Alicia Keys admitted hosting the Grammy Awards this year was “hard” and “painful” coming so soon after the death of NBA basketball great Kobe Bryant and eight others in a California helicopter crash.
The 39-year-old singer fronted the ceremony on Sunday (Jan. 26) and admitted it was tough opening the show only hours after the tragic news broke about Bryant’s death at 41 in the crash. His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was among the victims.
“This was a really hard night, and that’s why I think it was a roller coaster,” she told “Entertainment Tonight.”
Thousands of fans, many wearing Bryant jerseys, gathered outside the Staples Center, home of the Lakers and site of Sunday’s Grammy Awards.
“It was painful, it’s painful right now. We lost a beloved, beloved hero to all of us. A person who is like a true example of brilliance and excellence,” she added.
“It’s not easy to go forward with all of that weight. But I think that the energy that he always brought and that fighting spirit… is what brought us through tonight.”
The “Girl on Fire” singer opened the show with a surprise performance with Boyz II Men’s Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman.
They sang the group’s 1991 hit “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye” in a tribute to the basketball player.
“I feel like he was just in all of our hearts and spirits and that’s what made it feel good,” she said of the performance.
Alicia’s husband, Swizz Beatz, real name Kasseem Dean, praised his wife for the way she handled the emotional evening.
“This was a heavy night and she put the load on her shoulders and made people feel comfortable all around the world. It’s a blessing,” he said.
Alicia also addressed Kobe’s passing while on stage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“Here we are together on music’s biggest night, celebrating our artists that do it best. But to be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now, because earlier today Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero.
“And we’re literally standing here, heartbroken, in the house that Kobe Bryant built.
“Right now, Kobe and his family and all of those that have been tragically lost today are in our spirits, in our hearts, in our prayers, they’re in this building.
“I would like everybody to take a moment and hold them inside of you and share our strength and our support with their families.”
She later added: “I know how much Kobe loved music, so we got to make this a celebration in his honor.”
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