It was an evening of surprise announcements and emotional tributes at the 2021 edition of the annual Black Entertainment Television Awards on Sunday.
Held in Los Angeles, the theme of this year's awards show was "Year of the Black Woman," with actress Taraji P. Henson hosting.
"I am so excited to be here with humans; we need each other," Henson exclaimed upon taking the stage, acknowledging the show's return to an in-person event after the pandemic had forced the 2020 edition to take place virtually.
Multi-hyphenate performer Queen Latifah was presented with a Lifetime Achievement award for her work in music, film and TV. A tribute to the star was paid by Monie Love, Rapsody, MC Lyte and Lil’ Kim, who performed her hit song 'U.N.I.T.Y'. Latifah was joined on stage by her father, and she also carried a picture of her late mother. In her speech she acknowledged the role BET played in the past when many American media outlets refused to feature African-American artists. "When we couldn’t get played on the radio in other places, we couldn’t get our videos played in other places, there was BET that allowed us to be in our fullness and to shine," she said.
Acting awards went to the late Chadwick Boseman for his role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, while Best Actress was awarded to Andra Day for her performance as the legendary singer in The United States vs Billie Holiday. Judas and the Black Messiah was named Best Movie.
In music, the Best Group award went to Silk Sonic, the collaboration between Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak. Mars reassured fans that a new album was on the way. "To the fans patiently waiting, Andy and I promise y’all, it’s gonna be worth the wait," he said before swigging from a flask.
There was a surprise when Cardi B revealed she was pregnant with her second child while performing with her husband Offset's band Migos. The rapper wore a one-piece outfit with a cut out that proudly displayed her pregnant stomach.
Along with Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B was a winner for Video of the Year for the promo for their controversial duet 'WAP'. Megan acknowledged the show's "Year of the Black Woman" theme in her acceptance speech, saying "Black women, we are the culture, we been the culture, and in the future, we’re still gonna be the culture. So shout out to us."
Megan also scooped awards for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist and the Viewer's Choice award for her track 'Savage (Remix)' featuring Beyoncé. In her speech she said she had "fulfilled a dream" by working with Beyoncé.
Album of the Year went to 'Heaux Tales' by Jazmine Sullivan, who brought her mother onstage and spoke emotionally of how her mother had beaten cancer. "It means more than anything that she is here with me. She has supported me all my life. She has loved me all my life," she said in tribute to her mother.
Best Female R&B/Pop Artist went to H.E.R., who had performed onstage prior to receiving the award.
One of the most talked about moments of the evening came when rapper Lil Nas X kissed a male backing dancer following a performance of 'Call Me by Your Name.'
Along with a tribute to Boseman, DMX was acknowledged with Busta Rhymes, Method Man and Griselda performing a tribute to the late rapper.
See the full list of winners below:
Best Album: Jazmine Sullivan, 'Heaux Tales'
Best Collaboration: Cardi B ft. Megan Thee Stallion – 'WAP'
Best Female R&B / Pop Artist: H.E.R.
Best Male R&B / Pop Artist: Chris Brown
Best New Artist: Giveon
Best Group: Silk Sonic
Best Female Hip-Hop Artist: Megan Thee Stallion
Best Male Hip-Hop Artist: Lil Baby
Dr. Bobby Jones Best Gospel/Inspirational Award: Kirk Franklin – 'Strong God'
BET Her Award: SZA – 'Good Days'
Best International Act: Burna Boy
Viewer's Choice: Best New International Act: Bree Runway
Viewer's Choice Award: Megan Thee Stallion ft. Beyoncé – 'Savage (Remix)'
Video of the Year: Cardi B ft. Megan Thee Stallion – 'WAP'
Video Director of the Year: Bruno Mars and Florent Déchard
Best Movie: Judas and the Black Messiah
Best Actress: Andra Day
Best Actor: Chadwick Boseman