It wasn’t your normal awards present pink carpet. There wasn’t, in any case, a pink carpet. As an alternative there have been nominees and performers and presenters beamed in from their residing rooms or movie-magicked units.
However on the 20th annual BET Awards on Sunday night time — for the primary time since Covid-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic, and gatherings went digital and most such occasions, from the Met Gala to the Cannes Movie Pageant, have been canceled — the folks concerned (together with the host Amanda Seales, in opposition to a inexperienced display in her house, Lizzo, Jennifer Hudson and Beyoncé) dressed up for public consumption.
And it was glorious to see.
Not all that way back, awards reveals and pay-to-wear offers had appeared ubiquitous; the celebs like strolling high-fashion advertisements. Then latest televised charity live shows featured artists of their houses sporting T-shirts and sweats to show they’re Simply Like Us and endure the identical alienation and disassociation of lockdown. In distinction, the BET Awards might mark the beginning of a brand new stage: one by which trend returns not as advertising and marketing device, however as an announcement of non-public intent.
Nobody on Sunday night time was requested, “What are you sporting?” Nobody name-checked a model (save, typically, on Instagram). However the garments, and the trouble concerned, nonetheless mattered. With what they wore, the artists on the BET Awards honored the event, and each other.
“Our tradition can’t be canceled” went the tag line for the present. The style simply amplified that shout into the void.
It began even earlier than the preshow, with Amanda Seales, the comic who served as host, posting an image on Instagram of herself in a tiny ruffled pink leather-based minidress — her “pink carpet” entrance look — by Khala Whitney, the designer behind Grayscale. It was the primary of what Byron Javar, Ms. Seales’ stylist, revealed could be 13 — rely ’em — totally different modifications, all from black trend, jewellery and shoe manufacturers.
Whereas there’s rising speak in trend about supporting black designers and black-owned trend companies, and the need to change the industry, Mr. Javar and Ms. Seales put the words into action. And cloth. Indeed, she practically became a one-woman runway show.
As Terrence J, a co-host of the preshow, toggling between a bright yellow suit and a periwinkle blue jacket, said, “I haven’t worn anything bright or loud for months now,” and it was about time.
So Ms. Seales kicked off the show with a monologue that tackled the racial justice agony and power of the moment while wearing a minidress and matching knee-high boots from the Pyer Moss February collection, shown at the Kings Theater in Brooklyn. That collection was dedicated to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the so-called godmother of rock ’n’ roll, who was also depicted on the dress. The print was drawn by Richard Phillips, a black artist who was wrongfully imprisoned in a Michigan jail for 46 years.
Later, WWD noted, she would turn into seems to be by Romeo Hunte, Sergio Hudson and Brother Vellies (whose founder, Aurora James, has began the 15 P.c Pledge, an initiative urging retailers to dedicate 15 p.c of their shelf area to black-owned manufacturers). She additionally wore an extravagant custom-made off-the-shoulder ball robe in an African floral print by Claude Kameni, the Cameroon-born founding father of Lavie by CK, a New York label identified for its use of African wax prints.
Ms. Seales additionally sprinkled in references to trend moments in black tradition previous, like the facility jackets-with-matching-hats of Hilary Banks (performed by Karyn Parsons) in “The Recent Prince of Bel Air.” Earlier than lastly wrapping all the pieces up in a leisure swimsuit by Dapper Dan of Harlem.
However earlier than that occurred, there was Lizzo — in her yard, hoisting a drink whereas sporting a zebra print swimsuit and lace bustier to current the Video of the Yr award. After which becoming an off-the-shoulder black velvet costume with an enormous white ruffle working over one shoulder and down the facet, like a supersonic nod to all of the proms that didn’t occur, to just accept her award at Finest Feminine R&B/Pop Artist.
Right here was Jennifer Hudson, in an emerald inexperienced Reem Acra one-shoulder costume with a glittering black fishnet bodysuit beneath, performing Nina Simone’s “To Be Younger, Gifted and Black,” and Wayne Brady in a gold tux with matching gold bow tie (and matching backup dancers in gold face masks) honoring Little Richard.
There was Alicia Keys, in a sweeping black leather-based trench, black crop prime and black trousers, taking part in piano on a rain-soaked (tear-soaked) road painted with the names of black women and men killed by the police.
Right here was Megan Thee Stallion in teeny Mad Max-esque leather-based sizzling pants and a feathered, lariat-festooned prime for her video, swapped for a Grayscale costume that performed peekaboo together with her torso to obtain her award for Finest Feminine Hip Hop Artist.
And on the finish, there was Beyoncé, receiving the Humanitarian Award (launched by Michelle Obama, in black jacket), urging everybody to exit and vote “like our life is dependent upon it,” and beatific in a black strapless robe with a sweetheart neckline under a glowing royal choker, like John Singer Sargent’s “Madame X” reimagined for a special narrative.
Within the meantime, nonetheless, her look, like so many others in the course of the present, was a vote in itself for the facility of picture; a potent reminder that the pink carpet (or what it stands for) can mix gorgeousness and worth. Particularly if when it returns — if it does — we do not forget that each pose has content material, and the equipment and robes and tuxes, ought to be intentionally chosen to make a degree, not simply revenue.