Images, memories and mostly the music of Michael Jackson permeated the Black Entertainment Television Awards in Los Angeles Sunday night, as the annual gala turned into a full-blown, star-studded tribute to the late pop icon.
Joe Jackson, his father, was among the family representatives who attended the event at the Shrine Auditorium Sunday.
"I just wish he could be here to celebrate himself," he said on the red carpet before the show.
"Sadly, he's not here, so I'm here to celebrate for him."
Late last week, producers acknowledged that the annual ceremony — which honours achievement by African-Americans in music, sport and acting — would be retooled to commemorate Jackson's life.
|Selected BET Award winners|
Male R&B Artist: Ne-Yo
Female R&B Artist: Beyoncé
Group: Day 26
Male Hip Hop Artist: Lil Wayne
Female Hip Hop Artist: M.I.A.
New Artist: Keri Hilson
Gospel Artist: Mary Mary
Video of the Year: Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It), Beyoncé
Actor: Will Smith
Actress: Taraji P. Henson
Female Athlete: Serena Williams
Male Athlete: LeBron James
Humanitarians of the Year: Alicia Keys and Wyclef Jean
Lifetime Achievement Award: O'Jays
The event was even extended by a half-hour to accommodate new acts and the many tributes to be delivered by a wide spectrum of Jackson's celebrity fans.
"Michael Jackson was so important to our world, to our country, to this network," said BET chair Debra L. Lee. "Michael was truly a musical deity."
From the start, host Jamie Foxx spent the evening changing into various Michael Jackson-inspired outfits and took part in various homage performances, including a duet of the Jackson 5's I'll Be There with singer-songwriter Ne-Yo and a re-enactment of Jackson's Beat It music video.
The evening was packed with similar tributes, from '80s singing group New Edition's Jackson 5 medley to pop-R&B singer Ciara taking the stage to sing Heal the World.
Jackson was also on the lips of the night's award winners, with basketball star LeBron James, singer Beyoncé, rapper Lil Wayne and Eddie Levert of the influential R&B group the O'Jays all including mention of him in their acceptance speeches.
"We all know none of us in this room wouldn't be here for Michael Jackson," said Lil Wayne.
Jackson remembered as icon, brother
Entertainer Janet Jackson, making a rare public appearance following her brother's death on Thursday, gave a brief, emotional statement at the ceremony.
"To you, Michael is an icon. To us, Michael is family and he will forever live in all of our hearts," she said.
"On behalf of my family and myself, thank you for all of your love, thank you for all of your support. We miss him so much, thank you so much."
Funeral and memorial plans have not yet been released, but many relatives — including Jackson's children — have assembled at the Jackson family's home in Encino, Calif.
Rev. Al Sharpton, a family friend, said he would discuss worldwide memorial plans for Jackson with the family on Monday.