(The Root) — Since 2006, Black Girls Rock! Inc. has celebrated young women who are inspirations to their communities worldwide. The organization founded by DJ Beverly Bond mentors and seeks to empower black girls. On Sunday night, BET aired the seventh annual awards show, which had been taped live at the Paradise Theater in the Bronx, N.Y., on Oct. 13. It honored black women in entertainment and various other fields who've made an impact as positive role models and inspirational leaders.
For the second consecutive year, Tracee Ellis Ross and Regina King shared hosting duties, and together they made a cute, witty team. After a performance by a fierce band of female drummers, the show was on. The Root was in the building, witnessing it all — from Star Power award winner Kerry Washington's heartfelt words and Alicia Keys' blazing-hot performance of "Girl on Fire" to Ciara and Missy rocking the stage and '90s nostalgia from SWV. Here are five of the night's most memorable moments.
Janelle Monáe Wins Young, Black and Gifted Award
Independent artist Janelle Monáe has a unique style, to say the least. Even before releasing her breakthrough 2010 single "Tightrope," Monáe has sported a signature look — a neatly coiffed neo-pompadour, tailored black suit and white shirt, or an iteration of it — to virtually every awards show, music video and performance.
Growing up in Kansas City, Kansas, Monáe's most intimate role models — her mother, a janitor, and her father, a garbage man — wore uniforms. She revealed in her acceptance speech that they are sartorial inspiration.
"I stand here in my black and white, and I wear my uniform to honor them," Monáe said.
As she accepted the Young, Black and Gifted award, she was tearful, recalling her path to success. Even beyond her humble family roots, Monáe struggled to make it in the music industry, working as a maid and living in a boarding house where she sold $5 CDs of her music before she "made it."
Now she's a spokesperson for Covergirl. "I didn't have to change who I was to be a Covergirl," Monáe said. "Perfection is often the enemy of greatness."
Keyshia Cole's Performance
For many women, Keyshia Cole is the go-to singer for that deep, powerful soul music we need when we're going through some heavy relationship issues. With tunes such as "I Remember" and "Let It Go," she's regularly delivered. Now that she's happily married, a new mother and the star of a reality show that's sweeter than it is dramatic, it's no wonder fans may have been doubting her ability to give them something they can feel. Well, doubt no longer. Cole performed her newest song, "Trust and Believe," at the show, and she still has skills.
Black Girls Rock! Honors Somalian Humanitarians
Nobel Peace Prize winner and Somalia's first female gynecologist, Dr. Hawa Abdi, and her daughters Dr. Deqo Mohamed and Dr. Amina Mohamed were honored for their humanitarian efforts. Their NGO, the Hawa Abdi Foundation, has been empowering women affected by civil war in their home country, providing free health care, food and education for two decades. They've also helped to put in place plans for sustainable agriculture and fixed engineering problems in the refugee camps. Dr. Abdi's daughter, Deqo, accepted her award and invited Beverly Bond and the BGR team to take a trip to the African continent.
Black Men Rock!
For the last two BGR! award ceremonies, the boys have not been invited. Black women perhaps needed a forum where they alone could be honored. But on Sunday night, the first man stood on the BGR stage, and the ladies didn't seem to mind at all. In fact, some even ran into the aisles screaming when they saw Idris Elba grab the spotlight on stage. "I'm thrilled to be here to pay tribute to your brilliance, beauty and fortitude," said the Brit actor best known for his roles in The Wire and Luther. "We celebrate your swag, your sexy, your perseverance, your hustle, presence and power."
He introduced Luke James, Eric Benet and Anthony Hamilton, who sang a spine-tingling rendition of "Wildflower," a classic soul ballad from '70s-era band New Birth. Just to remind you of the respective bona fides of the night's male supporters, that's the young singer of "I Want You," the man who loves "Chocolate Legs" and the crooner who sang about doing right by "Charlene." No doubt they'll be invited back.
Dionne Warwick Wins Living Legend Award
If you know R&B, you know that Dionne Warwick is one of the masters. Despite the death of her cousin Whitney Houston earlier this year, Warwick's spirits were high and her message was clear when she accepted the award on Sunday night.
Her message: She's proud to be a role model for young musicians who are coming up after her, but she's still a work in progress. "I consider myself a legend in the making," Warwick said. She also mentioned her inspirations: Sarah Vaughn, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald. "Those are the legends I happen to be standing on the shoulders of."
Just before she left the mic, Warwick concluded: "I am no longer a girl. I'm a woman. Not only do black girls rock, but black women rock, too."
"The night sky is never lit up by one star, but by the billions of stars … shine bright, black girls." —Kerry Washington
"Hands that serve are holier than lips that pray." —Susan L. Taylor
"You don't have to be anyone else but who you are." —Alicia Keys, rock star celebrant honored for her Keep a Child Alive initiative
"Too many girls think power exists below their waists and not above their shoulders." —Beverly Bond
Behind-the-Scenes Moments With Tracee and Regina You Won't Catch on TV:
In the opening sequence, Ross lost her shoe and hobbled back behind the stage for a recap. Funny thing is, it was the most graceful, funny and well-handled wardrobe malfunction we've seen in a while. Kudos, Tracee.
Musta Been the Dress
Since it was a taped show, even when things didn't go drastically wrong, as in the case with Ross' shoe, they needed to be redone, tweaked. Virtually every time this happened, Regina King said, "Wasn't my fault, must have been the dress." What dress was she talking about? Her second outfit change of the night — a short, one-sleeved, red-hot number.
Every Hair in Place
Nearing the end of the show, Ross' hair was slightly out of place, so the audience, filled with black women, collectively let her know it needed to be fixed. She couldn't get it right, so finally she bent down, and King put the stray hairs in place. Ross pointed out that this was a moment of sisterhood. Aww.
Celeste Little is an editorial intern at The Root.