The first BET Awards last year were held in Bally's in Las Vegas and were regarded with some uncertainty by African American industry insiders who weren't quite sure what the ceremony had to offer. But this year's BET Awards have moved past their growing pains and will feature an all-star lineup during their Tuesday broadcast, which is being shown live on the East Coast at 6 p.m. and on tape delay here at 9 p.m.
"People last year weren't quite sure what was going to happen," said Stephen Hill, BET's vice president of music programming and talent. "Now everyone wants a ticket to come. Barry White has called us, wanting tickets."
Performers scheduled to appear include Janet Jackson, Will Smith, P. Diddy, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Usher, Bow Wow and Vivica A. Fox. The hosts are comedians Steve Harvey and Cedric "The Entertainer."
BET executives said the ceremony's live airing from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood gives the event an unpredictability and freshness missing from other culturally oriented awards shows such as the NAACP Image Awards and the Essence Awards, which are shown in edited form days after the ceremonies.
"We really have to hit it right the first time out," Hill said. "There's also this sense of community, unlike other awards. We bring together black artists from everywhere."
Award categories include best group, best actor and actress in a film, male and female athlete of the year and best gospel artist. Earth, Wind & Fire is scheduled to receive a lifetime achievement award, and Muhammad Ali will receive the Humanitarian Award.