June 29, 2009 -- The entertainment elite of the African-American community gathered for an impromptu wake to celebrate the life of iconic singer Michael Jackson Sunday night at the BET Awards in Los Angeles, but it was Janet Jackson's first public appearance since her brother's death that gave the evening its weight.
"To you, Michael is an icon, to us Michael is family, and he will forever live in all of our hearts," said Jackson, who served as the family's spokeswoman during her surprise appearance near the end of the broadcast.
"On behalf of my family and myself, thank you for all of your love. Thank you for all of your support. We miss him so much. Thank you," Jackson said as she stood before a large image of her and her brother as children.
What was supposed to be a traditional awards show was revamped quickly to honor the legacy of the King of Pop following his death Thursday at age 50. Host Jamie Foxx and a slew of other stars paid homage to the late entertainer through wardrobe, song and dance.
From the show's beginning, it was clear that Michael Jackson would be the focus of the events. Foxx opened the telecast by moon walking his way across the stage. He also wore a T-shirt with the Gary, Ind., native's image during the show. Throughout the show, Foxx turned up regularly in some of Jackson's signature looks, such as the wide-collar black leather outfit from hit song "Billie Jean" and the red leather jacket the singer made famous.
Entertainers Pay Homage to Michael Jackson
Familial patriarch Joe Jackson also attended the ceremony and, while he never took the stage, a few of the presenters referred to him directly in honoring his son.
"It's a great thing, and I just wish he could have been here to see all of this celebration that is taking place," Joe Jackson said on the red carpet before the awards show. "Sadly, he's not here, so I'm here to celebrate for him."
During the night, entertainers continually praised the singer for his trailblazing career.
Some of the planet's biggest stars turned into fans as they eagerly admired Michael Jackson, who was the first African-American singer to have a music video on MTV.
Sean Paul, Estelle and Alicia Keys were among the celebrities who, at one point, donned single gloves as part of their ensembles. Ciara sang Jackson's humanitarian anthem, "Heal the World," dressed in a jacket that had Jackson's signature military epaulets.
Pop star Beyonce dedicated her BET Award win to Michael Jackson and tearfully sang "Ava Maria," while actor Marlon Wayans said his family grew up watching the "Thriller" singer.
"The only reason the Wayans exist is because of the Jacksons," Wayans said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.