Houston was just 37 at the time.
Whitney Houston had taken some knocks (and would take some more), but she got some respect at the first annual BET Awards, which took place at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas on June 19, 2001—18 years ago this week. Houston was the recipient of a lifetime achievement award, which was presented by Babyface and Mary J. Blige.
It was a moment of validation for the singer, who was famously booed at the third annual Soul Train Music Awards in April 1989. There were more bad headlines at Oscar rehearsals in March 2000. Houston was slated to join other stars to perform a medley of classic film songs, but either pulled out or was pushed out just two days before the telecast.
So when Houston came out to perform at BETs, her performance and manner were carefully scrutinized. She sang well, if she strained occasionally to hit the high notes. She was noticeably looser and more self-assured on stage than she had been in the early years. The phenomenal singer was now also a confident performer. She looked good, much better than she did less than three months later when she appeared worryingly gaunt at Michael Jackson's 30th anniversary celebration at Madison Square Garden.