The Countdown to The BET Experience Begins

“The BET Awards has always been about showcasing the best of entertainment,” says Stephen Hill, President of Music Programming.


In less than a week, BET Networks will host a series of concerts, film festivals and seminars, which will culminate on June 29th at the Nokia Theater L.A. Live with the annual BET Awards — the biggest guilty pleasure on TV.

A seminar titled “Genius Talks” will feature Regina King, Hill Harper, Omari Hardwick, Boris Kodjoe and Common conducting discussions with icons Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American female astronaut, singer Bill Withers, “Think Like a Man Too” producer Will Packer and writer, activist and educator  Nikki

The classic ‘80s film “Purple Rain” starring Prince, and the award winning film “Confusion Na Wa” which tells the story of nine Nigerians whose fates are intertwined and changed in a single day will form part of the film festival showcase. There’s also a concert featuring Maxwell, Jill Scott, OutKast, A$AP Rocky, Rick Ross and Mary J. Blige in this three-day festival called the BET Experience which leads up to the annual BET Awards.


A huge occasion which feeds our endless appetite for star gawking, the BET Awards is a significant cultural event that has emerged as one of the biggest nights in black entertainment.

This year, BET is recognizing more talented artists from the African diaspora with South Africa’s Afro-pop duo Mafikizolo, Ghanaian hip hop artist Sarkodie and Nigerian singer-songwriter Tiwa Savage. All BET nominees, they are scheduled to perform as part of the “Music Around the Globe.” This will be the first time that Mafikizolo and Tiwa Savage have performed in the United States.

Established in 2001 to celebrate African-Americans and other minorities in music, film, sports and other fields of entertainment, the first ever Black Entertainment Awards was hosted by comedians Steve Harvey and Cedric ‘The Entertainer’ and was held in Las Vegas.  OutKast were double winners and Whitney Houston was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Squeezing in more star wattage the following year, the award show swapped ‘Sin City’ for the ‘City of Angels.’ Choosing Hollywood’s Kodak Theater as the new venue, the producers brought back co-hosts Steve and Cedric for a second time.  That year, the June 25th live broadcast presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to Earth, Wind & Fire, the Humanitarian Award to boxing legend Muhammad Ali and the inaugural Chairman’s Award to gospel pioneer Dr. Bobby Jones.

At the third annual BET Awards, James Brown, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award provided one of the show’s unforgettable moments when he and Michael Jackson dazzled the audience with their trademark footwork. Earvin “Magic” Johnson was honored with the Humanitarian Award, which was presented by Jackson.

Monique at the BET Awards

Touted by the Network as a “star power-infused black-out,'” the following year saw the return of Janet Jackson to live TV after the Super Bowl debacle. Helmed by Pierre Cossette, who has produced CBS’ Grammy Awards telecasts for more than 30 years, Mo’Nique hosted the three-hour show, which proved to be one of BET’s highest-rated programs then drawing 5.7 million viewers. In an eclectic performance, the curvy actress led a troupe of six equally voluptuous women to perform a routine that included Beyonce’s signature dance moves. Danny Glover received the Humanitarian Award and the Isley Brothers received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Among the night’s other electrifying performances was a salute to the 25th anniversary of rap/hip-hop on wax featuring the Sugarhill Gang, Slick Rick and Public Enemy.

Continuing its tradition of surprise openings, the fifth Annual BET Awards reunited Fugees members Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel. With Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith as hosts, Academy Award winner Denzel Washington and wife, Pauletta, were presented with the Humanitarian Award and singer Gladys Knight received the Lifetime Achievement Award whilst first-time nominee John Legend claimed the best new artist trophy. The ceremony also included memorial tributes to Rick James, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ossie Davis and Johnnie Cochran.

Jada Pinkett-Smith & Will hosting 2005 BET Awards

Whilst viewership for many awards shows started to decline, the BET Awards continued its winning streak tapping actor Damon Wayans to host the sixth annual award which saw singer Chris Brown score an award for best new artist. Another special award, the Humanitarian Award, was presented by Danny Glover to Harry Belafonte.

The performances at the seventh BET Awards ceremony united “Dreamgirls” Jennifer Holliday and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson although the most touching performance was O’Jays singer Eddie Levert’s tribute to his son, singer Gerald Levert, who passed away months earlier. Lil’ Kim made a surprise appearance and Public Enemy joined by Bootsy Collins paid tribute to soul legend James Brown who also passed away a year earlier. Don Cheadle was given the Humanitarian Award for raising awareness about genocide in Darfur whilst soul legend Diana Ross was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.the 2009 BET Awards at the Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles

By its eight year, the awards ceremony had already earned a reputation for impressive star turns and a constant ability to recruit A-list talent and performers. Taking place at the Shrine Auditorium, it featured performances from Usher, Mariah Carey, Mary J Blige and Lil’ Wayne, but perhaps the most impressive and surprising moment of the night came from Alicia Keys who had the audience on its feet when she brought three different ‘90s all-female groups to sing their hit songs with her. Keys sang ‘Weak’ with SWV, ‘Hold On’ with En Vogue and ‘Waterfalls’ with surviving TLC members Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli”Thomas.

Chris Brown FRAME

The BET Awards in 2009 took on a somber tone as the show was transformed into a hastily organized celebration of Michael Jackson’s life who died just three days before the event.  Host Jamie Foxx, donning a single glove, kicked off the Jackson-flavored festivities re-creating several of the entertainer’s vintage leg kicks and shuffles including a moonwalk across the Shrine stage. Ne-Yo sang a poignant version of Jackson’s ballad “The Lady in My Life” while New Edition performed a medley of Jackson 5 songs as several clips from Jackson’s videos were featured in a ceremony, which was capped by an emotional appearance of Jackson’s sister Janet.

With another moving tribute to Michael Jackson by Chris Brown, the tenth BET Awards drew 7.4 million viewers. Hosted by Queen Latifah, Prince took home a Lifetime Achievement and singer John Legend received the Humanitarian Award.

Last year BET introduced the three-day festival called the BET Experience, tagging on nightly concerts and worthwhile seminars to the annual show, which proved to be a success. Hosted by Chris Tucker, Charlie Wilson received a lifetime achievement award, Dwayne Wade was honored for his humanitarian efforts and Ice Prince beat out contenders 2Face Idibia, R2Bees, Radio and Weasel to receive the award for Best International Act: Africa.

106 & Park LIVE

“The BET Awards has always been about showcasing the best of entertainment,” says Stephen Hill, President of Music Programming.  “The number of viewers who tuned in to see the BET Awards each year is a testament to the all-star performances, artists and their music’s influence on our culture.”

Now established as the urban music show which consistently garners respectable ratings from premier names in the black community, the BET Awards, which has thrived in spite of a difficult climate that has seen the demise of earlier competitors like the Vibe Awards, and the Source Awards is now the number one cable awards show.

With nominations in 20 categories from Best New Artist, Best Gospel Artist, Best International Acts: UK & Africa, the “BET Awards” 2014 will be hosted by Chris Rock. It will air live on Sunday, June 29th at 8pm ET on BET Networks from the Nokia Theater L.A. Live in Los Angeles, CA.

(Pictured: Common, Mo’Nique, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, Alicia Keys,  Chris Brown, Chris Rock: Photos courtesy of Royalty Image & BET Networks)

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