LOS ANGELES - The BET Awards are known for show-stopping performances, and they came one after another on Tuesday. It started off with a dream, uniting "Dreamgirls" from past and present with a stirring duet between Jennifer Holliday and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson.
Though Hudson won a best supporting actress Academy Award for her role as Effie in the movie "Dreamgirls," it was Holliday who originated the role on Broadway and made the song "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" one of the most memorable performances in music.
The two Jennifers united to sing what is now both women's signature song - particularly noteworthy, given Holliday's complaints about being ignored for her contributions to "Dreamgirls."
The night's most touching performance was O'Jays singer Eddie Levert's tribute to his late son, singer Gerald Levert, who died in November 2006. The elder Levert was joined by Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle and Yolanda Adams for a heart-wrenching rendition of "Wind Beneath My Wings," which Gerald Levert often performed.
Introducing the number, LaBelle got teary-eyed as she described Gerald Levert as "one of the best voices around."
"His life was embodied with soul music," she said.
Ne-Yo, who won best male R&B artist, dedicated his award to Levert, also nominated in the category.
Another stand-out performance was Erykah Badu's cover of "Love Hangover" during a tribute to lifetime-achievement honoree Diana Ross. She emerged in a floor-length dress and huge Afro. She stripped off the dress as the song's tempo increased to reveal a skintight gold bodysuit beneath (Others paying tribute to Ross included fellow Motown legend Stevie Wonder and R&B queen Chaka Khan).
Beyonce also went gold. She took the stage - after winning the night's first award, video of the year for "Irreplaceable" - in gold robot gear, which she whittled down to sleek gold lame' pants and a matching bra top for a rousing rendition of her dance anthem, "Get Me Bodied." Her fellow Destiny Child alumni appeared moments later to perform her solo hit "Like This" with Eve.
Hudson was a double winner, snagging a best new artist and best actress award.
"I can't believe I'm still winning awards!" she said as she won her first of the night.
Another winner was rapper T.I, who not only offered thanks, but apologies after getting involved in a scuffle with members of Ludacris' camp earlier in the week.
"They say its a fine line between brilliance and insanity," he said, half-joking.
Ludacris won best collaboration for "Runaway Love," his song about wayward girls in trouble, with Mary J. Blige. Though he's know for songs about partying and wild behavior, he got serious as he talked about the impact of "Runaway Love."
"This was much more than a song, this was a movement," the rapper-actor said. "People say there's no content in hip hop. This song is proof that there's content in hip-hop."
That wasn't as evident when 50 Cent took the stage to perform his new hit, "Amusement Park," which was bleeped several times and ended with a shout-out to his sponsor, Vitamin Water.
Perhaps with that performance in mind, Ross, as she accepted her lifetime achievement award, implored performers to keep it clean.
"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. ... I will do the diva master class for you!"
Show host Mo'Nique made a splashy entrance of her own. Introduced by boxing announcer Michael Buffer, who shouted, "Are you ready to jiggle?," she was joined by a bevy of plus-sized dancers in matching silver minidresses as they performed Beyonce's song "Deja Vu" music-video style. The comedian, who has hosted the show twice before, previously opened the show with a booty-shaking rendition of Beyonce's "Crazy in Love."
Other performances punctuating the three-hour ceremony were T.I., followed by R&B crooner Ne-Yo, wearing a white suit and matching fedora, singing his hit "Because of You" before being joined by the rapper Fabolous on their current hit, "Make Me Better." And Lil' Kim made a surprise appearance as Diddy and Keyshia Cole dueted on the hit, "Last Night."
Nominees and winners were chosen by a panel of media and entertainment-industry executives.
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