Tracee Ellis Ross is removing her makeup and undressing as we chat on the phone. In between pauses, I imagine her slipping out of whatever fierce dress she’s wearing, while trying to preserve her perfect curls. Despite a long day, between press and dance rehearsal, which began at 4:30 AM, she is exuberant and determined to squeeze in a trip to the gym.
Tracee and her “Black-ish” co-star Anthony Hamilton were tapped to host the 2016 BET Awards for the second year in a row and the duo are preparing an audacious opening act.
“Both of us are big on opening numbers,” she said. “We really love to do something special to start the show. The hope is that we can do that again for everybody. Keep it fresh and new. Do something we haven’t seen before. And yet, keep in mind what Anthony and I know how to do, which is keep people on their toes.”
Tracee revealed her favorite BET moment was when Will and Jada hosted the show, but shouted with joy when I reminded her about Mo’Nique’s epic opening act at the 2004 ceremony. “She f*cking killed it!” she said.
After complimenting the seasoned hostess as one of the best to hit the BET Awards stage and she humbly replied, “Better than anyone else or best, I never try to adhere to that. I think there’s room for all of us to be good.”
And even with millions tuned watching from their living rooms (last year’s show pulled in nearly 12 million viewers), and her celeb peers in the audience, Tracee doesn’t get nervous before hitting the stage, thanks to advice from her mother Diana Ross.
“My mom sad to me a long time ago, nervouseness and excitement are actually the same feeling with a different definition. Someone else said to me once, you wouldn’t be nervous if you didn’t care.”
While Tracee will be technically working Sunday night, she is a fan of the BET Awards and will have a bird’s-eye view of the highly anticipated Prince tribute.
“It’s a Prince celebration,” she corrected. “I love the difference in language about that,” she added.
“[Prince] was national treasure in terms of what he shared with us from himself as an artist. I had the honor of watching Sheila E at ‘Black Girls Rock’ and just being like, ‘That’s why we know her name, thank you Prince.’
The beat of Sheila E drums bounced off the walls at the NJPAC that night, burrowing straight into our souls and commanding our feet. If there’s anyone who should be involved in the Prince tribute, it is she. Stevie Wonder, D’Angelo, The Roots and Janelle Monae will join Sheila in Prince’s honor.
“I don’t know that you can ever do someone like Prince justice because there’s no on like him and there never will be, but what you can do is what we’re doing which is celebrate his music. Celebrate his life and celebrate his extraordinary contribution that he made to our world.”
As far as predictions about winner’s on Sunday night, Tracee’s personal pick to take home the BET Award for Best Female Pop/R&B Artist is Rihanna.
“It would be real hard for me between Rihanna and Bey. If I go by my latest playlist, that includes Rihanna, Beyonce and Drake, I’m going to have to say Rihanna because she has three tracks and Beyonce has two.” While recalling which songs actually made the list, Tracee had a revelation.
“‘Formation’ isn’t on there, it’s “Daddy Lessons” and “Freedom and it’s “Desperado and “Higher.” OMG! Rihanna wins. “Sex With Me” is on there too. She has three and a half.”
We’ll just have to see who will take home the statue Sunday night when the BET Awards air at 8pm.
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