Now that's one way to kick off the 2013 BET Awards on a stylish note! This weekend, stars including Ashanti, NeNe Leakes and Jordin Sparks gathered at Milk Studios in Los Angeles to gear up for this year's ceremony. Hosted by Debra L. Lee, the chairman and CEO of BET networks, guests mingled during the cocktail hour before settling into the elegant formal dining room, where the iconic Sheila E. took the stage for a surprise performance. Sparks in particular was excited, as it was her first time to attend the party. "Yes, I'm a newbie! I have no idea what to expect, but I'm excited," she told us before heading inside. "I have to make sure I have a hair tie, because my hair will be curly by the end of the night if I'm dancing." And there was definitely dancing! Click the photo to see more from inside the party.
— Andrea Simpson
"It's just a real positive energy," Ashanti (in Michael Costello) said of the party. "There are a lot of great performances, people having fun, and the food is great."
2. NeNe Leakes
A week before the dinner, the TV personality (in Gucci and Valentino) tied the knot in a ceremony in Atlanta. "It was just so beautiful and amazing," she said. "I'm not just saying it because it was my wedding! It really was fabulous."
3. Jordin Sparks
First-time attendee Sparks expressed her excitement on the red carpet. "A lot of people that I've talked to really, really love the party," she said. "And it's amazing because you can just go in there and chill and not have to worry about a lot of different things. Plus, you never know what collaborations can come!"
4. Sherri Shepherd
Thanks to a last-minute wardrobe decision, the TV host looked chic and sophisticated on the red carpet. "This is just from my closet because I just got off a plane an hour ago," she told us. Despite her jet-setting schedule, Shepherd was gearing up to hit the dance floor. "I'm gonna get on the dance floor, absolutely!" she added.
5. Michelle Williams
Williams (in Michael Costello) mastered the art of the high-low mix by pairing her jumpsuit with a wallet-friendly accessory. "You'd be surprised, I think this came from Wet Seal or something," she said of her necklace. "I'm that girl!"
6. Holly Robinson Peete
Peete chose a trendy red and black ensemble for the night's festivities.
7. Estelle and Melonie Fiona
Estelle (in Vera Wang) struck a pose on the carpet with Melanie Fiona before heading inside. "It's just kind of a good place to be," the singer said of the party. "You get to see new artists, you get to see old artists. You get to see who will perform, and you get to mingle and talk to people you never thought you'd have the opportunity to talk to!"