From the red carpet to the after-party

My night at the BET Awards: How the networking crowd snubbed Kanye and other secrets from inside Shrine

My night at the BET Awards: How the networking crowd snubbed Kanye and other secrets from inside Shrine

The veracity of Chris Brown’s tears matters not.

Chris Brown's Michael Jackson tribute at the 10th-annual BET Awards in Los Angeles was the comeback performance his fans wanted and the public relations coup his advisers needed.

Especially after everyone on Team Chris Brown allowed the pop singer known for being physically violent with ex-girlfriend pop singer Rihanna to sing the national anthem before the start of the over-hyped Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley boxing match in May.

The same can be said for the actual BET Awards show. It needed this night too. Sunday’s smooth-flowing extravaganza redeemed Black Entertainment Television from last year’s debacle.

In 2009, the awards show producers scrapped the original plan to convert the whole program into a memorial for Jackson who had died three days earlier. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and the 2009 show was a flaming hot mess.

This year, the crowd at the invitation-only show (including me) expected better. And, they got it.

Held in Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, BET greeted its guests with an expansive red carpet and complimentary champagne. Deal makers and young professionals mingled in the Shrine’s lobby.

I ran into engineer David Washington of Pearland who attend Lanier Middle School with me, as well as several college classmates from Harvard. My friend Damali Hill connected with college friends from Florida A&M University, as well. In addition to Houston, folks traveled from New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore and Jackson, Miss. to attend the show.

The whole event reminded me of the days when African-American up-and-comers rolled to Cancun for Memorial Day weekend before Diddy (then known as Puffy, maybe, or was it Puff Daddy?) declared it the place to be. It was that same vibe of being in the know about a chilled-out, but fun party atmosphere before everybody else realizes it's the thing to do.

Kanye West opened the show at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium and got warm applause but not a standing ovation. That might have something to do with the orchestra-level, VIP section of the audience.

Although the champagne stopped flowing at 4:30 p.m. Pacific time and the bars closed soon after, the crowd had not finished socializing and many thought the networking was more important than seeing the first act which started at 5:00 p.m. Pacific.

Host Queen Latifah poked fun at the celebrities in the audience during her opening act and then at herself and her film roles throughout the show.

Usher’s performance also was appreciated but not shown a lot love from the crowd. But El Debarge? Much love. The audience sang along and stood for the R&B singer who made it big in the 1980s but disappeared from the scene to battle personal demons.

Rapper Nicki Minaj’s acceptance speech for Best Female Hip Hop artist caused a stir when the artist who styles herself as a raunchy, My-Size Barbie doll declared that she is “fighting for women.” Feminism is in deep trouble when Minaj considers a male-fantasy act to be a step forward in the fight for equality.

The ultimate of the night, however, was the tribute to Prince. BET stepped way outside of the box and had you-ought-to-know artists Janelle Monae and Esperanza Spalding perform in the tribute with divas Alicia Keys and Patti LaBelle. Patti, of course, shut it down when she did her rendition of Purple Rain.

The only disappointment, or course, was that Prince stuck to honoree protocol and did not perform.

Few celebrities were at the official, invitation-only, BET Awards Show after party at H. Wood in Hollywood. But that was just fine with the back-to-business crowd interested in mix and mingling with BET Chairman and CEO Debra Lee, fashion guru Lloyd Boston and other people who make deals happen.

Now that I’m back home, I’m sending my thank you notes so I can be invited back next year. It’s a weekend not to be missed.

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Being in the invitation-only BET awards, watching you-should-know-stars like Janelle Monae, made for an experience. Courtesy of PictureGroup
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It doesn't matter if Chris Brown's tears were legit or not, they still did his rep wonders. Courtesy of PictureGroup
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If only Prince had performed. Courtesy of PictureGroup
News_BET Awards_Kanye West
Kanye West came in on his volcano before many VIPs made it to their seats. Courtesy of PictureGroup
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Shannon Buggs on the Red Carpet