On January 16, I had the esteemed privilege of attending the third annual BET Honors in Washington, D.C. BET Honors is a prestigious awards show paying tribute to the outstanding achievements of certain individuals within the African American community. This year’s five honorees included Queen Latifah for her multi-dimensional career in various forms of media,world-renowned neurosurgeon, Dr. Keith L. Black MD for his devotion to public service, Sean “P.Diddy” Combs for his achievements as a successful entrepreneur, Dr. Ruth J. Simmons for breaking down barriers in education and lastly, Whitney Houston, for her record setting achievements in entertainment.
The first to be honored was the rapper turned actress and singer, Queen Latifah, who was presented her award by Academy Award nominated actress Taraji P. Henson . Queen Latifah was first paid a musical tribute by R&B songstress Jazmine Sullivan, who opened with “Unforgettable”, then segued into a stirring rendition of “Rock Steady”. Jazmine was immediately followed by the legendary Patti Labelle, who brought down the house with her classic,”If You Only Knew”. As Queen Latifah took to the stage and gave a motivational acceptance speech, she recalled memories of her brother who passed away in an accident and spoke of how hard work, dedication and faith were key in her success.
Dr.Keith L. Black MD was the next recipient honored by comedian Chris Tucker. Dr. Black’s musical tribute was performed by none other than the legendary Stevie Wonder and gospel group, Take 6. Together they sang an acapella version of “ Can’t Imagine Life Without You,” a gem from Wonder’s latest release A Time To Love. During Dr. Black’ s thought provoking acceptance speech, he took the time to discuss the importance of education and how its accessibility should not be taken for granted.
Next, to be honored was Sean “P.Diddy” combs, who’s record label, clothing line, fragrances and television shows, among other endeavors have made him one of the most successful business men in the recording industry. Combs musical tribute was performed by protege Mary J.Blige, who credits Combs for believing in her and helping jump start her career. After a brief speech, Blige sang her latest single “ I Am,” and then launched into some of her biggest hits produced by Combs, including “Love No Limit”,” I Love You” and “Be Happy.
Blige rocked the house and had the crowd on their feet during her soulful and energetic performance. During Combs acceptance speech, he thanked his mother showing him what it meant to have a strong work ethic and stressed the importance of setting and achieving your goals.
This year’s education honoree, Dr. Ruth J. Simmons is the first black president of an Ivy League university, who overcame a number of hardships to make history and inspire many. Victoria Rowell, star of The Young and the Restless had the privilege of presenting Dr. Simmons with her award after a musical performance Grammy Award winning songstress, India Arie. Arie, accompanied by pianist Eric Lewis sang a heartfelt “Beautiful Flower” and “Someday We’ll All Be Free.” Dr. Simmons gave a moving speech and expressed the importance of not letting obstacles stand in your way and how we should all strive to reach our fullest potential.
Last and most certainly not least to be honored was the legendary and iconic Whitney Houston, for her achievements in entertainment. With over 170 million albums, the most awarded female of all time was presented her award by R&B sensation Ne-Yo and honored by gospel artist Kim Burrell and Academy Award winning diva, Jennifer Hudson.
First, Burrell in a surprise appearance serenaded Houston with “I Believe In You and Me”. What made the performance the night’s best was not just sheer brilliance of Burrell’s voice, but the heartfelt emotion and sincerity behind it, as Burrell personalized the song and sang it directly to Houston. Houston was visibly emotional as she cried and stood the entire performance.
Never one to be outdone, Jennifer Hudson, had the daunting task of both following Burrell and also singing one of Houston’s biggest and most vocally challenging hits, “I Will Always Love You”. Naturally, Hudson rose to the occasion and was given a much deserved standing ovation midway through the performance. Houston mentioned during her brief, yet poignant speech, how it felt good to stand and not be judged and expressed how we should learn to support one other, not only in our triumphs, but in our failures as well.
Overall, attending the BET Honors was an amazing experience, full of funny moments, wonderful performances and inspiring acceptance speeches. Each of the five honorees is more than deserving of the recognition they received, in an evening which truly exemplified what extraordinary looks like.
Extra behind the scenes tidbits about the show:
-Maxwell gave 2 rousing performances of “Fistful Of Tears” and “Bad Habits”.
-Newcomer Ryan Leslie performed new single, “I Choose You,” which left much to be desired.
-Whitney accidentally forgot to thank Jennifer Hudson in her speech, but thanked her immediately after backstage.
-After re-shooting Stevie Wonder’s performance with Take 6, he joked “Sorry, I wasn’t looking at the camera.”
-Trey Songz tried to get Stevie Wonder to sing the lyrics to his raunchy single “Invented Sex,” but an adamant Stevie would only hum the melody. Both along with India Arie also paid tribute to the late R&B legend Teddy Pendergrass with “Wake Up Everybody.”
-Whitney was showed the most support from the audience throughout the night and took to the stage with thunderous applause.
-Every presenter and honoree mentioned Haiti and encouraged everyone to help with relief efforts.
-Host Gabrielle Union has great comedic timing and changed outfits and hair every break.
BET Honors, hosted by actress Gabrielle Union airs TONIGHT from 9 to11 p.m. EST.
Follow me on twitter where I’ll be live tweeting about the show tonight.