One of the most underrated red carpets of the year is the BET Black Girls Rock! red carpet. Every year, I forget it’s happening and every year, it delivers some of my favourite looks. This year’s honourees included Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Lena Waithe, Amandla Stenberg, #MeToo creator Tarana Burke, and Naomi Campbell, among others. It was hosted by Queen Latifah. So, all your faves were there and they all SHOWED UP.
I’m going to need Amandla Stenberg’s striped Thom Browne suit in three different colours and grown up sizes please. Naomi Campbell came through in orange Calvin Klein (definitely not pregnant) to accept the Black Girl Magic award. Storm Reid’s hair and makeup were spectacular and Janet Jackson shut down the whole show in a navy Christian Siriano gown.
LOOK AT THESE BOOTS.
Let’s all take a minute to appreciate Miss Jackson in these boots.
Black Girls Rock! was not just about fashion. The show doesn’t air until September 9th but it sounds like it’s finally going to give Aretha Franklin the awards show tribute she deserves. Page Six reports that “BET asked media not to reveal the performers to avoid ruining the surprise when Black Girls Rock! airs”, which I understand in theory but the Internet exists so parts of the surprise have already been ruined. We know that Cynthia Erivo was present for the Aretha tribute (thank Beyoncé) and after this tweet, it’s clear she took it seriously:
Madonna makes the life and works of Aretha Franklin (Queen of soul), about herself and her rise to fame. Heart was nowhere to be found, ego and privilege reigned supreme. #VMAs https://t.co/ps98de9AKa— Cynthia Erivo (@CynthiaEriVo) August 21, 2018
Insert praise hands emoji. Since the MTV VMAs fumbled their Aretha Franklin “tribute” so hard, it was only a matter of time before another awards show tried to do it right. Cynthia Erivo definitely has the voice to do Aretha’s music justice. Fantasia was also in attendance and there are rumours that she also performed to honour Aretha. An Aretha Franklin tribute featuring Cynthia Erivo and Fantasia? Yes, please. As the memes say, “if you want something done right, let a black woman do it".
Black women never abandoned Janet Jackson even when the rest of the world did (#NeverForget) but it’s still nice to see Janet being honoured with the Rock Star Award, presented by Ciara, in the midst of her new era of radical joy. She’s got a new single we can’t get out of our heads and she’s finally getting the respect she deserves. Doesn’t she seem happy? Happy Janet makes me happy.
Every year when Black Girls Rock! comes around, the inevitable criticism about why black women need their own awards show or celebration comes up. This criticism is barely worth acknowledgment but especially since the last week included headlines about Faith Fennidy, a black girl who was sent home from school over her hairstyle and reminders that no matter what level of greatness you achieve, if you are a black woman, people will still think they can police you and your body, I think it’s very apparent that the message that black women are powerful and worthy of praise is necessary.
I’ll leave you with Janet’s parting words:
“Black girls rock now more than ever, and girls, all I can say is rock on.”