- Associated Press - Monday, December 19, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - VH1 may have honored singing divas at its annual VH1 Divas special, but the night was all about collaboration.

50 Cent was hand-in-hand with Chaka Khan on the red carpet; Mavis Staples screamed her love for Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine and Ledisi gushed over meeting Martha Reeves.

“It’s exciting. You see me, I’m standing next to the fire,” 50 Cent said, while Khan laughed.

The rapper said he called the veteran singer and told her he wanted to be her date. He said he and Khan are working together on music and movie projects.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to put together some movie things because her life story is epic,” he said. “I want to be a part of it.”

Khan added that 50 Cent is “savvy” and she’s excited to learn from the younger generation.

“(He) knows the ropes in a way I don’t, in a way I’m looking to. He’ll be giving me a lot of direction in the future,” she said.

Another unconventional pair was Welch and Staples, who told the London singer “I just love you so much.”

“I saw you the other night on `X Factor.’ I saw you. I said there she go that machine!” Staples said, laughing along with Welch.

Inside the event, there were more pairings, from Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson to Khan, Staples, Jessie J and Erykah Badu.

The night honored cities where soul music has thrived, like Philadelphia, Detroit, Memphis, Chicago and London.

Welch, Wanda Jackson and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings also paid tribute to the late Amy Winehouse.

“With Amy it hurts me bad that she’s not here. I got to talk her slightly over 24 hours before she passed. We were supposed to hang and work on stuff, but I think it’s very fitting tonight,” said Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, whose group The Roots worked as the event’s house band. “(We’re) giving really a talented soul her just-do.”

“She was the most incredible artist,” added Welch, who performed Winehouse’s “Back to Black” at the taping, held at the Hammerstein Ballroom. “I feel kind of overwhelmed.”

Other performers included Jill Scott, Boyz II Men, Marsha Ambrosius and Estelle. The special airs Monday at 9/8c.

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Online:

http://www.vh1.com/shows/events/divas/_2011/

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Mesfin Fekadu covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/musicmesfin