With deep sadness etched in her face and tears welling in her eyes, Michael Jackson’s younger sister Janet made her first public appearance since his death, joining a star-studded tribute to the King of Pop at the Black Entertainment Television awards in Los Angeles overnight.
Janet, an internationally popular singer in her own right, took to the stage at the end of the awards ceremony and explained that while Michael Jackson was an icon to many people around the world, to the Jacksons “he was family”.
As her father Joe watched frrom the front row, Ms Jackson strolled to the microphone, took a deep breath, and addressed the audience: “My entire family wanted to be here tonight, but it was just too painful, so they elected me to be here.
“On behalf of my family and myself, thank you for all your love. He will forever live in all of our hearts. We miss him so much.”
After she spoke, the audience rose to their feet in an emotional standing ovation. Oscar-winning actor and rapper Jamie Foxx then closed the show singing the Jackson Five hit I’ll Be There to a backdrop of photos of the star, reducing many to tears.
Joe Jackson had earlier walked the red carpet and posed for photos with guests – many of whom wore Michael Jackson t-shirts or single white gloves in tribute. “Right now he is the bigger than ever. I wish he was here to see all this, to hear all this,” Mr Jackson told CNN on the red carpet.
He also spoke of the family’s grief: “It has been really tough. We have just lost the biggest star, the biggest superstar, in the world.”
The BET awards are an annual event which celebrate the achievements of African Americans and other minorities in music, acting, sports, and other fields of entertainment over the past 12 months.
BET chairwoman Debra Lee said the television network had decided to make the awards an unofficial memorial to Jackson because he was “the biggest thing that’s happened to music in our lifetime”.
“When we heard he had passed away we knew we had to revamp this whole show and make it special just for him,” Ms Lee said, after describing Jackson as a “musical deity”.
“It’s going to be a celebration tonight, it’s going to be a little sad, but it’s going to be a celebration.”
And celebration it was. Foxx hosted the awards ceremony, which doubled as the first publicly broadcast tribute to the African American community’s biggest star.
Foxx donned a copy of Jackson’s famous red leather jacket and a sparkling white glove as he entered the stage earlier in the night to the sound of some of Jackson’s most famous tunes while he re-enacted the choreography to his iconic hit Beat It, complete with crotch-grabbing and a moonwalk on stage.
Addressing the celebrity guests, he said: “No need to be sad. We want to celebrate this black man. We gonna go through all of Michael Jackson.”
Singer Beyonce sang a moving version of Ave Maria in his honour, while other tributes came from American R&B band New Edition sang a medley of Jackson Five hits including I Want You Back and ABC, complete with the classic dance moves. Singer Keri Hilson channeled Jackson in a black suit, white socks and shades while on stage, but her performance of her own song was overshadowed by the audience chanting “Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson”.
The red carpet was also awash with t-shirts bearing Jackson’s face, and single white gloves. Stars arriving on the red carpet told of their personal stories about the King of Pop, and hailed Jackson – whose 1991 single Black or White promoted racial unity and was one of his biggest hits – for breaking down racial barriers.
Several stars also lauded Jackson’s role in giving African-Americans a hero to idolize.
“He’s one of the reasons why Barack Obama is president,” said hip-hop mogul Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, who labelled Jackson “the greatest artist of all time”.
“He started the change in the world about how African-Americans are perceived,” he added.
Singer Alicia Keys urged people to remember Jackson in a “respectful, positive way”. “We miss him and we love him and we just feel devastated,” she said.
Asked how Jackson had influence her, Keys replied: “In every way. How could he not influence us to break the barrier and to think bigger, and to try new things and to break the rules. Tonight I think is a true memorial for him. It’s really about honouring him this evening.”
Fonte: Times Online