Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagicThere was a lot of buzz leading up to BET’s Black Girls Rock, the show designed to celebrate powerful African-American women in the entertainment industry. This year’s ceremony, which took place Friday, featured artists like Rihanna being honored with the Rock Star Award and Gladys Knight receiving the Living Legend Award.
Accepting her honor, Rihanna said she rejects the idea of being a role model, and instead hopes to “inspire a lot of young women to be themselves.”
Rihanna continued, “The thing that’s kept me successful is being myself. I only know how to do that…And the minute you learn to love yourself you would not want to be anybody else,” she said. “Role model is not the title they like to give me, but…I think I can inspire a lot of young women to be themselves and that is half the battle.”
Prior to the show’s taping last Friday, Knight told ABC Radio she was shocked when she learned the news she was receiving the Living Legend Award. “Oh! Jumping over the fence…on a farm!” she laughed on the red carpet at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, New Jersey. She later took stage to perform a medley of hits.
Jazmine Sullivan, who served as one of the performers, told ABC Radio why the show is so special. “Its very important, I mean I’m a black girl and I’m doing my thing in this industry and I’m just so glad to be surrounded by other black women who are doing their thing as well, so we are all out here supporting each other,” she said.
Another of the honorees, TV mogul Shonda Rhimes, revealed why she was humbled. “It feels really, really wonderful,” she said. “It’s wonderful to think that there are young women, who think that I am somebody that they want to honor and that they want to look up to and I love the organization, I love the concept of Black Girls Rock, I love the idea.”
Performer Andra Day explained that the ceremony breaks down a common misconception among black women: “I think it’s an amazing platform to show black women that we do love each other and we do support each other and I think a lot of times in the media the stereotype can be the opposite of that, you know, and I think it’s important to show that when we are a community we are extremely powerful.”
Actress Teyonah Parris, who presented at the ceremony, echoed similar sentiments: “I think it is immensely important for us as women, as black women, to get together and celebrate each other and uplift one another and share what we love and appreciate about the other and I think we should do it every day in our lives, but its even more spectacular in this venue and have that opportunity.”
Performer Corinne Bailey Rae adds that award shows like these are crucial, especially when there’s been much discussion about the lack of inclusion at other events, like the Oscars. “I really support this organization, I really believe in the idea of encouraging young people and encouraging young black women to achieve their dreams and to find their own identity and recognize themselves as part of a global community,” she said, “so I’m happy to be here from England, you know, as part of the African diaspora supporting my black sisters. I love it here.”
Actress Naturi Naughton revealed who she was excited to see during the big show: “Oh, Rihanna, I’m excited to see her, I’m just excited to see Gladys Knight, a legend, somebody I’ve admired, her career. Its pretty amazing, its going to be a good night and I’m just happy to be here.”
Aside from Monica and Marsha Ambrosius, actor Hosea Chanchez had his heart set on seeing one diva in particular: “Brandy, because she’s one of my all-time favorites.”
Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton took the stage to introduce “Black Girls Rock” founder Beverly Bond. In addition, Debbie Allen, Kelly Rowland, Cissy Houston, Erykah Badu, and a pregnant Tatyana Ali also attended.
The network also honored The Walking Dead actress Danai Gurira, actress and activist Amandla Stenberg, and Black Lives Matter founder Patrisse Cullors, among others.
Hosted by Tracee Ellis Ross, BET’s Black Girls Rock 2016 will air Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 8 p.m. ET.
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