The dress code on the D.C. metro last night was black tie — train cars packed with tuxedo- and gown-wearing passengers on their way to one of the Inaugural balls held across the capital to celebrate the re-election of President Obama.
With the special resonance for BET Networks and its target audience of this election — which Chairman and CEO of BET Networks Debra Lee has called “just as important as the first” — the network hosted a ball at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Elegance met old school hip-hop in the museum’s courtyard, a sprawling space covered by a glass canopy (incidentally one of Conde Nast Traveler’s 7 modern architectural wonders). Celebrities and politicos were abuzz about the inauguration events, socializing across three floors of entertainment zones created by sponsors including AT&T, Marriott, Hennessy and Walmart.
Wayne Brady served as MC and Jermaine Dupri spun while the crowd danced to live performances from MC Lyte, Bell Biv Devoe and Doug E. Fresh. This was the ultimate mix and mingle event with a slew of celebs like Kerry Washington, Morris Chesnut, Gabrielle Union, Wilmer Valderrama and producer Irv Gotti in attendance.
Set against the National Portrait Gallery’s famed collection (the likes of which include Andy Warhol’s Michael Jackson portrait; portraits by Winold Reiss, known for his dignified renderings of minorities in the 20th century; and video art pioneer Nam June Paik’s “Electronic Superhighway”), it was a grand affair. The grandness, for me at least, reinforced the historic weight of the moment.
Before guests filed out in their Inaugural ball bests, Lee spoke to the at-capacity courtyard, articulating the significance of the election, pride in the network’s role in rallying support for President Obama, and BET’s commitment to highlighting the issues most important to its audience.