The star-studded recipients of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors have been unveiled!
On Thursday, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced that Queen Latifah, Barry Gibb, Dionne Warwick, Renée Fleming and Billy Crystal will receive the 46th Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime artistic achievements on Dec. 3.
“The Kennedy Center Honors recognizes artists who have made profound contributions to the cultural life of our nation,” wrote David M. Rubenstein, chairman of the Kennedy Center, in a press statement.
Of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Bee Gees member, the chairman said, “Barry Gibb, along with his late brothers Robin and Maurice, set the music world on fire in the ‘60s and later defined the modern dance era with their trademark falsetto sound and groove style, becoming a pop superstar group for the ages.”
“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,” wrote Gibb, 76, in a statement.
“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,” added the “Stayin’ Alive” musician. “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.”
Rubenstein referred to Latifah, 53, “as the ‘First Lady of Hip Hop,’” noting that the Grammy- and Emmy-winning performer and actress “shaped and innovated the art form in its earliest days, representing black women everywhere and using the idiom to become a powerful voice for change.”
Latifah said that she’s “humbled” by the recognition in a statement: “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,” she continued.
The “U.N.I.T.Y.” musician’s induction is especially fitting, as this year’s ceremony will also include a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the hip-hop genre. “Hip-hop has been an important, thriving art form here at the Center for a number of years,” said Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter in a statement. “What a privilege it is to bestow an Honors to the First Lady of Hip Hop who has inspired us along the way.”
Rubenstein’s statement also included a note about the Grammy-winning “I Say a Little Prayer” singer: “Soulful songstress Dionne Warwick has blazed a trail with her signature voice, scintillating presence, and trove of hits that has become a soundtrack of inspiration for generations of artists and audiences.”
Warwick, 82, wrote of the honor in a statement, “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.”
Rubenstein wrote of Fleming, a five-time Grammy winner “known as ‘America’s soprano,'” that she’s “captivated audiences worldwide with her luminous voice, incomparable artistry, and a knack for bringing opera into the mainstream for more than four decades.”
Fleming, 64, said in a statement that it’s “thrilling” to be included in this year’s group: “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.”
The vocalist added, “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.”
Of Crystal, 75, an Emmy and Tony winner known for his roles in The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally… and Monsters, Inc., among other projects, Rubenstein said: “A true comedic icon and multi-talented artist since the 1980s who has kept millions laughing around the world, Billy Crystal is responsible for some of the most memorable stand-up moments and hilarious Hollywood scenes in the last half-century.”
Crystal expressed feeling “overwhelmed” by the honor in a statement: “I started performing when I was 5 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.”
He continued, “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.”
Hosted by Gloria Estefan for the third time, the ceremony will be held at the JFK Center in Washington, D.C. It’ll air on CBS and stream on Paramount+.