The cameras at the 78th annual Academy Awards flashed in the faces of many celebrities Sunday, but none shined back as brightly as Three 6 Mafia, thanks to the rap group's diamond-encrusted grins.
The Tennessee hip-hop collective won for best original song, and no one seemed more shocked than the members themselves. They bounded to center stage, deliriously happy that academy voters had embraced a hit called "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp."
The excitement was still swirling Monday morning.
"I woke up and looked over from the hotel bed and expected that Oscar to be gone," said group leader and lyricist Jordan Houston, aka Juicy J. "I thought it all had been a dream. But the Oscar was sitting right there."
It didn't sit there for long. The rapper carted his new hardware along to a previously scheduled meeting with MTV to discuss a reality show starring the Mafia, whose look includes the flashy "grilles" on their teeth.
"Yeah, I'm bringing the Oscar with me," Houston said. "I'm not letting it out of my sight."
Three 6 Mafia has been on rap fans' radar for more than a decade, but its song, a centerpiece of the film "Hustle & Flow," brought them Sunday night into new, rarefied circles.
Backstage Sunday, the rap group -- which also includes Cedric Coleman (Crunchy Black) and Paul Beauregard (DJ Paul) -- defended its lyrics, which some members of the press suggested were a bit too scandalous for Oscar. The broadcast's editors, in fact, bleeped a few words during the "Pimp" performance, although people in the Kodak Theatre said they heard no objectionable lyrics from the stage.
"I started changing the lyrics as soon as we got nominated, and I was happy to do it," Houston said. "I would have changed the whole song, every line, if the academy asked me to. Hey, man, come on. This is the Oscars."