The BET Awards, otherwise known as “Culture’s Biggest Night,” is adept at highlighting cultural and artistic diversity within the Black community and broader African diaspora. Many examples of this were broadcast for the world to see: host Taraji P. Henson shouting out Historically Black Colleges and Universities (specifically Howard University in celebration of fellow alum Diddy, last night’s lifetime achievement award honoree); a ballroom scene-inspired performance led by Pose‘s Billy Porter (in an austere Rick Owens frock); the fusion of old and new school sounds, as evidenced by collaborations from Ella Mai and Babyface, plus Latto and Mariah Carey; and a consistent stream of praise for musicians from the African continent, like Nigeria’s Tems and Fireboy DML.
Some moments, however, were only visible on the red carpet and from inside the Microsoft Theatre. Here are eight trends The Hollywood Reporter noticed on the ground at the show.
Live Behind-the-Scenes Segments
Ahead of the show, singer Brent Faiyaz and comedian/internet personality Vena E.were two of several people recording exclusive content for the broadcast on Sunday as everyone swarmed the red carpet. Elsewhere backstage, TV personality Tami Roman was hosting the Win-Cam backstage, interviewing Latto, Billy Porter, Jazmine Sullivan, KeKe Palmer, Brandy, Kirk Franklin, Tems, Doechii and others.
In light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, several people offered passionate comments about their opinion on a woman’s right to choose.
Doechii, who performed her female-empowerment anthems Persuasive and Crazy, said on the red carpet: “Its a sad time for women, it’s a sad time for our nation. It shouldn’t even be a discussion; these are our bodies.”
And Tami Roman shared her own personal experience: “This Roe vs. Wade thing hits differently for me because in 1993 I made the decision to terminate my pregnancy and I was thankful that I had that option. I think people are missing the point, it’s not about being pro-life and it’s not about being pro-choice, it’s about this country providing the freedom for people to make decisions and be whatever they want to be.”
When Latto won the award for Best New Artist, she accepted it teary-eyed, saying: “It’s giving boss bitch…it’s giving pro-choice.”
Victoria Monet voiced frustrations. “I just want a deeper understanding of how we can fix it, because if this is the system, it’s broken,” she said. “I want to be solution-based…I just want to know how we get back to being free. I just hope for a better world for my daughter than this.”
Eva Marcille added, “I don’t know how to explain to my [8-year-old] daughter…her body not being hers and her own choice. And how she’ll have to fend for herself in a world that doesn’t see her as an equal.”
The Colorblock Trend
Though a few stars made statements in dramatic black gowns (Tems, Kandi Burruss, Ari Lennox), the prevailing fashion trend was bold colorblocking. Men and women alike opted for summery bright, monochromatic outfits: Kirk Franklin rocked a kelly green shirt, Jaquees wore an Estro solid lime green suit with matching Balenciaga shades, Idris Elba donned mustard pants and a cream blazer, and the City Girls glistened in solids (Careesha in all red, JT in all white). Other go-to colors included bubblegum pinks, royal blues, marigold, lavender and neon yellow.
Bonding Through Sweat
The red carpet, which lasted roughly from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. PT, was bright and hot — reaching 85 degrees under direct sunlight. Everyone on the carpet was commiserating over sweating through their makeup (pro tip: Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty setting powder seems to be the secret to keeping a matte face) and overheating in their suits. Every few minutes, people would grab and pass Dasani water bottles out of strategically placed ice buckets to keep cool. And the wisest among us brought small, portable fans to simulate a breeze.
Last-minute Red Carpet Shuffle
A few entertainers, including City Girls, Keke Palmer, Daniel Kaluuya and Diddy, didn’t have time to stop for many interviews, as they sped down the ruby red runway soon before the show was set to begin in the Microsoft Theater.
At the close of every performance, the talent — and their singers and dancers — ran backstage and could be heard audibly and immediately celebrating the moment from where the audience sat. The screams and cheers were perhaps loudest after Jack Harlow’s performance with a surprise showing from Brandy — “Yasss!” and “We did that!” — but also after Muni Long, and Latto and Mariah Carey.
Commercial Break Photo Ops
During every pause in the show, audience members got out of their seats to take selfies, give hugs to familiar faces, and chat about what had happened and what was to come (everyone was looking forward to the Bad Boy Tribute performance, which included Diddy himself and some of the roster’s biggest hitmakers: Jodeci, Mary J Blige, Lil Kim, Shyne, Busta Rhymes, Faith Evans). As Connie Orlando, BET’s executive vp of specials, music programming, music strategy and news said ahead of the show: “It’s a family reunion.”
The Host’s Quick Changes
Taraji P. Henson’s hair and outfit changes were so frequent, it was hard to keep track of quite how many she had. Though some moments in the show gave her longer breaks to reinvent her look, many of them required 100 meter dash-level speed; her sprint backstage after she wore a rose patterned jumpsuit was particularly impressive.
Henson’s level of spontaneous ingenuity was predicted by Will Packer on the carpet: “T’s kind of built for this because you never know what she’s going to do. She’s so talented, she can do anything.”