogul Mona Scott Young came onstage to present Elliott with her award as well as introduce the evening’s special surprise guest and one of Elliott’s closest and dearest friends, fellow living legend Janet Jackson.
While sharing her emotionally charged hand-written speech with the crowd, a visibly moved Elliott broke down in tears and caused Jackson to pause her speech to comfort her friend. Elliott posted a video of the touching surprise on her Instagram:
#IMGRATEFUL @janetjackson that u would fly over from the UK while on tour to present me with the #BlackWomenInMusic @essence Award last night of course I’M A BIG BABY & i COULD’NT STOP CRYING TEARS of HAPPINESS😫🙏🏾 our SISTERSHIP has lasted over 17 years!🙌🏾Your the definition of REALNESS/HUMILITY/CARING/INSPIRING/UPLIFTING/FIERCE/BOLD/RISKTAKING/BLACK STRONG& BEAUTIFUL oh & RICH💰Girl u know I had to throw a joke in it🤷🏽♀️🤣but I LOVE you sis for always being there for me from Day 1🤗😘thank u @essence for the love u showed me I am Humbly Grateful🙏🏾
Calling Elliott a musical genius, Jackson shared the following words to and about her friend:
“Some women sing, some produce, some rhyme, some rap, some act, some choreograph, some write hit songs. Some create whole new sounds. Some women are able to make their mark in one of these fields, but there’s only one woman who’s made her mark in all of these fields. Not only have you made your mark, but she’s done so with boldness and courage. Creativity is a beautiful thing, and when creativity flows so beautifully from a musical genius, all we can do is express gratitude. I am so grateful for Missy’s beautiful soul. I’m grateful for her creativity, her energy, grateful for her soaring inspiration. I’m grateful for how she stood toe to toe with the guys, showing them that one woman can do it all, take charge, lead the way, innovate and create without fear. I’m grateful for how she has cleared the way, a path, for new generations of young talent that follow. And I’m so very grateful for her loyal friendship that has meant more to me than she could ever know. Missy, you are one of the most genuine people that I have ever known. You bless us with your loving spirit and your smiling heart. So from one friend to another, thank you. Really, thank you. I love you so much.”
Elliott’s award acceptance speech was equally touching and tear-inducing, during which she shared, “…I knew that I was gifted and I knew that there was an anointing on me. And I want all of you women in here to know that you are beautiful… You gotta know that you’re beautiful and you gotta believe in yourself because there will be times when people will tell you, you can’t do it, or you don’t look the part, you ain’t gonna ever make it. But I’m a walking testimony. I stand here today…”
In demonstrating the power of persistence and believing in your self no matter what, Elliott referred to Jackson during her award acceptance speech:
“Janet, who stands here, had an album before y’all probably even knew. She had an album before but see when the stars align and when God say so because it wasn’t supposed to be that Janet was just a Jackson. Janet had a talent, she had an “it” factor. ‘Cause we gave her a hard time and was like, “that’s cute, but when that “Control”… control of what I say, control of what I do, she showed us what a strong black woman is.”
While offering thanks to those who supported her in her life and career (Sylvia Rhone, June Ambrose, Misa Hylton, Gloria Elias-Foeillet) Elliott shared, “I could go through the guys but I just wanted to speak to the women because guys, y’all always get that. But a lot of times we forget the women and these women have [taken] my career so many places and so I want to thank them.”
Elliott closed out her remarks with a special thanks to her friend, the late Aaliyah, and her mother:
“Aaliyah, because she took a chance on me and Timb[aland] when we didn’t have any record out, and she believed in us, some I’m gonna always thank her. And I’m gonna leave it with thanking my mother because she taught me everything before I knew anybody. She was a single mother. She taught me how to pray. She taught me how to have faith.”
Everyone in attendance of the event left with Elliott’s last remarks resonating strongly and powerfully, some heartfelt words of advice for those wanting to make their mark in the music world. “Be humble. Remember, in this industry, a relationship is more than a check. Because as long as you keep a great relationship you will always get a check because they will always consider you when things are down for you. They will always remember how you made them feel. “