The BET Awards is the biggest guilty pleasure on TV.
A huge occasion which feeds our endless appetite for star gawking, this significant cultural event has emerged as one of the biggest nights in black entertainment.
Established in 2001 to celebrate African Americans and other minorities in music, film, sports and other fields of entertainment, the first ever Black Entertainment Awards was hosted by comedians Steve Harvey and Cedric 'The Entertainer' and was held in Las Vegas. During the two hour event (held on June 27, 2010), which was billed as where "black star power explodes,” OutKast were double winners and Whitney Houston was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Squeezing in more star wattage the following year, the award show swapped ‘Sin City’ for the ‘City of Angels.’ Choosing Hollywood's Kodak Theater as the new venue, the producers brought back co-hosts Steve and Cedric for a second time. That year, the June 25th live broadcast presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to Earth, Wind & Fire, the Humanitarian Award to boxing legend Muhammad Ali and the inaugural Chairman's Award to gospel pioneer Dr. Bobby Jones.
At the third annual BET Awards, James Brown, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award provided one of the show's unforgettable moments when he and Michael Jackson dazzled the audience with their trademark footwork. Earvin “Magic" Johnson was honored with the Humanitarian Award, which was presented by Jackson. 50 Cent, Missy Elliott, India.Arie, Yolanda Adams, R. Kelly, Jaheim, Erykah Badu, Common were among the winners. Queen Latifah was named best female actress and newcomer Derek Luke nabbed the best male actor honor.
Touted by the Network as a "star power-infused black-out,'" the following year saw the return of Janet Jackson to live TV after the Super Bowl debacle. Helmed by Pierre Cossette, who has produced CBS' Grammy Awards telecasts for more than 30 years, Mo'Nique hosted the three-hour show which proved to be one of BET's highest-rated programs drawing 5.7 million viewers. In an eclectic performance, the curvy actress led a troupe of six equally voluptuous women to perform a routine that included Beyonce's signature dance moves. Danny Glover received the Humanitarian Award and the Isley Brothers received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Backstage, Mo'Nique told reporters the idea behind the parody was "to give people options about what beauty is." Among the night's other electrifying performances was a salute to the 25th anniversary of rap/hip-hop on wax featuring the Sugarhill Gang, Slick Rick and Public Enemy.
Continuing its tradition of surprise openings, the fifth Annual BET Awards reunited Fugees members Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel. With Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith as hosts, Academy Award winner Denzel Washington and wife, Pauletta, were presented with the Humanitarian Award and singer Gladys Knight received the Lifetime Achievement Award whilst first-time nominee John Legend claimed the best new artist trophy. The ceremony also included memorial tributes to Rick James, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Ossie Davis and Johnnie Cochran.
Whilst viewership for many awards shows started to decline, the BET Awards continued its winning streak tapping actor Damon Wayans to host the sixth annual award which saw singer Chris Brown score an award for best new artist. Another special award, the Humanitarian Award, was presented by Danny Glover to Harry Belafonte.
The performances at the seventh BET Awards ceremony united "Dreamgirls" Jennifer Holliday and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson although the most touching performance was O'Jays singer Eddie Levert's tribute to his son, singer Gerald Levert, who passed away months earlier. Lil' Kim made a surprise appearance and Public Enemy joined by Bootsy Collins paid tribute to soul legend James Brown who passed away a year earlier. Don Cheadle was given the Humanitarian Award for raising awareness about genocide in Darfur whilst soul legend Diana Ross was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Other winners at the ceremony included Gnarls Barkley and Forest Whitaker.
(Photo coutesy of Royalty Image)
By its eight year, the awards ceremony had already earned a reputation for impressive star turns and a constant ability to recruit A-list talent and performers. Taking place at the Shrine Auditorium, it featured performances from Usher, Mariah Carey, Mary J Blige and Lil' Wayne, but perhaps the most impressive and surprising moment of the night came from Alicia Keys who had the audience on its feet when she brought three different 1990s all-female groups to sing their hit songs with her. Keys sang ‘Weak’ with SWV, ‘Hold On’ with En Vogue and ‘Waterfalls’ with surviving TLC members Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas.
(Photo coutesy of Royalty Image)
Last year’s event took on a somber tone as the show was transformed into a hastily organized celebration of Michael Jackson’s life. Host Jamie Foxx, donning a single glove, wasted no time in kicking off the Jackson-flavored festivities re-creating several of the entertainer's vintage leg kicks and shuffles including a moon walk across the Shrine stage. With rousing performances from Ne-Yo, who sang a poignant version of Jackson's ballad "The Lady in My Life" to New Edition, who performed a medley of Jackson 5 songs several clips from Jackson's videos were featured in a ceremony which was capped by an emotional appearance of Jackson's sister Janet.
(Photo coutesy of Royalty Image)
With another moving tribute to Michael Jackson by Chris Brown, the tenth BET Awards which drew 7.4 million viewers last Sunday was hosted by Queen Latifah and included a Lifetime Achievement Award for Prince and a Humanitarian Award for singer John Legend.
“For 10 years, the BET Awards has always been about showcasing the best of entertainment,” said Stephen Hill, President of Music Programming. “The number of viewers who tuned in to see the BET Awards this year is a testament to the all-star performances, artists and their music’s influence on our culture."
Now established as the urban music show which consistently garners respectable ratings from premier names in the black community, the BET Awards, which has thrived in spite of a difficult climate that has seen the demise of earlier competitors like the Vibe Awards, Source Awards and the Soul Train Awards is officially the number one cable awards show.