The 2019 BET Awards took place on June 23, 2019, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, Calif. Featuring headline-making performances from artists like Cardi B, H.E.R, Lizzo, and Mary J. Blige (plus a surprise appearance from Rihanna), the awards ceremony was certainly one for the books — and it wasn’t without its fair share of moving moments, as well.
The exonerated Central Park Five, whose story has been immortalized in Netflix’s When They See Us, took to the stage to introduce H.E.R. — only to receive an extended standing ovation themselves. Tyler Perry also delivered a healthy dose of inspiration with an emotional acceptance speech upon being presented with the Ultimate Icon Award. “When I built my studio, I built it in a neighborhood that is one of the poorest black neighborhoods in Atlanta, so that young kids could see that a black man did that and they can do it, too,” the filmmaker revealed (via CNN).
From beginning to end, the BET Awards ceremony was chock-full of stellar performances and rousing speeches from some of your favorite celebs. Here’s a look at the evening’s best dressed stars.
Born Gabi Wilson, H.E.R. (an acronym meaning “Having Everything Revealed”) has been taking the music industry by storm since the 2017 release of her self-titled debut studio album, which earned the young artist her first Grammy award in 2019 for best R&B album. The future is bright for the endlessly talented Wilson, as her particularly moving performance at the 2019 BET Awards proved.
Wilson took to the stage to perform “Lord Is Coming,” which features an extended poetic intro about the pitfalls of modern day society, politics, and religion. She also showed off her musical prowess by playing an upright bass to perfection, earning herself a standing ovation from her peers.
As usual, the “Every Kind of Way” songstress donned a pair of black shades for her performance, which she kept on while posing for photographers after the show. Wearing an all-black patent leather ensemble featuring a mesh bodysuit, Wilson looked every bit the impossibly cool star she is.
It may only be June, but it’s safe to say that 2019 will forever be known as the year of Lizzo. The multitalented artist has been churning out hits since her debut album, Lizzobangers, was released in 2013 — but only recently has the “Juice” singer skyrocketed to much-deserved fame. Lizzo’s third studio album, Cuz I Love You, is taking over the charts with bangers like “Good As Hell” and “Truth Hurts,” and the singer gave an unforgettable performance of the latter at the 2019 BET Awards — earning herself a standing ovation from none other than Rihanna.
Though she lost the best female hip-hop artist award to Cardi B, this gal is a winner in our books — both for her energetic, wedding-themed performance and her unique red carpet outfit. The star arrived to the 2019 BET Awards wearing a custom House of Holland wood-grain printed minidress, complete with a sweetheart neckline, ’80s-inspired puffed shoulders, and matching hat and booties. Hardwood has never looked so good.
Rihanna made a very special surprise appearance at the 2019 BET Awards to present the lifetime achievement award to Mary J. Blige, only weeks after launching her new Fenty fashion label in Paris. The “Love on the Brain” singer looked as stylish as ever in a chic outfit made entirely of black leather (courtesy of Fenty, of course). However, the sleek leather look was only part of the buzz surrounding RiRi’s surprise appearance. According to fans, her crimson-colored hair is likely a clue about possible new music from the artist, as a change in hair color is reportedly Rihanna’s subtle way of hinting at a new album.
Her attendance at the 2019 BET Awards was a shock, especially considering that her last appearance at the awards show took place all the way back in 2015. Unsurprisingly, the Twitterverse was delighted to see the “Umbrella” songstress gracing the BET Awards stage once again. “Rihanna presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to Mary J. Blige right now is how you properly pay homage to a living icon,” tweeted journalist Ernest Owens.
It’s not an awards ceremony without Cardi B, and the “I Like It” rapper did not disappoint with her 2019 BET Awards show appearance.
Cardi attended the awards ceremony as both a performer and nominee, up for a total of five awards — video of the year, best collaboration, viewer’s choice, female hip-hop artist of the year, and album of the year. The star ultimately took home the trophies for the latter two categories, delivering an enthusiastic speech while accepting the album of the year award. Wearing a crystal encrusted, neon green, geometric gown, the rapper exclaimed, “You know, as a female artist … sometimes I feel like I’m not doing too much, and sometimes I feel like I’m doing too much.” She added, “But the numbers don’t lie. Three times platinum!”
The sparkly ensemble wasn’t Cardi’s only green outfit for the evening. The artist kicked off the show with a performance of her songs “Press” and “Clout,” donning an emerald green, bejeweled jumpsuit featuring chaps and a cut-out corset.
Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige didn’t just accept the lifetime achievement award at the 2019 BET Awards show — she also proved why exactly she so rightfully deserved it with an incredible medley performance of some of her greatest hits.
Rihanna had the honor of presenting Blige with the evening’s biggest award, telling the iconic R&B artist, “On behalf of all the women who came after you, like myself, thank you for being you so we could feel comfortable being ourselves.” The “I Can Love You” songstress looked lovely in a black and silver bustier minidress with jewel accents and a chunky diamond choker as she delivered a moving acceptance speech. “When you have a lifetime of achievements, there’s no way you could have done it alone,” Blige said, addressing her fans. “Thank you for weathering these storms with me and rejoicing with me when I have a victory.”
Blige returned to the stage for her big performance a few moments later wearing an all-white ensemble with a crop top, short shorts, thigh high boots, and a cape fit for a queen.
Consider this our official plea for Regina Hall to host every awards show from now until the end of time.
The Girls Trip actress kicked off the show in a major way with a knockout performance inspired by Homecoming, Beyonce’s history-making “Beychella” concert. Jokingly titled “Homegrown,” Hall’s performance paid tribute to her hometown of Washington, D.C. — a point of pride for the star.
“When BET asked me to host this year’s BET Awards, I immediately thought ‘no.’ Then I thought about it [more],” Hall revealed (via HuffPost). “Why not? It would be a chance for me to teach people, especially the younger generations, about Washington, D.C. The Washington, D.C., I grew up in.”
Aside from her mood-lifting performance, Hall’s hosting gig featured several eye-catching outfit changes, including a deep purple, retro-inspired bodysuit with wide legs, bell sleeves, shoulder pads, a plunging V-neck, and all-over sequins. Talk about being the host with the most!
Taraji P. Henson
Taraji P. Henson is one of those people who brings a good time wherever they go — and at the 2019 BET Awards, the actress brought the party to the stage with a fun twerk-off featuring host Regina Hall. Wearing a black bodysuit, red jacket, and fanny pack, Henson shook her stuff onstage with Hall to the funky sounds of Sugar Bear during the show’s opening moments.
Later in the evening, Henson changed into a sparkling black Balmain evening gown featuring a keyhole neckline, sheer sleeves, and a thigh-high slit. Styled by Jason Bolden, the star pulled her long tresses into a high pony and accessorized her look with a simple pair of diamond drop earrings. Though she was nominated in the best actress category, Henson’s second big moment in the evening came when she presented Tyler Perry with the ultimate icon award, delivering a moving tribute to the filmmaker. “In a time where my counterparts were making way more than I was, Tyler Perry was the first to pay me my worth,” the Empire star revealed (via USA Today). “A black man did that, and that means the world to me.”
Ella Mai’s self-titled, debut studio album was released in October 2018. Since then, the “Boo’d Up” songstress has taken home the Grammy award for best R&B song, the Billboard award for top R&B artist, and — as of the 2019 BET Awards — the Coca-Cola viewers’ choice award.
During her acceptance speech, the “Trip” singer thanked the people who made sure the viewers’ choice trophy ended up in her hands — her fans. “Thank you so much,” Mai said as she accepted the award (via Vibe). “I’m a little ol’ girl from London, England, you know […] This is proof that you let the music do the talking.”
She may be “a little ol’ girl from London,” but there’s no doubt that Mai has certainly made her mark on America — both with her music and her style. The R&B star reminded us how deserving she is of the limelight (pun intended) with her sleek, lime green pantsuit ensemble, matching shades, and dramatic hoop earrings.
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