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What Are the BET Awards?

Photograph of the blog post author, Sebastian Wolf

Sebastian Wolf


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What Are the BET Awards

The annual BET Awards are a testament to the unyielding creativity, resilience, and community spirit of the Black community. The illustrious event is a blend of remarkable performances, touching tributes, and awe-inspiring speeches, all under one roof.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the history, significance, and impact of the BET Awards. We’ll examine notable moments from the event’s history, discuss stand-out hosts, nominees, and winners, and tell you everything you need to know about this year’s edition. 

What Are the BET Awards?

The Black Entertainment Television Awards, also known as the BET Awards, are an annual ceremony honouring African Americans and other minorities for their outstanding achievements in the entertainment industry. First held in 2001, the ceremony acknowledges excellence in several fields, including music, movies, sports, and philanthropy.

More than just an awards show, the BET Awards are a celebration of Black culture. They pay tribute to the incredible talent within the community and give a platform to often overlooked performers. Winners of a BET Award can look forward to receiving a prestigious trophy designed by Carlos “Mare139” Rodriguez, a celebrated sculptor and artist. When designing the trophy, Rodriguez took inspiration from three simple words – aspire, ascend, achieve. 

Award Categories

The BET Awards features several hotly contested categories covering all aspects of popular culture:


Album of the Year

Video of the Year

• Coca-Cola Viewer’s Choice Award

• Best Collaboration

• Best Female Hip-Hop Artist

• Best Male Hip-Hop Artist

• Best Female R&B/Pop Artist

• Best Male R&B/Pop Artist

• Artist of the Year

• Best New Artist

• Dr. Bobby Jones Best Gospel/Inspirational Award


• Best Movie

• Best Actress

• Best Actor


• Sportswoman of the Year

• Sportsman of the Year


• Video Director of the Year

• Best International Act

• YoungStars Award

• BET Her Award

• Best New International Act

History of the BET Awards

BET Awards History

The BET Awards are the brainchild of Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television. The inaugural event occurred in 2001 at the Paris Las Vegas resort, on the city’s world-famous Las Vegas Strip. It was a landmark moment in the entertainment industry, marking the first-ever awards ceremony dedicated to Black entertainers.

The following year, the award ceremony moved to California, taking place at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. It would remain there for three years before moving again to the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. In 2013, the BET Awards once again moved, heading across the city to the Microsoft Theater. Barring a break in 2020, when a virtual awards ceremony took place due to the ongoing pandemic, the BET Awards have remained at the Microsoft Theater ever since.

The BET Awards have evolved over the years to become one of the most highly anticipated events on the entertainment calendar. The awards have consistently provided a platform for Black artists to express their talent and creativity, leading to increased recognition of their contributions to the entertainment industry.

Previous BET Awards Winners

Since 2001, the BET Awards have honoured many outstanding talents. Beyoncé has been the recipient of the most awards, with 26 awards to her name to date, for her work both with Destiny’s Child and as a solo artist. Chris Brown (14), Drake (12), and Nicki Minaj (11) are also among the most-awarded musical artists. And with ten BET Awards, Kanye West is another stand-out receiver of multiple BET Awards. 

The BET Awards have also consistently recognised exceptional performances on the silver screen. Actors like Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Idris Elba, and Viola Davis have all been acknowledged for their contributions to film and television.

The sports category has seen the likes of Serena Williams, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant receive accolades for their performances on the field and court. These winners reflect the breadth and depth of talent within the African American and minority communities in the entertainment and sports industries.

BET Awards Hosts

As with any awards show, the choice of host can make or break a ceremony, and this is one area where the BET Awards have stood out time and time again. Previous hosts of the awards have included a veritable who’s who of Black entertainers, including Kevin Hart, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Foxx, Damon Wayons, Queen Latifah, Will and Jada Smith, Chris Rock, Mo’Nique, Steve Harvey, and Cedric the Entertainer.

The Importance of the BET Humanitarian Award

One of the most prestigious awards that can be presented at the BET Awards is the Humanitarian Award, which recognises individuals who have made significant contributions to their communities or society at large. 

Past recipients of the BET Humanitarian Award include Muhammad Ali, Magic Johnson, Danny Glover, Quincy Jones, Alicia Keys, Chance the Rapper, Wyclef Jean, Denzel Washington, Lionel Ritchie, and Chaka Khan. 

These individuals embody the spirit of philanthropy, using their influence and resources to make a difference in the world. The award is a reminder that the impact of these artists and athletes extends far beyond entertainment and sports. It is a celebration of their commitment to making the world a better place.

BET Ultimate Icon Award

The Ultimate Icon Award is an ultra-special celebration of veteran generational talents whose career is deemed iconic by fans and critics alike. The award’s first recipient was Janet Jackson in 2015. So far, the award has only been handed out two more times. In 2018, Debra L. Lee was honoured with the award before Tyler Perry received the accolade the following year.

BET Awards Nomination Process

Potential recipients of BET Awards must curry favour from a voting academy of around 500 people. Initially, BET will send out electronic ballots, and voters can nominate individuals they feel deserving of nominations. After tallying up the votes and nominations, BET will determine the top nominees for each category and submit lists to academy members to vote on, thereby selecting the winner of each award.

The 2022 BET Awards – Key Highlights

From its inception, the BET Awards have witnessed unforgettable moments, historic wins, and stellar performances, and 2022 was no exception. Hosted by Taraji P. Henson, the event saw a blend of laughter, tears, and incredible performances.

The BET Awards 2022 was a musical extravaganza with performances from some of the biggest names in the industry, including Lizzo, Jack Harlow, Chance the Rapper, and Latto. However, with the most memorable performance of the 2022 BET Awards, Lil Kim stole the show. Part of a medley celebrating Diddy’s receipt of the Lifetime Achievement Award, the Lil Kim BET Awards 2022 appearance was full of her signature style and swagger, a testament to her enduring influence in the industry.

Regarding the awards themselves, trophies went home in the hands of some of the biggest names around. The Weeknd picked up the BET Award for Best Male R&B/Pop Artist, while Megan Thee Stallion and Kendrick Lamar took the Best Female and Male Hip-Hop Artist awards. Will Smith claimed the award for Best Actor, with the Best Actress prize going to Zendaya. In the sports world, the awards went to tennis ace Naomi Osaka and Stephen Curry of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.

The BET Awards 2023

Looking ahead to the BET Awards 2023, we can expect another spectacular event filled with unforgettable performances, deserving winners, and memorable moments. This year, the BET Awards will not only celebrate new talent and innovation, but the event will also take a special look back at the highlights from half a century of hip-hop.

The ceremony is set to take place on June 25th, and while the host and venue are yet to be confirmed, the awards show will once again return to Los Angeles. Regarding the upcoming event, Connie Orlando, head of EVP specials, music programming and music strategy at Black Entertainment Television, said: “We are thrilled to be back in L.A. for BET Awards 2023 and to celebrate a huge cultural milestone – the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. For five decades, hip-hop has not only influenced American culture but has become a global phenomenon and one of the most influential musical genres of our lifetime. From music to fashion, art, and entertainment, we are honoured to have always provided a platform for hip-hop to thrive. We look forward to paying tribute to the pioneers and innovators as we amplify the new generation of hip-hop artists like only BET can”.

BET Awards 2023 Nominees

Drake is this year’s stand-out candidate, with a total of seven nominations. Tennessee Rapper GloRilla has secured six BET Award nominations, while 21 Savage and Lizzo each have five.

Here’s our complete list of nominations for each award:

Music Awards

Album of the Year

  • GloRilla – “Anyways, Life’s Great”
  • Chris Brown – “Breezy”
  • DJ Khaled – “God Did”
  • Drake & 21 Savage – “Her Loss”
  • Kendrick Lamar – “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers”
  • Beyoncé – “Renaissance” 
  • SZA – “SOS”

Video of the Year

  • GloRilla & Cardi B – “Tomorrow 2”
  • Chris Brown – “WE (Warm Embrace)” 
  • Peezy, Jeezy & Real Boston Richey feat. Rob49 – “2 Million Up” 
  • Lizzo – “About Damn Time”
  • Steve Lacy – “Bad Habit”
  • Jack Harlow – “First Class”
  • SZA – “Kill Bill”

Viewer’s Choice Award

  • Lizzo – “About Damn Time”
  • Beyoncé – “Break My Soul”
  • Jack Harlow – “First Class”
  • Drake Feat 21 Savage – “Jimmy Cooks”
  • SZA – “Kill Bill”
  • Burna Boy – “Last Last”
  • Nicki Minaj – “Super Freaky Girl”
  • Future Feat. Drake & Tems – “Wait For U”

Best Collaboration

  • Latto & Mariah Carey Feat. Dj Khaled – “Big Energy (Remix)” 
  • Pinkpantheress & Ice Spice – “Boy’s A Liar Pt. 2” 
  • Chris Brown Feat. Wizkid – “Call Me Every Day” 
  • King Combs Feat. Kodak Black – “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop” 
  • Metro Boomin, The Weeknd & 21 Savage – “Creepin’” 
  • Hitkidd & GloRilla – “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” 
  • GloRilla & Cardi B – “Tomorrow 2” 
  • Future Feat. Drake & Tems – “Wait For U” 

Best Male R&B/Pop Artist

  • Blxst
  • Brent Faiyaz
  • Burna Boy
  • Chris Brown
  • Drake
  • The Weeknd
  • Usher

Best Female R&B/Pop Artist

  • Ari Lennox
  • Beyoncé
  • Coco Jones
  • H.E.R.
  • Lizzo
  • SZA
  • Tems

Best Female Hip Hop Artist

  • Cardi B
  • Coi Leray
  • GloRilla
  • Ice Spice
  • Latto
  • Megan Thee Stallion
  • Nicki Minaj

Best Male Hip Hop Artist

  • 21 Savage
  • Drake
  • Future
  • J. Cole
  • Jack Harlow
  • Kendrick Lamar
  • Lil Baby

Best New Artist

  • Ambré
  • Coco Jones
  • Doechii
  • FLO
  • GloRilla
  • Ice Spice
  • Lola Brooke

Best Group

  • City Girls
  • Drake & 21 Savage
  • Dvsn
  • FLO
  • Maverick City Music & Kirk Franklin
  • Quavo & Takeoff
  • Wanmor

BET Her Award

  • Lizzo – “About Damn Time”
  • Pinkpantheress & Ice Spice – “Boy’s A Liar Pt. 2”
  • Beyoncé – “Break My Soul”
  • Megan Thee Stallion – “Her”
  • Rihanna & Ludwig Göransson – “Lift Me Up”
  • Coi Leray – “Players”
  • Lizzo – “Special”

Dr. Bobby Jones Best Gospel/Inspirational Award

  • Maverick City Music & Kirk Franklin – “Bless Me”
  • Tamela Mann – “Finished (Live)”
  • CeCe Winans – “I’ve Got Joy”
  • Maverick City Music & Kirk Franklin feat. Naomi Raine & Chandler Moore – “Kingdom”
  • Tye Tribbett – “New”
  • Yolanda Adams – “One Moment from Glory”
  • PJ Morton feat. Lisa Knowles-Smith, Le’andria Johnson, Keke Wyatt, Kierra Sheard & Tasha Cobbs Leonard – “The Better Benediction (Pt.2)”

Video Director of the Year

  • A$AP Rocky for AWGE
  • Benny Boom
  • Burna Boy
  • Cole Bennett
  • Dave Free & Kendrick Lamar
  • Director X
  • Teyana “Spike Tey” Taylor

Best International Act

  • Aya Nakamura (France)
  • Ayra Starr (Nigeria)
  • Burna Boy (Nigeria)
  • Central Cee (UK)
  • Ella Mai (UK)
  • Ko (South Africa)
  • L7nnon (Brazil)
  • Stormzy (UK)
  • Tiakola (France)
  • Uncle Waffles (Swaziland)

Best New International Act

  • Asake (Nigeria)
  • Camidoh (Ghana)
  • Flo (UK)
  • Libianca (Cameroon)
  • Maureen (France)
  • MC Ryan SP (Brazil)
  • Pabi Cooper (South Africa)
  • Raye (UK)
  • Werenoi (France)

Movie Awards

Best Movie

  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  • Creed 3
  • Emancipation
  • Nope
  • The Woman King
  • Till
  • Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody

Best Actor

  • Amin Joseph
  • Brian Tyree Henry
  • Damson Idris
  • Daniel Kaluuya
  • Demetrius ‘Lil Meech’ Flenory Jr.
  • Donald Glover
  • Michael B. Jordan

Best Actress

  • Angela Bassett
  • Coco Jones
  • Janelle James
  • Janelle Monáe
  • Keke Palmer
  • Viola Davis
  • Zendaya

Sports Awards

Sportswoman of the Year Award

  • Alexis Morris
  • Allyson Felix
  • Angel Reese
  • Candace Parker
  • Naomi Osaka
  • Serena Williams
  • Sha’carri Richardson

Sportsman of the Year Award

  • Aaron Judge
  • Bubba Wallace
  • Gervonta Davis
  • Jalen Hurts
  • Lebron James
  • Patrick Mahomes
  • Stephen Curry

Miscellaneous Awards

YoungStars Award

  • Akira Akbar
  • Alaya High
  • Demi Singleton
  • Genesis Denise
  • Marsai Martin
  • Thaddeus J. Mixson
  • Young Dylan

Lifetime Achievement Award

  • T.I. & Lil Boosie

How to Secure Tickets for the BET Awards

If you’d love to attend the awards ceremony and experience all the fantastic performances and acceptance speeches first-hand, you’ll need to secure BET Awards tickets. Thankfully, this might not be as hard as you might think. While the venue for this year’s awards show has yet to be confirmed, should it return to the Microsoft Theater, there will be a capacity of a little over 7,000 people. Bear in mind that some tickets will be reserved for awards nominees, VIP guests and industry heads, and demand for tickets is high, so you’ll need to act fast once they go on sale.

To stay updated, follow the official BET Awards social media accounts and sign up for their newsletter.

Final Thoughts on the BET Awards

In its two-decade journey, the BET Awards have left a lasting impact on popular culture. They’ve provided a platform for talented Black entertainers, acknowledging their contributions and celebrating their achievements along the way. From Lil Kim’s remarkable moment at the BET Awards 2022 to Kanye West’s always memorable appearances, the BET Awards continue to create unforgettable moments in entertainment history.


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