Backbeat: Kelly Rowland, Sylvia Rhone Honored @ Essence Black Women in Music Gala
Backbeat: Kelly Rowland, Sylvia Rhone Honored @ Essence Black Women in Music Gala

kelly Honorees Sylvia Rhone, former Motown chief, and rising icon Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child fame. (Photo: 2012 A Turner Archives)

Grammy Week revved up in earnest last night (Feb. 8) with two key events; the Recording Academy's Producers & Engineers Wing event honoring Interscope chief Jimmy Iovine, and Essence's third annual Black Women in Music celebration. The latter invitation-only event, staged at the Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles, recognized the career accomplishments of pioneering industry executive/former Motown chief Sylvia Rhone and current Grammy nominee Kelly Rowland.

Sylvia Rhone with Epic Records chief and "X Factor" judge L.A. Reid. (Photo: 2012 A Turner Archives)

The art deco Belasco provided the perfect backdrop for the Essence soiree with its red floral carpeting, red-tufted bar and intimate seating at banquettes in front of and surrounding the stage. Appetizers from chicken skewers and stuffed mushrooms to red velvet lollipops and other desserts kept hunger at bay while servers combated thirst with trays of Grown & Sexy: a cocktail comprised of Crown Royal, cranberry juice and sour apple pucker.

Universal/Republic CEO Monte Lipman and SRC/Universal CEO Steve Rifkind took in the event. (Photo: 2012 A Turner Archives)

Conversation and activity in the venue centered around the late Don Cornelius, East Coast and southern industry colleagues catching up with their West Coast counterparts and laments about finding the stamina to make it through jam-packed week of events before the Grammy Awards themselves. It was less about work and more about the chance to chill for the well-rounded mix of guests. Spotted in the full house: Universal Republic's Monte Lipman and SRC's Steve Rifkin, Epic Records/"X-Factor" judge L.A. Reid, Michelle Williams (Destiny's Child), Ne-Yo, Cash Money principal Slim Williams, producer/Epic exec Tricky Stewart, music and sports PR guru Patti Webster, BET's Stephen Hill, recently appointed Motown VP of A&R Rex Rideout, choreographer Fatima Robinson, actress Holly Robinson Peete, Interscope urban publicity head Yvette Gayle, former Motown executive Suzanne de Passe, ASCAP's Jay Sloan, BMI's Catherine Brewton and Essence's editor-in-chief Constance C.R. White, president Michelle Ebanks and entertainment director Cori Murray.

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eve Kelly Rowland with surprise collaborator Eve at the Essence Black Women in Music gala. (Photo: 2012 A Turner Archives)

Emil Wilbekin, managing editor of, presented the awards to Rhone and Rowland. In her remarks, Rhone did not address what her future plans are post-Motown, referencing her time away as a "transition" and chance to "redefine myself and purpose." She talked about close friend Don Cornelius ("words can't describe how much I will miss him") and then thanked her longtime mentor Doug Morris ("one person who couldn't be here"), Reid ("thank you for being a great friend") and family. "I accept this award not only for the past but the future. These artists [she has worked with] have shown me the way. I'm now inspired to step into the stream of creativity."

Rex Rideout, VP of A&R at Motown. (Photo: 2012 A Turner Archives)

Rowland performed a short set of songs-including one with special guest Eve-before accepting her award as a rising icon. "I've been a fan for so many years of Essence," said Rowland. "Black women refer to it as the Bible. It's a blessing that I'm being given this award; I'm forever grateful." Capping off the presentation: songwriter/producer Rico Love, a co-collaborator on Rowland's hit "Motivation," came onstage to give her a plaque representing 1 million sales of the single.

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Upping the dance ante as DJ during the evening-sponsored by Lincoln and My Black Is Beautiful-was MC Lyte. The legendary rapper is also president of the Recording Academy's L.A. chapter board.

Epic Records chief and "X Factor" judge L.A. Reid poses with X Factor Season One winner Melanie Amaro. (Photo: 2012 A Turner Archives)

Joyful Drake, left, poses with singer/producer Ne-Yo at the Essence Black Women in Music soiree. (Photo: 2012 A Turner Archives)

Erica Grayson, consulting partner at MADE Management, stopped for a quick picture. (Photo: 2012 A Turner Archives)

Choreographer Fatima Robinson paused to pose beside BET President Stephen Hill. (Photo: 2012 A Turner Archives)

Epic Vice President (and songwriter/producer) Tricky Stewart stopped for a photo with award-winner Sylvia Rhone. (Photo: 2012 A Turner Archives)

(L-R): Toccara Jones, rising icon Kelly Rowland, Essence Editor-in-Chief Constance C.R. White and career achievement award winner Sylvia Rhone. (Photo: 2012 A Turner Archives)

(L-R): Essence President Michelle Ebanks, MC Lyte, Kelly Rowland, Essence Editor-in-Chief Constance C.R. White, Sylvia Rhone and Managing Editor Emil Wilbekin (Photo: 2012 A Turner Archives)

Rowland with (L-R) managers Tim Weatherspoon and Marcus Grant of The Collective (Photo: 2012 A Turner Archives)