The gala was held late on Sunday at the MTV Europe Music Awardsin Bilbao, Spain.
The "Havana" singer was also the biggest victor of the night and took home four trophies including "Best Song" and "Best Artist".
Beyoncé, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Cardi B, Adele, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez did not attend either.
Bebe Rexha is stunning on the red carpet!
She has previously won an MTV Video Award for Havana.
Jackson, who received a "Global Icon" award, sang hits of her 40-year career over four stages and surrounded by African drummers, flame torches, firebreathers and more than 20 dancers.
The lifetime achievement award follows Jackson picking one up at the Billboard Music Awards this past May. "Women, our voices will be heard!" Several costume changes later, she became a "work of art", in her words, when she donned a long white dress and was sprayed with blue and yellow paint.
MTV recognized artists from around the globe with Worldwide Act awards and Best Local Act awards for multiple regions including Germany, Spain, Japan and Africa. There were performances by Nicki Minaj, Halsey, and Marshmello. At The Disco's Brendon Urie scaling Bilbao Exhibition Centre's exterior before crashing through the ceiling to perform "High Hopes".
Canadian singer Shawn Mendes, victor of three prizes in 2017, won best live artist.
"I believe this goes to show that even though we are small in numbers, when we come together united, we can achieve many things", he added. When the cube lifted, water poured down on her like rain.