She risked being seen as an old fogey by the show’s young audience, but thought what she had to say was important.
Diana Ross had something she wanted to say at the seventh annual BET awards, which were held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on June 26, 2007 — 12 years ago next week. She was on hand to accept a lifetime achievement award and figured this would be a good time to say it.
"Since I was a little girl back in Detroit, I have tried to keep the standards high," she said. "And I want to say this: We do not have to say the F-word. We do not have to pump and grind. We do not have to do some of these things to have longevity in our career. You can stand tall and be classy — be ladies and gents and have a long career. I think it's very important for us to know that."
She seemed to suddenly realize that some might see this as a lecture, so she sought to lighten the mood with a touch of humor. "I will do the diva master class for you," she said.
Erykah Badu, Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder had performed a few of Ross' solo hits to kick things off. Ross' five children — Rhonda, Tracee, Chudney, Ross and Evan — presented the award.
Ross, who was 63 at the time (and made note of that fact in her speech) also paid tribute to the man who made her a star. "This has been an incredible, incredible journey. I want to thank him — he's in this audience — the brilliant and extraordinary Berry Gordy for getting me started in this industry, for believing in me, and for his great contribution to the music industry."
Ross also mentioned a former colleague with whom she has not always had a warm relationship. "To all The Supremes — especially Mary Wilson. I want to really, really send my love out to her."
This wasn't Ross' first lifetime achievement award. She had been given the heritage award at the Soul Train Music Awards 12 years earlier. But it did come five years before she received a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy and 10 years before she got one from the American Music Awards.
Ross, 75, hasn't won as many major entertainment awards as you might think. She has been nominated for 12 Grammys, but has yet to win one in competition. She was nominated for an Oscar for best actress for her film debut, Lady Sings the Blues, but lost to Liza Minnelli in Cabaret. She has never been nominated for an Emmy. She did receive a special Tony Award in 1977 for An Evening With Diana Ross.
Ross has made up for it in recent years by receiving such prestigious awards as the Kennedy Center Honors in 2007 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.
Mo'Nique hosted the BET Awards for the third time that year. Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson— whose career paths were made possible in party by Ross' trailblazing — were the night's top winners, with two awards each.
The 2019 BET Awards air Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET on BET.