Downtown Los Angeles’ L.A. Live entertainment complex was on fire for the first ever BET Experience weekend, not just because it was 100 degrees in the California sun, but the streets blazed with thousands of people from all over the country.

The entire week, promoters braced themselves for the thousands of people that were expected to visit the city in anticipation of one of music’s hottest nights of the year. My weekend began early on Tuesday with an exclusive invitation only event sponsored by Svedka Vodka. High in the hills, I arrived at the Svedka Summer House to take in the mountaintop view with a bangin’ DJ and 200 new friends. The scene was set with life-size Jenga, coconut bowling, white Victorian furniture, and refreshing hors d’oeuvres. The night was definitely worth the winding drive up the beautiful Beverly Hills.

Weekend Fan Fest goers were entertained by top music performances like Marsha Ambrosious on the Music Matters stage.  They were offered a little taste of the west coast, the south and the Eastern Caribbean, which was available at the free admission ‘Taste of Soul’ street festival Friday and Saturday. Black families lined the rope and stansion for impromptu performances inside Centric’s Strive to Thrive air-conditioned hut, full makeovers with Pantene and Covergirl, black marching band performances, the Celebrity basketball competition and open panels with the stars of shows like The Game. The Experience also featured panel discussions like Gun Hill with T.I., Doggfather- Snoop Lion a.k.a. Snoop Dogg, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Fruitvale Station Director, Ryan Coogler. Devon Franklin and wife Meagan Good were featured with other celebs for the Couples Uncovered panel discussion on Saturday.

During the weekend festivities of the BET Experience, Fan Fest attendees were extended exclusive invitations to special events announced to those connected through BET’s social media app. If you weren’t connected, then you were ‘unplugged’ from events like the BET Secret Stage, which was held at the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live this year. The first 150 people who responded to a last minute text to join BET at the Clive Davis Theater were escorted to an intimate setting for a series of impromptu performances. When the lights dimmed, artists both widely known and those just getting into the BET audience limelight took the stage. Performers included Bobby Valentino, Angie Stone, Ledisi, newcomers Mya Azucena and several others, who gave performances followed by an on-stage interview with K-Foxx of ‘Gossip Game.’

After a hiatus from the music scene, singer Bobby Valentino gave his all for the small crowd of onlookers and Chairwoman and CEO of BET, Debra Lee. Valentino, who is now known as “Bobby V” after a legal issue with an artist in the UK who bears the same name, brought his ‘lanta’ style to L.A.  He showed up and out, giving thanks for his blessings at every opportunity. The R&B singer admitted to taking a back seat for a while after realizing his manager was taking more than his fair cut of Valentino’s performance earnings. He now testifies to having his family and best friend run his management team.

After I left the BET Secret Stage, it was time to jet off to a much-anticipated appointment for the piece de resistance: the gifting suite.

This year’s gifts for the hottest stars of black entertainment were carefully tucked away on the top floor of the Nokia Theater behind an endless hallway of fluid white curtains. The event was laced with layers of security who carefully guarded the treasures of the 2013 BET Awards Gifting Suite.

I was lucky to receive an invitation to the suite that holds a touch of class for the hottest celebrities of the BET audience. They say less is more, and with only a few tables representing the latest and hottest trends for Hollywood’s Rockstar elite, it didn’t take me long to peep out all the goodies that were carefully placed in the extravagant setting designed by event planner (and a guy with really great hair), HGTV designer Josh Johnson.

The suite was the hotspot for celebrities like India.Arie, Janell Monae, Candice Glover of American Idol, Tamar Braxton, Elle Varner, Miguel, Marsha Ambrosious, Boris Kodjoe and wife Nicole Ari Parker, Michelle Williams, T.I, Tony Rock, Angie Stone, MC Lyte and Charlie Wilson. The headliners came through to sample and experience the latest and greatest offers from vendors like Isis Handbags, the Cellulite Clinic, Maceoo men’s shirts and straight decadence from O’Gilvie Chocolates. The artists discovered the secret to hair growth with vitamins from Hairfinity and took a sip from Nicki Minaj’s well of drinks called Myx Fusions. Basketball star Lisa Leslie adored her gift from Hzurdadi, a fashionable new line of denim scarves, with a reverse side of unique soft animal prints. And might I add that Isis Handbags and Hzurdadi were both presented by black women designers.

Perhaps among the ‘haute-est’ yet cool items of the suite were the vehicles and carriages of the 7 Wheel Wonders brand. This is no ordinary mode of transportation. Only those with a baller’s heart could understand the detailed design of one-of-a-kind carriages – no horses allowed. These were high-powered carriages, painted in golden peacock feathers accompanied by a motorcycle dipped in chrome, or glimmering with diamonds for that Cinderella look.  You have to have the nerve to dream about this ride. The 7 wheels were not for the faint at heart and perfect for Ceelo’s next music video.

As I toured the suite, I was given a fab set of headphones that might make you change those beats. Flips Audio, presented their party-friendly headphones with earphones that flip the opposite direction to serve as high-powered speakers. The HD sound of the Flips Audio headphones definitely makes for a ‘party over here’ wherever you go.

There was no mistaking the design of the gifting suite, with sparkling chandeliers, white leather sofas with crystal studs, sparkly pillows and dim lighting to set things off. It was nothing short of Mariah Carey’s formal living room at Christmas time.  Of course no gifting suite is complete without a charitable contribution. Proctor & Gamble featured a custom beauty kit that celebrities assembled and donated to girls in need. The kit was customized and personalized with a gift of empowerment from the celebrities.

Special thanks to backstagecreations.com for setting things straight in the 2013 BET Awards Gifting Suite.

The weekend was jam-packed with day festivals and night parties, all leading up to one of the largest black carpets of the year.  The BET Awards hosted by Chris Tucker was a huge success. Top winners were:

Best Female R&B/Pop Artist
Rihanna

Best Male R&B/Pop Artist
Miguel

Best Group
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Best Collaboration
A$AP Rocky f/ Drake, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar – Problems

Best Male Hip Hop Artist
Kendrick Lamar

Best Female Hip Hop Artist
Nicki Minaj

Video of the Year
Drake – Started From The Bottom

Video Director of the Year
Benny Boom

Best New Artist
Kendrick Lamar

Best Gospel Artist
Mary Mary

Best Actress
Kerry Washington

Best Actor
Jamie Foxx

YoungStars Award
Gabrielle Douglas

Best Movie
Think Like A Man

Subway Sportswoman of the Year
Gabrielle Douglas

Subway Sportsman of the Year
LeBron James

Coca-Cola Viewers Choice Award
Drake – Started From The Bottom

Centric Award
Tamar Braxton – Love and War

Best International Act: Africa
Ice Prince (Nigeria)

Best International Act: UK
Emeli Sandé

I was definitely beat after a long weekend of BET magic. I was just about to retire for the evening when I got word that Jamie Foxx was having his own celebration at his California home. The actor and singer invited a host of celebrity friends to party poolside at his quadruple-thousand-square-foot mansion in Thousand Oaks. As the party got underway, the White House Down star had the most important person of the house on the mic: his four year old daughter. Whether you were down for the moment or not, attendees heard Foxx’s youngest prodigy say her name, spell it, and recite the first 15 books of the bible. Then it was time for bed.

Sponsored by Myx Fusion, Foxx held impromptu DJ-assisted performances with Snoop Lion, TI, Nelly and Angie Stone. To my right was Nene Leakes in all her ‘richness,’ headed to a corner with an entourage. To my left was Kanye West, walking fast through the scene with a trail of ‘Westerners.’ An hour or so later, Jamie Foxx made it known that Timbaland was in the house, and on his balcony.

Thanks to BET for hosting an amazing weekend in LA and bringing the best of hip hop, R&B & Soul to L.A. Live.

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