Why Bruno Mars' BET Opener Is An Instant Classic (It's Not The Reason You Think)

Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.
If you’re producing an awards show, may I recommend Bruno Mars as your opening act? The funk-tinged R&B pop star opened up the 2017 BET Awards with a tour de force performance of "Perm," which boasts some very Black references to hair sheen, curl activator, and patting the hell out of your mane. Despite all these natural hair-friendly lyrics during the first few minutes of Black Entertainment Television’s biggest party, I couldn’t stop thinking about how the wonderful man performing doesn’t technically identify as Black. Mars, born Peter Hernandez, is a multicultural Puerto Rican man who was raised in Hawaii, with Jewish, Asian, and European roots. Despite the fact the "24K Magic" singer didn’t check "Black or African-American" on his last census questionnaire, Twitter is celebrating the performer with a major lovefest — and he totally deserves it for knowing exactly how to show respect for Black culture.
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While Justin Timberlake has been accused of appropriating Black culture since the dawn of time while not exactly giving back — and basically pulling an "All Lives Matter" following the 2016 BET Awards — Mars has never run into that issue. The "Versace On The Floor" performer has long stood up for causes like Black Lives Matter, without sugar-coating his opinions or hiding them in "We Are The World"-type evasions. Over the years, Mars has used social media to speak out against the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, brought up the fact America was built on the backs of Black people, and shown love to curls all over the world. There’s no quibbling here on how Mars feels about Black people.
He was equally genuine while covering the February 2017 issue of Latina magazine, confirming even salsa music, which he grew up on, exists because of Black culture. "When you say ‘Black music,’ understand that you are talking about rock, jazz, R&B, reggae, funk, doo-wop, hip-hop, and Motown," he explained. "Black people created it all. Being Puerto Rican, even salsa music stems back to the Motherland [Africa]. So, in my world, Black music means everything." These kinds of thoughtful statements (plus, you know, all of his insane levels of nonstop talent) prove Mars warrants all the loves he’s getting over his 2017 Bet Awards opener, whether it’s coming from Twitter or the Refinery29 Slack room.
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