Jenice Armstrong | Jennifers, Mo'Nique, Beyonce are big at BETs

"They sang their butts off."

A friend of mine hollered that out only minutes into last night's BET Awards. And while my girl's characterization was crude, she was right. If you saw the show, you know exactly what she meant.

The show opened with Jennifer Hudson in a white cocktail dress standing alone onstage bellowing out those trademark lyrics, "And I'm telling you . . . " Then, she graciously turned the stage over to "my dream girl, the true dream girl, Miss Jennifer Holliday," a classy move considering how irked Holliday was about not having a role in the film version of "Dreamgirls." Holliday, as you know, originated the role of Effie in the Broadway version.

Needless to say, the duet was awe inspiring. If this had been the Olympics, the vocal gymnastics they engaged in would have garnered them both gold medals. Holliday hit one eye-popping note after another, particularly that last one that sounded almost like a gasp before landing on the last bit. They ended the song with their hands clasped and held aloft. It more than made up for the disappointing pre-show.

And my girlfriend called it right. Jennifer Hudson and Jennifer Holliday really did sing their butts off. And what they didn't sing off, Mo'Nique tried to shake off in the opening dance number. Yep, she did it again this year.

Once again, Mo'Nique, who was described as the "Mistress of Thickness," took a Beyonce hit - this time "Deja Vu" - and with her line of big-girl, backup dancers had the audience screaming as they jiggled seductively across the stage in skimpy silvery minis - big thighs, full bellies and all. Last time around, she had the crowd roaring when she did the same thing with Beyonce's hit, "Crazy Love."

"Beyonce, listen, I'm sick of it," Mo'Nique said, sounding slightly out of breath afterwards. "I'm trying to keep with these dance moves. . . . And tell Jay-Z to stop calling me."

To her back-up dancers frozen in mid pose she said, "Get your camera time, big girls. That's how you open up the show, ladies. Do your thing."

Not to be outdone, Beyonce, who had already won the video of the year award for "Irreplaceable," appeared onstage in a shiny gold robot suit which she robotically worked her way out of to the song, "Get Me Bodied." She was joined onstage by Mo'Nique and a hotpants-wearing former Destiny Child member, Kelly Rowland, who sang her new hit, "Like This." It was a lot to take in. At this point, I called another girlfriend to make sure she was watching but she wouldn't talk. It was that kind of night.

"It's too hot," she said, slamming down the phone so she could watch uninterrupted.

Rapper 50 Cent cut a striking figure in his white sleeveless shirt and low-slung jeans. But there were so many bleeps in his song, it reminded me of trying to talk when you've got a bad cell-phone connection.

When Diana Ross, who was awarded a lifetime achievement award, took to the stage, she bravely addressed that kind of vulgarity saying, "We do not have to say the f-word. We do not have to pump and grind . . . to have longevity in our career."

By the way, Miss Ross seems to have learned a few things in her five-decade-spanning career, because not only did she thank Motown founder Berry Gordy for her start but she made a point of also recognizing the other Supremes - particularly Mary Wilson, who was one of the founding members.

Biggest irritation of the night: The screeching sound of Tocarra's (America's Next Top Model) voice.

Best tribute: The memory-lane tribute to Diana Ross songs featuring Erykah Badu in a huge afro wig singing "Love Hangover"; Chaka Kahn, "I'm Coming Out"; and Stevie Wonder, "Upside Down."

Best abs: Ciara.

Biggest surprise: Seeing a blue jeans-wearing Lil' Kim join Diddy and Keyshia Cole onstage to perform "Last Night."

Thumbs up: To rapper T.I. who apologized after a recent dust-up with a member of Ludacris' entourage. "They say it's a fine line between brilliance and insanity," he said.

Best ad lib by a presenter: Michael Clarke Duncan, along with American Idol Jordin Sparks, who presented the best actor award. "Forest [Whitaker] isn't here so the award goes to Michael Clarke Duncan," Duncan joked.

Slickest dresser: Ne-Yo in a white suit and matching fedora as he sang "Because of You." *

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