Sunday’s BET Awards at Los Angeles’s Shrine Auditorium honored entertainers for their achievements last year and served as a tribute to Michael Jackson – whose father Joe Jackson and sister Janet Jackson were very visible at the event, only three days after the death of their son and brother.
Sporting a black hat, sunglasses and a dark suit, the patriarch of the Jackson family appeared on the red carpet and told CNN about Michael: “I wish the world had recognized him when he was living. Right now, he’s bigger than ever. But I wish he was here to see all this, to hear all this.”
The memory of Michael dominated the gala. Host Jamie Foxx made his entrance in a red leather “Billie Jean” jacket. “No need to be sad. We want to celebrate this black man,” said Foxx. “We gonna go through all of Michael Jackson.”
The host closed his opening monologue with his rendition of Jackson’s signature Moonwalk. “I hope I can make it,” said Foxx, adding that it was his first attempt at the fancy footwork since 1983.
Throughout the evening, entertainers, including R&B female artist of the year Beyoncé, paid tribute to Michael as his father sat in a ringside seat in the auditorium, next to Rev. Al Sharpton. Beyoncé dedicated her award to Michael, whom she called “my teacher and hero.”
Award presenter Marlon Wayans, accompanied by Jeremy Piven, addressed Joe Jackson and said, “The Jacksons had a profound effect on my family. If it wasn’t for the Jacksons there would be no Wayans. Thank you.”
Piven, meanwhile, joked, “If it wasn’t for Michael Jackson, people like Justin Timberlake would probably be selling curly fries in the [San Fernando] Valley.” As some members of the audience groaned, Piven quickly interjected, “Said with love.”
LeBron James, collecting his best male athlete trophy, told the crowd, “My heart and prayers go out to the whole Jackson family. What they did for us … was amazing.”
At the close of the ceremony, Janet Jackson spoke publicly for the first time since Thursday about Michael. “My entire family wanted to be here tonight but it was too painful,” she told the BET audience, including her father who stood and applauded from his seat. “To you, Michael is an icon. To us, Michael is family. He will forever live in all of hearts.
Tearing up, she added, “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.”
Backstage with Joe
In the pressroom, where he made a brief appearance, Joe Jackson was asked if Michael might have a message for his fans at this time. He responded, “I think if Michael was here he would’ve enjoyed the celebration, but he couldn’t be here. It’s like he was larger than he was ever before. I think Michael gives his love to everybody and we hope his record will never be broken.”
As for how he would like his son to be remembered, the elder Jackson said, “Well as you know, since the tragedy has happened, I would like him to be remembered forever all over the world. We know that all over the world everybody will support him.”
• With reporting by JESSICA HERNDON and JESSICA WEDEMEYER