How Taraji P. Henson Honored Tina Turner, Diana Ross and More Black Women at 2021 BET Awards

The 'Empire' star and host started off Sunday's show with an inspiring opening.

Taraji P. Henson hosted this year's BET Awards in style! The actress served as the night's emcee, and used the opportunity to honor some iconic Black women who have had an impact on pop culture.

The Empire actress kicked off the show when she took the stage at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles and wowed with a memorable opening monologue.

After a high-energy opening performance featuring Kirk Franklin and Lil Baby, Henson took the stage in a stylish gold ensemble that was a clear tribute to Diana Ross.

"It's 2021, and we are celebrating the year of the Black woman," Henson declared with a smile.  "Celebrating Black women isn't a fad or a trend it's a forever mood."

"There is more than enough room for all of us to thrive, because can't nobody be me like me and can't nobody be you like you," she continued, before having roses handed out to a number of women in the room, including Zendaya, Jazmine Sullivan, Issa Rae and "Queen" Maxine Waters.

She also used the opening to tease that she'd be coming out throughout the night dressed as "some of my favorite women" and hinted that she'd be honoring some female Black icons over the course of the show.

Johnny Nunez/Getty Images

Henson didn't disappoint with her fashion tributes, donning various ensembles throughout the show that honored and celebrated the styles and looks of some groundbreaking artists.

She donned a burgundy velvet ensemble and dark shades while sitting behind a drum set to pay her respects to H.E.R. Later -- while giving a lesson on the history of twerking -- she donned a little black dress and short, curly 'do as a tribute to Ester Jones -- the Black entertainer who is credited for inspiring the legendary cartoon character Betty Boop.

Bennett Raglin/Getty Images
Bennett Raglin/Getty Images

Henson later donned a wild, feathered 'do and gold sequined gown in tribute to the iconic diva Tina Turner, and honored Erykah Badu with a take on the songstress' famously eclectic style statements.

ET's Kevin Frazier spoke with Henson on the red carpet at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, before the show kicked off, and she teased her "incredible entrance" that she said would "knock your socks off."

"I'm also gonna be dressed like five women that I really love and admire. Some past, some present," Henson hinted.

She also opened up about how it feels to be hosting, and the actress gushed, "It makes me feel amazing."

"I'm just so proud! BET is where we own our industry... we own this to celebrate each other, uplift each other, in an industry that doesn't do that for us so many times," she shared. "So I'm glad we just have each other. You know what we always say, "We all we got, but guess what, we all we need.'"

For more on this year's BET Awards, check out the video below. See the complete winners list here!


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