By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The BET Awards on Sunday split top honors among several artists, including Beyonce and Chris Brown, in a telecast filled with lively performances and an emotional tribute to late singer Whitney Houston.
Beyonce was named best female R&B artist, while Brown, who performed his hit single "Turn Up the Music" from his new album "Fortune," earned the title best male artist. Rappers Jay-Z and Kanye West won best group with their smash hit album "Watch the Throne."
But the brightest spotlight shined on late singer Whitney Houston, who was found dead in a bathtub at a Beverly Hills hotel in February. Authorities have said the pop star died of an accidental drowning brought on by cocaine use and heart disease.
Mariah Carey, in a glittering gold dress onstage, shared humorous anecdotes of her encounters with Houston, whose hits from the 1980s and '90s included "I Will Always Love You."
"I miss my friend. I miss hearing her voice and laughter, but we'll always have the music. We'll always have that voice we fell in love with, she inspired us all, we'll always have my friend Whitney Houston," Carey said.
Singer Monica performed Houston's "I Love The Lord," and was followed by Brandy in a medley of "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." The tribute became a family affair as Houston's brother Gary sang "Where You Are," followed by her mother Cissy, who gave a heartfelt rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," earning a standing ovation.
Houston's co-stars from her 1995 film "Waiting To Exhale" also remembered the late star, before Chaka Khan rounded out the tribute with the late singer's classic hit, "I'm Every Woman."
The show also paid homage to the late Donna Summer, Dick Clark and Don Cornelius.
The annual BET Awards celebrate black musicians, actors and athletes, giving out awards in 20 categories at a show that airs on the cable TV network, BET.
Coming into the night, award nominees were led by Kanye West in seven categories, followed by Beyonce, with six nods, and her rapper husband Jay-Z with five.
Along with the best group trophy, Jay-Z and Kanye West won video of the year for "Otis," beating Beyonce and Usher.
Brown picked up the best male R&B artist award for the second year running, while rapper Big Sean took home the coveted best new artist award. Rappers Wale and Miguel picked up the best collaboration accolade for their song "Lotus Flower Bomb."
Best female hip-hop artist went to Nicki Minaj, and comedian Kevin Hart took best actor, edging out stiff competition from Don Cheadle, Common, Idris Elba and Denzel Washington.
Rappers from Kanye West's GOOD music label kicked off the show, before West took the stage to sing "Cold," the track that made headlines earlier this year after West rapped about falling in love with Kim Kardashian.
Kardashian, whom West is now dating, joined Beyonce and rapper Nicki Minaj in the front row of the audience at the show.
(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and David Brunnstrom)
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