After six years, the annual BET Honors have just about perfected the ideal mix of glamour, inspiration, humor and sex appeal — starting with host Gabrielle Union’s plunging-to-the-waist red-carpet gown.
It was first of several wardrobe changes for Union, who’s hosted the awards show from its 2008 inception. Inspired by the Kennedy Center Honors, Black Entertainment Television created this glitzy, slightly over-the top lovefest to highlight the achievements of African Americans.
Saturday’s lineup at the Warner Theatre: Honorees Halle Berry, Chaka Khan, T.D. Jakes, music exec Clarence Avant and basketball player Lisa Leslie.
The basic formula: Performances by A-listers (including Alicia Keys, Brandy, Erykah Badu, Wayne Brady, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis) and short, humble speeches by each honoree, who (unlike the Ken Cen Honors) collected their awards on stage.
Union, reports our colleague Michael Livingston, kicked off the show by portraying the president of the United States, as she was accompanied by a go-go remix of “Hail to the Chief.” She pretended to answer a call from her real-life boyfriend, Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, and jokingly dismissed Charles Barkley’s criticisms of Wade’s on-court performance: “He’s just jealous that you have two rings, and he and I have none,” the actress said. Single lady!
More comic relief: Brady showing everyone a bawdy new skill. He can sing, dance, act, improvise and — who knew? — even play the harp with several parts of his body: “No hands, ma!”
In between the jokes and music: Tributes to crowd favorite Khan, who walked around all night with a little brown puppy (oh, wait. . . that was a fur muff at her hip) and thanked everyone for receiving the “2003” award. “Oh, it’s 2013!” she said, laughing. Avant was honored for his years as a leader in the music industry. “I don’t make speeches; I make deals.” Bishop Jakes was cited for educational contributions; the towering 6-foot-5 Leslie made good-natured tall jokes.
And Berry? The stunning actress, who made headlines late last year when her ex and current boyfriends duked it out, was honored not for being a movie star, but for her charity work on behalf of domestic violence victims at L.A.’s Jenesse Center.
“Many women don’t speak out and they don’t seek help,” Berry said. “By honoring the work we’re doing at the Jenesse Center, maybe it will encourage others to stand up and be strong and face the reality of what’s happening to them — nd have the courage to make a change.” Keys performed her latest single — “Brand New Me” — for Berry.
The show will be broadcast Feb. 13 on BET.