The 2016 BET Awards were perhaps the most memorable in its history, with Beyoncé opening the show with a surprise performance that blew us away. But her moments on stage weren’t the only event that we still can’t get over now that the Sunday night festivities in L.A. are over. Jennifer Hudson, Stevie Wonder, and more notables truly brought it and delivered star-studded tributes to Prince. InStyle was, as usual, there to capture all of the action and get some behind-the-scenes details you didn’t see on the show.
Take a peek at the 5 things you need to know about the BET Awards, below.
1. THE RED CARPET WAS REALLY, REALLY HOT
The temperature was about 80 degrees around red carpet time, but it felt like 100 degrees, especially the moment Tracee Ellis Ross, Gabrielle Union, and Janelle Monae arrived. Because of the steamy weather, there was a bit of a top bun and sheer dress trend on the carpet. Power star Naturi Naughton, who rocked a sheer, black Nina Ricci dress, black Loriblu stilettos and a top bun with bangs, told InStyle she chose her look to stay cool. “I wanted to do something light and that felt effortless,” she said. “One of the things that I loved is that it’s sheer, the light, flowy material ... it was a lot easier than doing something that’s going to stick to my skin.”
2. Beyoncé OPENED THE SHOW WITH A SURPRISE PERFORMANCE
Rumors about a potential Beyoncé performance swirled on the red carpet, especially after a squad of dancers strut past the step and repeat in formation. But it wasn’t until the show started that it all came together. The room went dark and dancers strolled down the aisles as the instrumentals for Beyoncé’s “Freedom” started to play. Audience members stood up in excitement, trying to figure out where she would appear in the room. Moments later, Beyoncé popped up on stage looking fierce in a custom black and sheer Julien Macdonald bodysuit with fringed sleeves. People were screaming, jumping up and down, and yelling her name. Kendrick Lamar soon joined her for their electrifying performance of “Freedom.” It was an epic show opening.
3. UNFORGETTABLE PRINCE TRIBUTES
Rather than just one tribute, there was a series of tributes to Prince throughout the show. Bilal and Erykah Badu were the first up to perform with Bilal giving a performance of the late singer’s “The Beautiful Ones” that brought audience members to their feet. Stevie Wonder and Tori Kelly performed “Take Me With U,” Maxwell sang “Nothing Compares 2 U,” and Jennifer Hudson (above, right) brought down the house with “Purple Rain.” Janelle Monae (above, left) gave a high-energy performance of “Kiss,” shook her bum Prince-style in white pants with sheer panels at the butt and dropped the mic before strutting off stage. Sheila E. wrapped up the performances with several of Prince’s hits and Prince’s ex-wife Mayte Garcia danced on stage with her.
4. POLITICAL STATEMENTS WERE THE MAIN TOPIC OF CONVERSATION
Aside from Usher’s “Don’t Trump America” shirt and other stars who took time on stage to make statements about political and social activism, Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams stole the show with an impassioned speech after he won the Humanitarian Award. “The more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize,” Williams said. “This award is also for the black women, in particular, who have spent their lives nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.”
5. TOO-CUTE BEHIND-THE-SCENES MOMENTS
There were several sweet and hilarious moments that occurred during commercial breaks, and as stars headed into the show. Before Alicia Keys took the stage to perform “In Common,” the songstress and her husband, Swizz Beatz, walked into the show holding hands and smiling at each other. Jamie Foxx, who introduced Laila Ali on stage with his daughter Annalise, held his daughter’s hand as they headed backstage and chatted with a friend. As for the funny, co-host Anthony Anderson made the audience crack up after Janelle Monae performed, when he popped up in a similar butt-less pants outfit that she wore during her Prince tribute. The audience couldn’t stop laughing as he kept turning around and shaking his bare behind, even after the cameras had cut away from him. It was slightly awkward, given that the next award was the Gospel Inspirational Award, but Gabrielle Union, Nate Parker, and Aja Naomi King didn't miss a beat, and introduced the award and then a trailer from their upcoming film, Birth of a Nation, seamlessly.