It wasn’t your usual red carpet award ceremony. After all, there was no red carpet. Instead, nominees, actors and presenters beamed in from their living rooms or film sets.
But with the 20th annual BET Awards On Sunday evening – for the first time since Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic and meetings became virtual and most of these events, from the Met Gala to the Cannes Film Festival, were canceled – the people involved (including presenter Amanda Seales) called off. Lizzo, Jennifer Hudson and Beyoncé have dressed up against a green screen in their home for public consumption.
And it was excellent to see.
Not so long ago, awards ceremonies and pay-to-wear deals were pervasive. The celebrities like to run high fashion advertising. Then new Charity concerts on TV Featured artists in their homes wear T-shirts and sweat to prove that they are just like us and suffer the same alienation and separation from Lockdown. In contrast, the BET Awards can mark the beginning of a new phase: one in which fashion returns not as a marketing tool but as an explanation of personal intentions.
No one was asked on Sunday evening, “What are you wearing?” Nobody has checked a brand by name (except sometimes on Instagram). But the clothes and the effort were still important. With what they wore, the artists of the BET Awards honored the occasion and each other.
“Our culture cannot be canceled,” was the slogan for the show. Fashion only amplified this scream into the void.
It started even before the preview, when Amanda Seales, the comedian who acted as the presenter, took a picture on Instagram of herself in a tiny, ruffled red leather mini dress – her entrance look on the “red carpet” – by Khala Whitney, who Designer behind Grayscale, published. It was the first by Byron Javar, Ms. Seales’ stylist, to reveal 13 – count’em – various changes, all from black fashion, jewelry and shoe brands.
While fashion is increasingly talking about the support of black designers and black fashion companies, and that have to change the industry, Mr Javar and Mrs Seales put the words into practice. And fabric. In fact, it practically became a one-woman runway show.
When Terrence J, a co-host of the preshow, switched between a bright yellow suit and an evergreen blue jacket, he said, “I haven’t worn anything bright or loud in months,” and it was time.
So Ms. Seales started the show with a monologue dealing with the agony of racial justice and the power of the moment while wearing a mini dress and matching knee-high boots Pyer Moss February collection, shown at the Kings Theater in Brooklyn. This collection was dedicated to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the so-called godmother of rock’n’roll, who was also shown on the dress. The print was drawn by Richard Phillips, a black artist who was wrongfully detained in a Michigan prison for 46 years.
Later, WWD notedRomeo Hunte, Sergio Hudson and brother Vellies (whose founder Aurora James launched the 15 percent promise, an initiative that encourages retailers to use 15 percent of their shelf space for black-owned brands). She also wore one extravagantly tailored from the shoulder African floral print ball gown from Claude Kameni, the Cameroon-born founder of Lavie from CK, a New York label known for its use of African wax prints.
Ms. Seales also referred to fashion moments in the past of black culture, such as the power jackets with matching hats from Hilary Banks (played by Karyn Parsons) in “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”. Before we finally pack everything in a leisure suit by Dapper Dan from Harlem.
But before that happened, there was Lizzo – in her back yard, picking up a drink while wearing a zebra print suit and lace bustier to present the video of the year award. And then she put on a strapless black velvet dress with a huge white ruffle that ran over one shoulder and side, like a supersonic nod to all the proms that didn’t take place to accept her award at Best Female R&B /. Pop artist.
Here was Jennifer Hudson in an emerald green one-shoulder dress by Reem Acra with a glittering black net body underneath, which Nina Simones “Young, talented and black” and Wayne Brady in a golden tuxedo with matching golden bow tie (and) performed matching backup dancers in golden face masks) in honor of Little Richard.
There was Alicia Keys in a wide black leather trench, black top, and black pants playing the piano on a rain-soaked (tear-soaked) street, painted with the names of black men and women killed by the police.
Here was Megan Thee Stallion in tiny Max Max-style leather hot pants and a feathered, lariat-embellished top for her video, which was swapped for a grayscale dress that played peekaboo with her torso for her best hip-hop award. Get artist.
And in the end there was Beyoncé, who received the Humanitarian Award (introduced by Michelle Obama in a black jacket) and asked everyone to go out and vote “as if our lives depended on it” and to be blessed with a sweetheart in a black strapless dress Section under a sparkling royal choker, as John Singer Sargent’s “Madame X” reinterpreted for another story.
In the meantime, however, like so many others on the show, her appearance was a vote in itself for the power of the image; a strong reminder that the red carpet (or what it stands for) can combine splendor and value. Especially when it comes back – if it is – we remember that each pose has content and the accessories and dresses and tuxedo should be chosen deliberately to make a point, not just to benefit.