In 2010, the Young Star Award at the BET Awards was established to acknowledge people under 21 who are already making strides in their respective entertainment or sports fields.
Being a kid doesn’t mean you don’t have a voice and these young people have proven that they are well on their way to even more greatness.
As we count down to the 2020 BET Awards (June 28 at 8 pm EST), let’s take a look back at past Young Star Award winners and what they are up to now.
2010 Winner, Age 16
2014 Winner, Age 20
Keke Palmer, singer/actress/hostess, has the distinction of being a two-time Young Star Award winner. When she won the first time in 2010 at age 16, she was the star of her own Nickelodeon show, True Jackson, VP. People also knew her from her NAACP Image Award-winning role in Akeelah and the Bee. Fast forward to Palmer’s second Young Star Award win in 2014 at age 20. At that time she had starred in the 90210 reboot, putting out music and taking on significant acting roles in a diverse array of projects. Today, she is the Daytime Emmy Award-winning co-host on Good Morning America.
Jaden and Willow Smith
2011 Winners, Ages 12 and 10
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s two youngest children, Jaden and Willow, have always seemed like two peas in a pod, so it was fitting that they both took home the Young Star Award in 2011. At the time, Jaden had several acting roles under his belt, including The Pursuit of Happyness (with his dad), a Karate Kid reboot, and the tv series All of Us. Willow had a hit song called “Whip My Hair” and had acted on Keke Palmer’s True Jackson, VP and the film I Am Legend with her dad. Jaden is now a music artist and philanthropist. Willow co-hosts the popular Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk with her mother and grandmother.
2012 Winner, Age 17
Diggy Simmons comes from a musical family (his dad his rap legend Rev Run of Run DMC), so it makes sense that his Young Star Award was for his rap skills. Diggy made a splash with his verse on the Mindless Behavior hit song “Mrs. Right.” Today, young Diggy is a fan favorite (and hearththrob) on grown-ish, a spin-off from black-ish.
2013 Winner, Age 17
By age 17, when Gabrielle Douglas took home the Young Star Award, she was already a two-time Olympic gold medalist for gymnastics. Nicknamed the Flying Squirrel because of her amazing flips and athleticism, the Virginia native wowed the world. Since then, Douglas snagged another gold medal at the 2016 Olympics. The 2020 Olympics have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2015 Winner, Age 14
Philadelphia native Mo’ne Davis is actually a two-sport athlete (basketball and baseball), but it was her accomplishments at the Little League World Series that really got everyone’s attention. She was only the 9th American girl ever to play in the Little Leauge World series and became the first girl to pitch a shutout post-season. Her team, the Taney Dragons, won the series. Davis is now a softball player at Hampton University.
2016 Winner, Age 17
Amandla Stenberg gained national acclaim for playing Rue in The Hunger Games, a blockbuster film based on a best-selling book series. She followed that up with a role on the series Sleepy Hollow and the Craig Robinson comedy series Mr. Robinson. Since then, Stenberg has starred in the film The Hate U Give and has been a vocal activist against injustice, which is why she was given the Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award in 2019.
2017 Winner, Age 17
2018 Winner, Age 28
Actress Yara Shahidi is the only Young Star Award winner to have back to back wins. Her work as Zoe Johnson on black-ish was so noteworthy that she eventually got her own spin-off called grown-ish. Like many of the other Young Star Award honorees, Shahidi frequently uses her platform to amplify messages about justice and equity.
2019 Winner, Age 14
Marsai Martin stole everyone’s heart as the little sister on black-ish. She is growing up now and in addition to being an actress, she has added executive producer to her resume. How many 14-year-old executive producers were there in Hollywood in 2019? One and her name is Marsai Martin. Her company was behind the film Little, starring herself, Issa Rae, and Regina Hall.
(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for BET)