Sheryl Underwood and Taye Diggs brought joy and shenanigans as hosts of the first-ever theGrio Awards

OPINION: The duo got on stage and kept the night full of Black joy and celebration moving and shaking.

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

One of my favorite parts of attending award shows and galas is seeing the celebrities milling about. People I’ve only ever seen on the big or little screen talking to other folks I’ve only ever seen that way is always so interesting. Admittedly, I’ve only been to a few such events, but they’ve always brought me such joy. TheGrio Awards’ first-ever gala was just like that. Heck, I had the privilege to sit at a table with Kim Coles. I’m not nearly as starstruck as I used to be because of some of the spaces I’ve been in, but, I mean, come on — I was sitting at a table with Synclaire James from “Living Single” as Queen Latifah was being honored! I don’t care who you are, that kind of cultural resonance is the kind of thing that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside and why I do what I do. I care. 

Taye Diggs and Sheryl Underwood on stage at theGrio Awards at the Beverly Hilton on Oct. 22, 2022 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by PurplePPL Media)

Taye Diggs is another one of those folks. The more I reflect on his career, I realize he’s been part of a not insignificant number of the most important cultural films and moments of my life. So to see him on stage with one of the absolute nicest and funniest people I’ve ever met, Sheryl Underwood, hosting the gala, well, Black joy and shenanigans were on full display in regal splendor. Sheryl told me before the show (she sat with me for the live taping of a “Dear Culture” episode at the gala) that Taye was going to be playing her straight man as she lobbed joke after joke, and she wasn’t wrong. From the second they hit the stage, Sheryl was on fire. Almost literally; the inappropriate jokes were bountiful and plentiful. For instance, she pointed out that her (must be extra-special) contract required Taye Diggs to give her foot massages. And Taye pointed out, rightly, that he didn’t see that in his contract. Because who puts that in a contract?

What he did see, though, was that clause that said don’t embarrass Byron Allen or he’ll sue you for $10 billion. Somehow, I believed that to be true. I guess they say the best jokes have some truth to them. Badum-ching. 

The two of them brought jokes like that all night. From the alleged engagement or hostage situation (depending on who you ask), the happy theGrio Awards television couple had just the right mix of energy and levity to ensure that we all had a good time between listening to the speeches from the star-studded cast of honorees. 

You see, that’s how you celebrate Black excellence. You sprinkle joy and fun while making sure to honor people who have carved out their own space in the worlds of business, entertainment, social justice, culture, etc. Really, people who have ensured that when we talk about Black culture, we’re leaving no stones unturned. So shouts out to our hosts Sheryl Underwood and Taye Diggs for elegantly, effortlessly and excellently shepherding the crowd and the honorees through an evening of iconic and beautiful Blackness. 

Also, I really do wonder if Taye Diggs made it home to Apryl Jones that night or if Sheryl did indeed kidnap him and hold him to her version of the contract she got from Byron. We may never know, but like Kendrick said, “we gon’ be alright.” 

Watch “Byron Allen Presents theGrio Awards” at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26 on CBS and at 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27 on theGrio Cable Network. Check your local listings.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on theGrio’s app; download it here.

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