It wasn’t your common awards present crimson carpet. There wasn’t, in any case, a crimson carpet. As a substitute 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 evening — for the primary time since Covid-19 was declared a world pandemic, and gatherings went digital and most such occasions, from the Met Gala to the Cannes Movie Pageant, have been canceled — the individuals concerned (together with the host Amanda Seales, towards a inexperienced display screen in her dwelling, Lizzo, Jennifer Hudson and Beyoncé) dressed up for public consumption.
And it was wonderful to see.
Not all that way back, awards reveals and pay-to-wear offers had appeared ubiquitous; the celebs like strolling high-fashion adverts. Then latest televised charity concerts featured artists of their properties 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 through which vogue returns not as advertising software, however as an announcement of non-public intent.
Nobody on Sunday evening was requested, “What are you sporting?” Nobody name-checked a model (save, typically, on Instagram). However the garments, and the hassle 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 crimson leather-based minidress — her “crimson 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 — completely different modifications, all from black vogue, jewellery and shoe manufacturers.
Whereas there’s rising discuss in vogue about supporting black designers and black-owned vogue companies, and the need to change the industry, Mr. Javar and Ms. Seales put the phrases into motion. And material. Certainly, she virtually turned a one-woman runway present.
As Terrence J, a co-host of the preshow, toggling between a brilliant yellow swimsuit and a periwinkle blue jacket, mentioned, “I haven’t worn something brilliant or loud for months now,” and it was about time.
So Ms. Seales kicked off the present with a monologue that tackled the racial justice agony and energy of the second whereas sporting a minidress and matching knee-high boots from the Pyer Moss February collection, proven on the Kings Theater in Brooklyn. That assortment was devoted to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the so-called godmother of rock ’n’ roll, who was additionally depicted on the costume. 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 grow to be seems to be by Romeo Hunte, Sergio Hudson and Brother Vellies (whose founder, Aurora James, has began the 15 % Pledge, an initiative urging retailers to dedicate 15 p.c of their shelf house 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 vogue moments in black tradition previous, like the ability jackets-with-matching-hats of Hilary Banks (performed by Karyn Parsons) in “The Contemporary Prince of Bel Air.” Earlier than lastly wrapping every little thing 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 turning into an off-the-shoulder black velvet costume with a large white ruffle operating over one shoulder and down the facet, like a supersonic nod to all of the proms that didn’t occur, to simply accept her award at Greatest 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 high and black trousers, enjoying 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 high for her video, swapped for a Grayscale costume that performed peekaboo along with her torso to obtain her award for Greatest 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 will depend on 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 distinct narrative.
Within the meantime, nonetheless, her look, like so many others through the present, was a vote in itself for the ability of picture; a potent reminder that the crimson carpet (or what it stands for) can mix gorgeousness and worth. Particularly if when it returns — if it does — we keep in mind that each pose has content material, and the equipment and robes and tuxes, must be intentionally chosen to make a degree, not simply revenue.