Pharrell, Alsina, Nyong'o early winners at BET awards

LOS ANGELES, June 29 Sun Jun 29, 2014 9:52pm EDT

LOS ANGELES, June 29 (Reuters) - R&B star Pharrell, newcomer August Alsina and actress Lupita Nyong'o led the early winners at the BET awards on Sunday, while Chris Brown, Jennifer Hudson and John Legend led the performances at the ceremony.

Pharrell, who kicked off the show with his upbeat hit "Come Get It Bae" with rapper Missy Elliot, was named best male R&B/pop artist over Brown, Alsina, Legend and Justin Timberlake.

He also won video of the year for his hit "Happy," which went viral online after people posted videos of themselves from all over the world singing it.

"The song just became its own thing with the people, and I just want to thank all the people who uploaded videos ... it's no longer my song, so this award isn't really mine, it's the award that belongs to all the people." he said.

New Orleans singer Alsina, who was nominated for four awards, scored the first win of the night for best new artist, and was overcome with emotion on stage.

"I told myself if and when I would get up here I wouldn't cry," he said. "I always wondered what this moment right here would feel like. And now I know, so thank you."

Jay Z, Beyonce and rapper Drake led the nominations on Sunday with five nods each. Drake won best male hip hop artist over Jay Z, but was not on hand to collect his award.

Oscar-winning newcomer Lupita Nyong'o, also not at Sunday's show, won the best actress award, beating out "Lee Daniels' The Butler" star Oprah Winfrey and "Scandal" star Kerry Washington.

The BET awards, held in Los Angeles, celebrates black musicians, actors and athletes and is hosted by cable TV network BET, Black Entertainment Television, part of Viacom Inc.

Comedian Chris Rock hosted the show, throwing jokes and jibes at the likes of Solange Knowles, Rick Ross and Clippers owner Donald Sterling. He also handed out chicken and waffles to the audience, imitating Ellen DeGeneres' pizza stunt during this year's Oscars.

The three-and-a-half hour show toplined many high-profile performances from some of the music world's biggest names.

Usher referenced his 20-year career with a medley of his hits while John Legend brought some romance with his ballad "You & I" and was later joined by newcomer Jhene Aiko as they sang her hit "I Don't Need You."

Oscar-winning actress and former "American Idol" finalist Jennifer Hudson belted her 90s-inspired song "Walk It Out."

Troubled R&B star Brown joined rapper Lil Wayne to perform "Loyal." Host Rock quipped about Brown's plea deal and "dancing like he was free," referencing his recent legal troubles.

The awards show was overshadowed by two incidents of violence at unofficial BET pre-parties in Los Angeles, including a shooting early on Sunday that left one person dead and four wounded. BET said both incidents "occurred at locations with events that were unauthorized and unaffiliated." (Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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