Taraji P. Henson hosted this year’s BET Awards for the second time in a row in style! The actress served as the night’s emcee and used the opportunity to show love for some iconic Black men and women who have impacted pop culture.
The Color Purple actress kicked off the show by taking the stage at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles and wowing the audience with an unforgettable opening monologue, which amid all the celebration, called attention to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade over the weekend.
Sauntering onto the stage in a stunning sparkling gold gown and short black bob, Henson began her monologue by showing love to black excellence as she addressed her kings and queens in the audience on “culture’s biggest night.”
“Thank you. All right, y’all. Oh, my god. Kings and queens, stand up. This night is for you, baby. We back outside. Yeah, that’s how you do it. Welcome to the 20222 Bet Awards! I’m your host, Taraji P. Henson. Y’all can sit down. Sit down. Rest yourself. This is culture’s biggest night and look at all y’all. Back excellence y’all,” Henson exclaimed.
She continued, “I see you kings, just shining. I see you queens, shining. Look, y’all just making culture’s biggest night look like a room full of luxury. You look successful, expensive, you look like you can afford these gas prices. We’re going to celebrate, recognize and honor us and everything that we do.”
Henson then reminded those in the audience and at home, the power of the BET Awards and its celebration of the Black community.
“Let tonight be a reminder that we don’t need any other show accolades that we can give ourselves. This night is for my kings, black men. We love you. We hear you. And throughout the show, we are going to celebrate you.”
She also applauded Lizzo for opening the show with her jaw-dropping performance of “About Damn Time,” noting her body positivity and her philanthropy, after donating $1 million to Planned Parenthood amid the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“Thank you to the amazing Lizzo, right? That’s how you start a show! Body positivity up in here. Also thank you, Lizzo, for pledging $1 million to Planned Parenthood,” Henson shared. “And you are damn right it’s about damn time we step into our power. It is about time we talk about the fact that guns have more rights than a woman. It’s a sad day in America.”
“A weapon that can take lives has more power than a woman who can give life if she chooses to,” she added.
White Henson’s opener addressed the impactful issues of the past weekend, it also included a few jokes, with the actress congratulating Rihanna while urging the new mom to make her return to music.
“Speaking of giving life, Rihanna. She had the baby, that’s right. Congratulations on becoming a mother. Put Revlon out of business. You are shining bright like a diamond,” Henson said before briefly breaking into song to the tune of RiRi’s “Diamonds.”
“Get back to rhyming, we need you back rhyming, Rihanna. We need you,” Henson quipped.
She also took the moment to honor Diddy Combs, who is being honored with BET’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Congratulations to Diddy, my fellow Bison brother,” she said of the fellow Howard alum. “I didn’t know Diddy personally at Howard, but I remember hearing that name floating around. Everybody knew him as Puff back then, and everybody knew about this intern from uptown. His parties were lit. They were legendary like they are today. All of the celebrities were there.”
Henson continued, “Yeah, I never got into one of those parties. You had to have bamboo earrings come at least two pair. I was in college. I had no money. I only had one pair. Whether you call him Sean, Diddy, puff daddy or Mr. Combs, he’s always been in a class of his own so tonight he is the esteemed recipient of the lifetime achievement award. And it’s about damn time.”
She once again applauded the audience and celebrated all the melanin in the room before launching into the first award.
ET spoke with the actress before she hit the stage on Sunday night, and she teased how she “called on some friends” for this year’s celebrations. “I kind of want to keep it a surprise ’cause it’s a moment that I implemented in the show… it’s gonna be pretty legendary,” she teased. “I love shocking people. You know, you have to start these shows at a high energy, or you’ll lose the audience. So, trust me, it’s gonna be incredible again.”
“Last year, we focused our energy on loving up the women. I think the fellas deserve some love this year,” she added.
But what won’t be a surprise is Henson’s numerous costume changes! “I think [there are] 15 or 14,” she admitted, likening the changes to her days in the theater. “It’s not me, it’s my team! They want to outdo themselves.”
Connie Orlando and Jeannae Rouzan-Clay, executive producers behind the annual awards show, told ET that Henson was always the first choice for this year’s host.
“I think we asked her three minutes after we finished last year’s show because she’s just so phenomenal and she’s the queen of the multihat,” Orlando gushed. “She can do anything — she has done everything, and this is just the perfect home for her.”
Rouzan-Clay echoed the sentiment, adding, “It’s always great when you have a host who’s engaged not only with the show but with the culture and resonates with our audience. I think that’s what Connie’s talking about when she says right after last year’s show, we knew we had to invite [Henson] back because she got such a great response from our audience at home and the audience here. I mean, everybody loves her and there wasn’t anything she couldn’t do… we’re just excited to have her back this year.”