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As friends and colleagues of Mary J. Blige gathered on Wednesday evening at the Essence Black Women in Music event in Hollywood to honor the singer, Blige herself joked about her nearly two-decades-long career, saying that she’s reached a point where she’s got Oprah on speed dial.

A number of A-listers were on hand to celebrate Blige at the Sunset Tower Hotel, including L.A. Reid, Ludacris, Melanie Fiona, Ledisi, and actresses Taraji P. Henson and Gabrielle Union. Blige was honored not only for her music but also for what she says is her fondest accomplishment, her philanthropic work.

“Well the biggest accomplishment of my career has been what happened in 2009, which was the opening of the Mary J. Blige Center in Yonkers [New York],” she told MTV News. “I’ve always wanted to open a center in Yonkers. I’ve always wanted to help women where women are abused, where I’ve seen women abused the most, and the founding of FFAWN [Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now] is a huge accomplishment for me because it’s my dream come true to help women.”

The singer’s onetime collaborator Ludacris, who worked with her on the song “Runaway Love,” had high praise for her musical contributions over the years.

“The first thing that comes to my mind is ‘icon,'” said the Atlanta rapper. “I was privileged enough to do a song with Mary J. Blige, and I’m just happy to do that, but anytime we celebrate her legacy and everything she’s done, she deserves it 100 percent. I love her story. I love her music and I love her as a person. She actually came to my house. I’m a fan of Mary J. Blige.”

An R&B princess herself, Melanie Fiona talked about Blige’s inspirational career.

“Icon,” she said. “Mary J. Blige has told her story, has shared her story with us over the last … God, how many years. As an artist, as a young woman in the industry, it’s a real honor to be here celebrating her, her success and her life.”

On Sunday, Blige will be joined by Andrea Bocelli at the Grammy Awards, where the pair will sing Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in a tribute to Haiti. The special fundraising segment of Sunday night’s show will be released as an iTunes/ download following the telecast. All proceeds from its sale will go to the American Red Cross for earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti.

Blige, who participated in the “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon last week, is not sure what’s next for her.

“For 2010, I don’t know what to tell you to expect,” she said. “I have an album out. I’m sure I’ll be doing movies. I have a bunch of different things that you’ll hear about. You’ll know about them soon.”

Majic 107.5 / 97.5 Atlanta

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