The John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts announced their 46th honoree class in a press release on Thursday, June 22.
In a statement, Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter said that the honorees each “explored new terrain, stretched artistic boundaries, and most importantly, committed to sharing their gifts with the world.”
The five honorees will be celebrated during the annual Kennedy Center Honors telecast, which will air on CBS and stream on Paramount+ on December 3, hosted by singer and 2017 honoree Gloria Estefan.
Without a doubt, each of the honorees have made a lasting impact in various avenues of the performing arts. Check out our gallery below to find out who the honorees are!
1. Queen Latifah
Latifah (born Dana Owens) continues to make history as the first female rapper to receive a Kennedy Center Honor. However, she is more than just an MC: She’s also an acclaimed singer, actress, songwriter, entrepreneur, producer, and talk show host who has made an unforgettable impact on the culture. As Hip-Hop celebrates its 50th anniversary, this selection was a no brainer.
“I’m humbled to be included in this incredible list of artists honored by the Kennedy Center. 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. To now be recognized amongst so many multi-hyphenates feels unbelievable, not for just me and my team, but for our community. The work the Kennedy Center does is immeasurable so I’m beyond grateful for this recognition.”
2. Dionne Warwick
With more than 100 million records sold worldwide, Warwick is adding another jewel in the crown of her illustrious 60-year career. With hits like “Walk on By” and “That’s What Friends Are For,” she is ranked as one of Billboard’s 40 biggest U.S. hit makers between 1955 and 1999, and she is also one of the most-charted vocalists of all time.
“I’m exceptionally happy to be honored by the Kennedy Center. It’s very exciting to be recognized for my contributions to the music industry for the past 60 years.”
3. Barry Gibb
As a member of The Bee Gees, Barry, along with late brothers Robin and Maurice, sold over 220 million records worldwide, helping to spearhead the Disco movement of the 1970s with the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, one of the best-selling soundtracks of all-time (2nd only to The Bodyguard). Outside of that, Gibb also had a lucrative career as a songwriter and producer, working with the likes of Barbara Streisand and Kenny Rogers.
“This is a wonderful honor! It’s hard to be proud and humble at the same time. It is one of the most special moments in my life and something that I will always cherish. When I think back over 50 years to our beginnings in Redcliffe, Queensland, I could never have expected this to happen in my life. Receiving the Kennedy Center Honors is something that everyone hopes might happen one day. I’ve often thought about but never dreamed it could come true. Thank you to all those who made this dream a reality. I wish my brothers were here so that they could’ve shared in this special moment.”
4. Billy Crystal
A legendary comedian and actor, Crystal’s career spans nearly 5 decades. Starting out on the standup circuit, his talent would crossover with success on both the small screen (ABC sitcom Soap and a stint on Saturday Night Live) and the big screen, with films like When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers, and Monsters, Inc.
“I am overwhelmed to be part of this fantastic group of artists. I started performing when I was five years old, making my parents and family laugh. Those laughs have carried me my entire life and career. I so wish they could be at the Kennedy Center for this glorious occasion. It has been a thrilling lifetime of performing in so many different arenas and my heart is full of gratitude to the Kennedy Center, my wife Janice, my children and grandchildren, our family and friends, and all the amazing people I’ve had the pleasure to work with. And finally, of course, my wonderful fans.”
5. Reneé Fleming
A 5x Grammy-winning Opera singer, Fleming has gained worldwide recognition with a full soprano voice and the capability to sing in six languages. Her influence stretches far beyond classical music, working with artists such as Paul Simon, Wynton Marsalis, and Sting, and she is also the only classical artist to ever perform the National Anthem at the Super Bowl.
“How thrilling to join the company of legendary artists who have received this recognition. This award demonstrates the richness and range of the performing arts in our country, and the Kennedy Center’s celebration is a powerful expression of our culture. Music has defined the arc of my life, giving voice to an introverted child, taking me to places I never dreamed of visiting and people I never dreamed of meeting. Most of all, it has shown me the enormous potential for healing and joy that the arts offer everyone. Having looked with awe at the Honorees in that box at the Kennedy Center Opera House, I’m incredibly grateful to think I will be among them.”