The 16th annual BET Awards delivered its fair share of Twitter-worthy moments Sunday night including Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar’s powerful “Freedom” statement. BET’s CEO Debra L. Lee details the difficulty in trying to keep her appearance under wraps.
“She committed several weeks ago,” Debra Lee tells Billboard. “We had four tons of water that we had to get on the stage and then clean up after her performance. We were worried about electricity and other things that could go wrong. But we wanted her to have the performance she wanted. She hadn’t been to the awards in a few years. After hearing her new music, I thought it was important for her to be there. She has a show in England tomorrow night, so it was great of her to agree to stay because it wasn’t the perfect timing. I saw the rehearsal the night before the show and that’s when I first learned that Kendrick Lamar was part of it. She does the water dance in her concert but with all women. But Beyoncé thought it was important to have men and women of color come together. She wanted this to be a performance she’d never done before. She wanted it to be epic, and it was.”
Beyonce hadn’t attended a BET Award show since 2012 and, in 2014, her performance for the network’s night of musical recognition was reduced to a Jumbotron displaying a pre-recorded performance of “Partition” from her On The Run Tour with Jay Z. Not quite the same.
We threatened people within an inch of their lives to keep the secret. Beyoncé wants to do it her way; I respect her for that. And she didn’t want people to know she was going to be on the show. So we told very few people on the team. I was a nervous wreck until the day of the show [laughs] because I was like, “If this leaks out, this may not happen.” All of her rehearsals were closed. You had to have special permission to get in. Beyoncé would rehearse late at night for hours. She and the dancers would get wet, look at the tape and then get wet again. The night I went, all the dancers were onstage in bathrobes waiting to rehearse again. At one point they started heating the water to make Beyoncé and the dancers more comfortable.