Diana Ross's spectacular American Music Awards performance is a family affair

Lyndsey Parker

Host Tracee Ellis Ross proudly described Sunday’s female-focused American Music Awards telecast as “an incredible night filled with earth-shaking, groundbreaking women. … Women who take up space, trailblaze, and blaze trails, women with expansive and powerful voices and history-making careers filled with 30 years of hits — Mom! This year in music has been a reflection of this year in our country. A year where brave women have started a movement, as we own our experiences, our bodies, and our lives.”

“Mom,” of course, was the one and only Diana Ross, the Supreme — and the lone veteran artist represented at Sunday’s youth-oriented AMAs. And, wow, did the 73-year-old Lifetime Achievement Award honoree represent! She her fans — and her family — proud.

Introduced by a taped speech by Barack and Michelle Obama (“Her artistry resonates with everyone, and today her voice is still as pure, her beauty is undeniable, and her showmanship is on point”) and her youngest son, Evan Ross (“What do you get when you cross a chart-topping singer, trailblazing style icon, record-breaking pioneer, international superstar, and an all-around boss? Everybody, you get my mom!”), Ross showed everyone how it’s done.

“It took me a lifetime to get here, and I’m not going anywhere!” Ross declared in footage from her famous 1983 Central Park concert. Among the other archival clips shown on the AMAs was a 1993 interview with Oprah Winfrey, who said Ross was the first black woman she’d ever seen on TV. “I said, ‘I want to be like her,’” Winfrey recalled.

Well, who wouldn’t want to be like Diana Ross? The ageless icon of stage and screen took the AMAs stage in a floor-sweeping gown, elbow-length gloves, billowing tresses, and a piñata-like froth of fuchsia tulle, singing a decades-spanning medley of her hits (“I’m Coming Out,” “Take Me Higher,” “Ease On Down the Road,” and the occasion-appropriate “The Best Years of My Life”), absolutely oozing fabulosity and eleganza.

Ross’s show-closing performance was a true family affair. Along with the aforementioned appearances by emcee Tracee (who wore one of her mother’s vintage outfits earlier in the evening) and Evan (who danced in the audience with his wife, Ashlee Simpson, and their 2-year-old daughter, Jagger Snow), another Ross daughter, Rhonda Ross Kendrick, presented Diana with the Lifetime Achievement Award. “Not just for women, not just for black folk, not just for singers, actors, performers, and entrepreneurs who want to forge our own destiny, but for all of us!” Kendrick said.

For Ross’s final song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” all five of her children (including son Ross Naess and daughter Chudney Ross) and four grandchildren joined her onstage, along with Ross’s extended family of Motown founder Berry Gordy and labelmate Smokey Robinson. Although little Jagger shied from the spotlight, grandson Raif-Henok Kendrick (son of Rhonda) practically stole the spotlight from his grandma with his flashy, ready-for-primetime dance moves. Kelly Clarkson, whooping it up in the audience, looked especially entertained.


“This is all about love,” Ross said during her brief but joyous acceptance speech. “This is my family, and I’m sending love out there to each and every one of you — our global family. I’m so humbled. I love you so very much and I think you know that. I really, really love you so very much and I will hold onto this beautiful honor.”

The 2017 American Music Awards aired live Sunday from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

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