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Mariah Carey, Cissy Houston Pay Emotional Tribute to Whitney at BET Awards

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Presenter Mariah Carey speaks onstage during the 2012 BET Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on July 1, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.

Nearly five months after her death, Whitney Houston‘s memory lives on.

At Sunday’s BET Awards in L.A., Mariah Carey kicked off a tribute to the late singer, who was found dead at age 48 in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in February. Speaking of Whitney’s immense talent, Carey recalled: “The first time I heard Whitney’s voice I was mesmerized, like the rest of the world. Just an unknown budding singer myself, I was captivated by the power in her range, the richness of her tone and her unique ability to wrap a lyric in emotion.”

Related: PHOTOS: Whitney Houston's family album

Monica, 31, then performed a reserved rendition of “I Love the Lord,” and Brandy, 33, covered Whitney’s hits “I’m Your Baby Tonight” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Gary Houston, Whitney’s brother, also sang.

Carey went on to recall the first time she met Whitney backstage during the Grammy Awards. “I was in awe — a tiny bit scared, because, hello, I mean, there were a couple few rumors out there that we had some kind of rivalry. One thing we all know is, Whitney was not to be toyed with, OK?”

Related: VIDEO: Bobbi Kristina cries during another Whitney Houston tribute

The pair eventually collaborated on the 1998 smash “When You Believe” for the animated feature The Prince of Egypt, and “we got to spend a lot of time together as we promoted it,” Carey said. “We really got to know each other as people, not divas. … She was a hilarious person with a cutting sense of humor. She was real and she kept it real. That’s why we got along so well and so many others feel like I do: If you really knew Whitney, you couldn’t help but love her.”

Carey ended her tribute to Whitney on a somber note. “I miss my friend. I miss hearing her voice and laughter, but we’ll always have the music,” Carey reminded the star-studded audience, which included Beyonce, 30, Jay-Z, 42, Kanye West, 35, and Kim Kardashian, 31. “We’ll always have that voice we all fell in love with. She inspired us all.”

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Singer Cissy Houston performs onstage during the 2012 BET Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on July 1, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.

With that, Whitney’s mother, Cissy Houston, 78, brought the house down with a teary performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” The tribute wrapped with Chaka Khan, 59, singing her 1978 song “I’m Every Woman,” which Whitney covered in 1993.

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