MIAMI -- Although ominous gray clouds hung low and temperatures reached into the high 80s, the red carpet scene at the Latin Billboard Awards was as full of colorful pageantry as ever. Musicians, actors and industry honchos alike all strutted down the long walkway in front of Miami's BankUnited Center.
At its entrance, about 100 superfans who had lined up hours before the ceremony populated an observation deck. They waved homemade signs, sported homemade T-shirts dedicated to heartthrobs like Jencarlos Canela and Prince Royce, and brandished cell phone cameras with the opening of each limousine door. They even duly shrieked for sponsor Target's mascot bulls-eye-decorated dog, who took a gleeful early trot down the press gauntlet before posing for pictures with presenters and performers.
Check out all of our coverage of the 2011 Billboard Latin Music Conference and Awards right here.
Early down the carpet were the regional Mexican stars, like El Trono de Mexico, who shone in matching white, bedazzled suits and cowboy hats, and spontaneously erupted into group chants. A different kind of splash came from TV personalities like Mun2's tattooed hostess Crash, who opted for rhinestone-covered cat-eye sunglasses by Kerin Rose, famous for accessorizing the likes of Lady Gaga and Rihanna.
Even the reggaetoneros looked grown up. Up-and-comers like 24 Horas still opted for carefully sculpted facial hair and cornrows, but megastars like Alexis y Fido looked decidedly more grown up in skinny suits. This, they said, was a reflection of the state of their genre.
"The reggaeton business is evolving so now I'm dressing in Versace," Fido said. Part of that evolution? A desire to work with global pop icons like Black-Eyed Peas, Dr. Dre, and Rihanna, Alexis added.
Other stars said they were similarly intent on a similar kind of crossover. Natalia Jimenez, the stylish former frontwoman of Mexican rock group La Quinta Estacion, said she would soon release her debut bilingual solo album, produced by Emilio Estefan. "It's a pop-rock album, and it also has Latin influences," she said. "But when I started singing, I actually started singing in English first, so it was actually hard for me to switch to Spanish."
Bilingual bachata-pop stars like Prince Royce and D'Element (Lenny y Max, formerly of Aventura), also said their new material would continue to cross languages. "I grew up in New York, but my parents are Dominican, so it's natural," Royce said. Lenny and Max, though, said they would do so while still largely sticking to the musical style for which they first became known. "D'Element is a bachata movement," said Lenny.
The biggest stars, unsurprisingly, arrived on the carpet last, some after the live broadcast of the ceremony was already underway. Billboard cover star Luis Fonsi basked in the crowd's adoration while promoting his new album, "Terra Firma," and he didn't dismiss the possibility of recording an English album, either. "I'll never say never," he said. "I do speak English, and I've lived here for two-thirds of my life."
The most deafening screams were reserved for the last handful to walk through. Novela star turned singer Jencarlos Canela posed for pictures before female fans, until Pitbull showed up with T-Pain. Pitbull embraced his fellow Cuban before rushing through with Pain, on the way into the arena to present an award.
No matter though, because the highest watts came last. Marc Anthony himself, nominated in six categories, arrived in a skinny suit as black and shiny as his limousine, and leisurely signed fans' autographs. The best and last was crossover legend Gloria Estefan, who seemed to glide in a floor-length, lace-and-satin gown before heading into the arena to accept a special lifetime achievement award.