An emotional Mariah Carey said she “always felt like an outsider” as her glittering career was recognised at the Billboard Music Awards.
The pop diva has enjoyed almost unparalleled success over the last 30 years, selling hundreds of millions of records worldwide and becoming one of the most acclaimed artists of her generation.
She was honoured with the icon award by Billboard, following in the footsteps of previous winners including Cher, Prince and Stevie Wonder.
After being introduced to the stage in Las Vegas on Wednesday by Jennifer Hudson, who praised her as a “trailblazer”, Carey reflected on her career.
She said: “Thank you to Billboard for letting me grow up on the charts with you and for this incredible honour.
“Icon? I really don’t think of myself in that way. I started making music out of a necessity to survive and to express myself.
“And I just wanted to create something so that I could feel worthy of existing. And if I have learned anything, anything at all in this life, it is that truly, all things are possible with God.”
Carey hinted at the controversies during her long career, including a 2008 New Year’s Eve party performance for the family of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
She said “we all make mistakes” before nodding to her famous diva reputation, adding: “There have been a few memes.”
Carey, who was born to an African-American father and a mother of Irish descent, said her heritage made her feel like she did not belong.
Carey, whose eight-year-old twins were watching in the audience, said: “I guess I have always felt like an outsider, someone who doesn’t quite belong anywhere and I still feel like that lost, inter-racial child who had a lot of nerve to believe I could succeed at anything at all in this world.
“But I did believe because I had to. The truth is I have dedicated my life to my music – my saving grace – and to my fans, who are unlike any other entity I have ever known. They lifted me out of the depths of hell and brought me back with devotion and love.”
She then dedicated her prize to “anybody who does not 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 ever told me that a song I wrote helped save their life, I thank you, because you saved mine and I’ll be eternally grateful for that,” Carey added.
During the speech, Taylor Swift was spotted shouting “we love you” from the audience.