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Tyler Perry and Mary J. Blige Take Top 2019 BET Awards Honors

Stars lauded for advancing black representation in show biz

Singer-actress Mary J. Blige, 48, and actor-filmmaker Tyler Perry, 49, were top honorees at the 2019 BET awards Sunday. Blige won the lifetime achievement award, and Perry earned the Ultimate Icon award. Empire star Taraji P. Henson, 48, presented him his award, saying, “In a time when my counterparts were making way more money, Tyler Perry was the first to pay me my worth.”

Perry credited those who, like Henson, have fought an increasingly successful battle for black representation in Hollywood, and added: “While you're fighting for a seat at the table, I'll be down in Atlanta building my own.… God will prepare it for me in the presence of my enemies."Perry noted that his independent Atlanta studio, whose success accelerated the current black cinema renaissance, is built on the site of a Confederate Army base that once subjugated 3.9 million slaves. “Now that land is owned by one Negro,” Tyler said.

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Presenting Blige with her award, singer-actress Rihanna said, “Forever aligning the worlds of hip-hop and R&B, she changed the game,” and hailed Blige for her backwards cap, baggy jerseys, thigh-high boots, nine Grammys “and [for] making history as the first person every nominated for an Oscar in the acting and music category in the same year [for Mudbound].” Blige said to her tearful mother, Cora Blige, in the audience: “Mommy, I love you, and I want to thank you for your love and understanding."

Besides deeply touching moments involving the awards for Blige; Perry; best gospel/inspirational award winner Snoop Dogg, 47; and best movie award winner BlacKkKlansman Spike Lee, 62; there was plenty of comic relief by host Regina Hall, 48 (Girls TripBlack-ishShaft).Hall, who was nominated for best actress, pretended to be offended that Oscar winner and three-time Emmy winner Regina King, 48, whose films have grossed $1.1 billion, won the BET award.  “Did she say King, or did she say Hall? Said King? So I lost? I done put on a dress like a peacock—and I lost? Why am I announcing the next performance?"