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Queen Latifah on Michael Jackson: ‘I Loved Him All My Life’

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April L. Brown/AP

Before introducing Lionel Richie, who sang “Jesus Is Love” from The Commodores‘ 1980 album Heroes, Queen Latifah spoke about the King of Pop as a delicate Natalie Cole arrived alone in dark sunglasses, cream suit, white gloves, and white mask over her face. Cole, 59, is recovering from a kidney transplant.

Here’s what Queen Latifah said:

I’m here representing millions of fans who grew up listening to Michael, being inspired and loving Michael from a distance. All of you. Somehow when Michael Jackson sang and when he danced, we never felt distant. We felt like he was right there. Right before us. You believed in Michael and he made you believe in yourself. I loved him all my life. One of the first records my brother and I ever bought was 1973’s “Dancing Machine,” and I never forget the two of us trying to get the robot going, trying to be like the Jackson 5. Thank you. Thank you. Michael was the biggest star on earth. He let me know that as an African-American, you could travel the world — there was a world outside of America. Other . All you who came here to pay respect for someone who you felt was one of you — a human being first.

April L. Brown/AP