A tearful Janet Jackson made her first public appearance since her brother’s death today as she joined a host of stars honouring the King of Pop.
The singer struggled to speak as she thanked people for their support at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards in Los Angeles.
Her father Joe Jackson also attended the star-studded event. He sat in the front row at the Shrine Auditorium as a succession of singers and actors paid tribute to his son and celebrated the musical legacy he left behind.
The BET Awards ceremony was always due to take place today. But after the announcement of Michael Jackson’s death on Thursday, it was decided that the event would be turned into a celebration of his life and music.
“When we heard that he had passed, we knew we had to revamp this year’s show and make it special for him,” BET’s chief executive Debra Lee said.
Host Jamie Foxx got the show off to a fitting start.
With a Jackson 5 medley pumping through the auditorium, the actor moonwalked on stage wearing a Jacksonesque red jacket and white glove.
Addressing the celebrity guests, Foxx said: “No need to be sad. We want to celebrate this black man. We gonna go through all of Michael Jackson.”
And celebrate the music they did. Most of the acts incorporated classic Jackson tunes into their performance in a night when award winners had no chance of stealing the show from the absent main attraction.
In between musical tributes, guests were invited to share their memories and thoughts of Jackson.
Sean ’Diddy’ Combs said the singer “knocked down barriers” for black artists like himself. “Love you Mike,” he added.
Picking up an award for best female R’n’B artist, Beyonce – who had earlier dedicated a version of 'Ave Maria' to the late singer – held aloft her trophy and said: “This is for you Michael Jackson. I have to thank Michael for being my future and hero.”
Other stars who paid tribute to the late singer included basketball star LeBron James and singer Ne-Yo. The R’n’B star said of Jackson: “He’s the man who made it possible for me to be on the stage. I love you and I miss you.”
Jackson’s father said that he thought that his son would have approved of the tribute.
Mr Jackson said: “I think if Michael was here he would enjoy the celebrations. He couldn’t be here but it’s like he is larger than he was before.
“Michael gives his love to everybody and we hope that his record will never be broken.”
Asked how he would like his son to be remembered, the grieving father replied: “I would like him to be remembered forever around the world. And we know that all over the world, everybody is supporting him at the moment.”
Janet Jackson’s appearance drew an emotional response from the audience.
Taking to the stage, the tearful singer said: “On behalf of my family and myself, thank you for all your love.”
During emotional remarks, Janet Jackson spoke of her family’s loss.
She said: “To you Michael is an icon. To us, Michael is family and he will forever live in all of our hearts.”
After she spoke, the celebrity crowd rose to its feet. After a standing ovation during which more than one celebrity was seen to be wiping away tears, Foxx and Ne-Yo sang Jackson’s 'I’ll Be There' to the backdrop of photos of the star.