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[INTERVIEW] Debra Lee Speaks at Pre-BET Awards Dinner

Red carpets are primarily a sensory illusion. Appearing on the forefront of the glitz and glamour, for journalists it’s oftentimes the opposite. As celebrities glide by in their skyscraper Louboutins and eye-blinding jewels, showcasing their fine figures and even finer men, we’re packed like sardines in a tiny, tubular press pit, hoping to catch a sprinkle of stardust. Each reporter is granted just 2 minutes to canoodle with the ‘star of the moment,’ appear un-impressed, forge a connection and effortlessly squeeze out a savory sound-bite, all before they’re shuffled to the next beaming broadcaster. Not a competition for the weak, any journalist worth their salt lives for these pulse-pumping moments. I pack a survival bag, tested and true, to support any red carpet run-in. Complete with bottled water, saucy flats, blotting paper, a mini-fan and breath mints, there’s no room for burnout.  

Celebs also feel the heat. Transported like cargo from person to person, they’re not only expected to look flawless and deliver quit wit but also mask their annoyance when questioned about every personal detail under the sun, aside from the project that they’re promoting. It can prove equally as challenging.

The red carpet-thon at BET’s Pre-Awards Dinner, hosted by CEO Debra Lee, sparked off no different. Humidity pumping, the media was given a glorious reprieve. We were placed in an overhead shaded area outside of Union Station in Los Angeles. Built in 1939, the Mission Revival architecture of the venue provided a classic retro vibe amongst the elaborate contemporary décor. Promising a night of decadence, BET’s selective guest list attracted the who’s who of Black Hollywood. They were treated to sumptuous fare; surprise performances and once inside, a private bash undocumented by the press. Those who walked the carpet included Frankie Beverly and Maze, Spike and Tanya Lee and Eddie Murphy with BET’s 106 & Park host Rocsi (who locked hands throughout, refusing all interviews).

Much to my delight, those who paused to mingle with the press, including Debra Lee- did so at their own pace. Free from tight time constrictions, interviewees took time to ponder my questions and relish in their answers. Whether the celebrities’ openness stemmed from the notion that they’d enjoy a press free night inside or if it was simply the ease of seeing more African-American reporters in the pit than usual, I was grateful to slide my red carpet survival bag to the side in favor of engaging in genuine and unguarded conversations with talented artists.

Chie Davis is a TV host/ producer that’s contributed to media outlets including CBS, The Huffington Post, WZBN-TV and is the co-creator of Ocean Style TV, a travel & lifestyle show with a Caribbean essence. She loves Sex and the City reruns and a good game of Taboo.

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