Guest Star: "When We Got Michael Jackson & James Brown Together, That's What Really Set Off The BET Awards" -Stephen Hill
Thursday, Jun 24, 2010 2:15PM
I really began to run the BET Awards in 2003 which was Mo'Nique's first year as the host. I think we have gone from being looked at as a little satellite show where since everyone else had one, we had to have one too, to really becoming a premiere showcase for artists. And at this point, I don't even want to limit it to black artists anymore, "artists" come to the BET Awards. Folks love to come and show off their best.
In the beginning, it was hard to fill up the stage let alone the seats. When you first do a show like this, you have to establish yourself, we were begging folks and we were so glad that Whitney Houston was around the first year when she accepted an award. Destiny's Child was also there but it was tough convincing people like, "Hey, we're doing this, it's for real and it's going to be this unbelievable high quality and high caliber show." So we didn't struggle so much to fill the seats, we struggled to fill the stage the first couple of years.
Once folks began to realize, "Oh, this really is going to be on a high level playing field" the recognition started to grow. It was in 2003 when we got Michael Jackson and James Brown together, I think that's what really set it off.
Holding the event in Las Vegas was tough because it's June, extremely hot and so it was tougher the first year. We had Destiny's Child, Sisqo came down flying from the ceiling and we could always get performers that were on their first single and weren't as established but couldn't fill a show with superstars at first. And fortunately, now we're able to fill the show with all multi-platinum superstars but the first-year, not so much so.
I'm proud to say this year's show has people that you have either heard about for the past 10 years or will hear about for the next 10 years. I think the goal has always been to be respected but I don't think 2003 is when we accomplished that. That's kind of when we set ourselves in motion to do that so what we've done every year is try to just make the best show possible. We never try to make the "Best Black Show" possible, we try to make the best show possible. When we're putting this together, we're looking at what's the show that's gonna blow people away.
Stephen Hill is Executive Vice President of Entertainment and Music Programming for BET (Black Entertainment Television).