The 46th class of Kennedy Center honorees has been announced.
Hip-hop pioneer and actress Queen Latifah, singer Dionne Warwick, actor and comedian Billy Crystal, opera star Renée Fleming, Bee Gees singer-songwriter Barry Gibb, and comedian Billy Crystal will receive the award for lifetime artistic achievement, the arts center shared on Thursday (June 22).
Latifah’s inclusion in this year’s class marks only the second time a hip-hop artist has been named an honoree. LL Cool J, who was honored in 2017, was the first.
“When we started on this journey decades ago, we were often told ‘No.’ No, you won’t be able to leave New Jersey. No, if you rap you can’t sing. No, singers can’t become actresses. No, actors can’t also produce,” Latifah said in a statement. “To now be recognized amongst so many multi-hyphenates feels unbelievable, not for just me and my team, but for our community.”
With this year’s award show coinciding with hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, Latifah noted that the honor “will allow us a moment to be part of the fabric of America, which is really what we are.” She added, “It will be one night where the people who are in the highest offices in the most powerful nation in the world will honor hip-hop music and one of its daughters.”
Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter doubled down on Latifah’s sentiment, calling it a privilege to honor “the First Lady of Hip Hop.”
“I think it’s kind of fun to be celebrating hip-hop at the same time we’re celebrating a guy who made disco and pop music so ubiquitous,” Rutter shared, referring to Gibb. “Having three women who are so strong, who have remade themselves in so many different kinds of ways and have had such extraordinary careers is central to this as well.”
And when it comes to Warwick’s inclusion in this year’s class, the songstress — best known for her hits “Don’t Make Me Over,” “That’s What Friends Are For,” and “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” (to name a few) — said it was “about time” she was awarded this honor by Kennedy Center for a lifetime of singing. “I’ve earned it,” she said, per NYT.
This year’s award show, hosted by singer and 2017 honoree Gloria Estefan, will air on CBS and stream on Paramount+ on December 3.
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