The 46th Annual Kennedy Center Honors recognized Queen Latifah this past Sunday, awarding her a historic honor as the first female rapper to ever receive this accolade.
Latifah, 53, has been a star since age 19 when her debut album and hit single “Ladies First” made her the first female crossover rap star. She has gone on to a diverse career that has included seven studio albums, starring roles in multiple television shows and movies and an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress for her role in the movie musical “Chicago.”
Latifah, whose real name is Dana Owens, was honored with performances from prominent female rappers of her generation, including Yo-Yo, MC Lyte and Monie Love. Missy Elliott spoke on the cultural importance of her stage name: Latifah is Arabic meaning “gentle” or “kind” while the queen moniker conveyed respect, dignity and a determination to play a leadership role in the culture.
“She was saying, ‘You WILL respect me. I won’t just set the bar. I AM the bar,’ ” Elliott said.
Opera singer Renée Fleming, music star Barry Gibb and prolific hitmaker Dionne Warwick were also honored at the Sunday night black-tie gala.
President Joe Biden welcomed the honorees to the White House before the event, saying the performing arts “reflect who we are as Americans and as human beings.”
The honorees “have helped shape how we see ourselves, how we see each other and how we see our world,” said Biden, who then introduced this year’s class with a set of glowing superlatives about their work.
The 2023 Kennedy Center Honors ceremony will be broadcast on Dec. 27 on CBS.