Although the BET Awards recognized some of the entertainment industry's most celebrated performers last night, it was the programs tributes to living legends and recently departed giants that provided the most emotion.
Setting the pace was the stunning show opener, an incredible duet between Jennifer Hudson and Jennifer Holliday of the anthemic "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" from Dreamgirls. Hudson won the best supporting actress Academy Award this year for her role as Effie in the movie adaptation of the musical, but, as we all know, it was Holliday who originated the role on Broadway almost three decades ago and made the song one of the most stirring performances in music.
The two Jennifers united to sing what has now become both women's signature song in an historic performance: Hudson has only performed the song live once (?) and Holliday's complaints about being ignored for her contributions to Dreamgirls have been legendary. You Tube of last night's performance here.
"I have tried to keep the standards high," she said. "We do not have to say the F-word, we do not have to pump and grind, we do not have to some of these things to have longevity in our career."
The legendary performer was feted with a multi-song tribute. Erykah Badu got it started with her cover of "Love Hangover", whose bassline and chorus has now become legendary to generations of gay men across the world. Others paying tribute to Ross included fellow Motown legend Stevie Wonder and R&B queen Chaka Khan, and her five children, including actors Tracee Ellis Ross and young, fabulous and gay-friendly Evan Ross.