More than three hours into the 2012 BET Awards, it was finally time for the Whitney Houston tribute.
A lone black-and-white image of the late legend was dropped down from the ceiling, and out came Mariah Carey, dressed all in gold, smiling, her eyes clearly moist with tears.
"The first time I heard Whitney's voice, I was mesmerized like the rest of the world. Just an unknown, budding singer myself, I was captivated by the power in her range, the richness of her tone and her unique ability to wrap a lyric in emotion," Carey said.
Carey talked for a while about Houston, sometimes laughing a bit as she recalled their first meeting backstage at the Grammys and the often-talked-about rumors of a diva rift between the two singers.
Ultimately, they worked together on the "Prince of Egypt" soundtrack, winning an Academy Award. "We really got to know each other as people. Not divas — OK, maybe occasionally it did get a little diva-ish — but that was just for laughs," she said, before adding that Houston kept it real, which is why they got along so well. "If you really knew Whitney, you couldn't help but love her," she said.
The last time Carey said she saw her was exactly a year ago in London. "I miss my friend. I miss hearing her voice and laughter. But we'll always have the music," Carey said, struggling to fight back tears as the crowd clapped her on in encouragement. "We'll always have that voice we all fell in love with. She inspired us all."
Her protégés Monica and Brandy then took the stage. Monica performed "I Love the Lord," and Brandy came out with a set of backup dancers doing the classic Houston dance tracks "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody."
Houston's brother, Gary Houston, performed before introducing their mother, Cissy Houston, who sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
"This is for you, Nip," she said, referencing Whitney's nickname.