Press release from CBS, Aug. 3, 2017:
The Kennedy Center Honors announced today that its honorees for 2017 will be actress, dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, singer-songwriter and actress Gloria Estefan, hip hop artist LL COOL J, television writer and producer Norman Lear and renowned musician and record producer Lionel Richie. They will be recognized during THE 40th ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS, to be broadcast Tuesday, Dec. 26 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. CBS has broadcast the special each year since its debut 40 years ago.
“The Kennedy Center Honors spotlights the extraordinary careers of five artists whose talent and ingenuity have enriched and shaped cultural life in America,” stated Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein. “Carmen de Lavallade is a national treasure whose elegance and talent as a dancer led to a career touching many art forms; international superstar Gloria Estefan has influenced American music through her infectious Miami sound; landmark hip hop artist LL COOL J taught the world how to rhyme as one of the pioneers of the hip hop phenomenon; Norman Lear spoke to the human condition and sparked poignant cultural conversations with some of the most epochal TV sitcoms of the 20th century; and Lionel Richie’s irresistibly recognizable melodies capture the heart and transcend generations.”
“This is a truly exceptional slate of honorees – made even more special by the fact that we will honor these artists as we also celebrate four decades of the Kennedy Center Honors,” said Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. “Each of this year’s honorees became known to and loved by the world because of their complete originality and bold genius. They are creators of the highest order, and as President Kennedy’s living memorial, the Kennedy Center is so proud to shine a light on their boundless ‘contributions to the human spirit.’”
In a star-studded celebration on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage on Dec. 3, the 2017 honorees will be saluted by great performers from New York, Hollywood and the arts capitals of the world. Seated with the president of the United States and the first lady, the honorees will accept the recognition and gratitude of their peers through performances and tributes.
The president and the first lady will receive the honorees, distinguished former honorees and members of the cast, along with the Kennedy Center board of trustees, at the White House prior to the performance and gala. The 2017 Kennedy Center Honors concludes with a gala dinner in the Grand Foyer.
The Honors recipients are recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts – whether in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures or television – and are confirmed by the executive committee of the center’s board of trustees. The primary criterion in the selection process is excellence. The honors are not designated by art form or category of artistic achievement; over the years, the selection process has produced a balance among the various arts and artistic disciplines.
ABOUT THE HONOREES
Carmen de Lavallade (Actress, Dancer, Choreographer)
An accomplished actress, dancer and choreographer, Carmen de Lavallade has amassed more than six decades of professional experience in the performing arts. The Los Angeles native made her debut at the age of 17 with the Lester Horton Dance Theater in the role of Salome. Also, she appeared in four films, including “Carmen Jones” (1954) with Dorothy Dandridge and “Odds against Tomorrow” (1959) with Harry Belafonte. In 1954 she made her Broadway debut in “House of Flowers,” written by Truman Capote, with music by Harold Arlen. Her dance career includes having ballets created for her by Lester Horton, Geoffrey Holder, Alvin Ailey, Glen Tetley, John Butler and Agnes de Mille.
Carmen succeeded her cousin Janet Collins as the principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera and was a guest artist with American Ballet Theatre. She has choreographed for Dance Theatre of Harlem, Philadanco, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the productions of “Porgy and Bess” and “Die Meistersinger” at the Metropolitan Opera. Also, she had an extensive acting career, performing in numerous off-Broadway productions including “Death of a Salesman” and “Othello,” teaching movement for actors at Yale, and becoming a member of the Yale Repertory Company and the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard.
Carmen and her husband, Geoffrey Holder, were the subjects of the film “Carmen & Geoffrey” (2005), which chronicled their 60-year partnership and artistic legacy. Her most recent work includes 651 ARTS’s “FLY: Five First Ladies of Dance” (2009), “Step-Mother” (2009) by Ruby Dee, “Post Black” (2011) by Regina Taylor and the Broadway production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” (2012). Currently, she is touring a dance/theater work about her life, “As I Remember It,” which premiered in June 2014.
Lauded by numerous institutions, Carmen received the Dance Magazine Award in 1964, an honorary doctorate of fine arts from the Juilliard School in 2007, the Duke Ellington Fellowship Award and the Dance USA Award in 2010. Now in her 80s, Carmen de Lavallade continues to inspire generations of artists and audiences alike.
Gloria Estefan (Singer-Songwriter and Actress)
International superstar Gloria Estefan is a GRAMMY® Award-winning singer-songwriter, actress, author, philanthropist and humanitarian. Estefan has received seven GRAMMY® Awards, an Oscar nomination, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an American Music Award for Lifetime Achievement, an induction into the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame, an Ellis Island Medal of Honor and a National Artistic Achievement Award from the U.S. Congress. In 2016 President Obama honored Emilio and Gloria Estefan with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor presented to individuals who have made meritorious contributions to the United States, world peace and cultural endeavors.
“On Your Feet! The Musical,” the Tony Award®-nominated Broadway musical based on the lives and music of Emilio and Gloria Estefan and executive produced by the pair is the story of two people who, through an unwavering dedication to one another and their pursuit of the American dream, showcased their talent, music and heritage to the world in a remarkable rise to global superstardom. Since the show’s opening, “On Your Feet! The Musical” has received rave critical reviews and nominations for Tony Awards, Outer Critics Circle Awards and Drama League Awards.
With over 100 million records sales worldwide, Estefan, along with her husband Emilio, are also successful entrepreneurs, owning and operating several businesses including a globally recognized music publishing company and a hospitality division with seven restaurants and two hotels (the Cardozo Hotel on South Beach and Costa d’Este Beach Resort in Vero Beach). The Estefans are also the first Cuban-American couple to own a minority share in a major NFL franchise, the Miami Dolphins.
LL COOL J (Hip Hop Artist)
LL COOL J is a versatile entertainer who has found great success crossing into multiple mediums. A two-time GRAMMY® Award winner, recording artist, talented actor, author, NAACP Image Award winner, entrepreneur and philanthropist, LL COOL J continues to display his wide range of talents in a variety of projects.
First introduced to the world in 1984 as a Def Jam Records flagship artist, LL COOL J is the first rap artist to amass 10 consecutive platinum-plus selling albums. The multi-platinum artist and two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee is currently tied for third place for most Billboard chart debuts by a rapper. In 2016 LL COOL J received a star on the legendary Hollywood Walk of Fame for his achievements in music.
As an actor, LL COOL J currently stars in the hit television series NCIS: LOS ANGELES, on the Network. His performance on the show garnered him six NAACP Image Award nominations for his role as Special Agent Sam Hanna.
Also, LL COOL J currently hosts and produces the show “Lip Sync Battle,” which will premiere its fourth season in 2018. The show has amassed over half a billion video streams since its launch. In 2016 and 2017, the show was nominated for an Emmy Award® in the category of Outstanding Structured Reality Program.
LL COOL J has always been an avid philanthropist involved in numerous causes, including literacy for kids, as well as music and arts programs in schools. Celebrating its 13th anniversary this year, LL’s charity “Jump & Ball,” which takes place every August in his hometown of Queens, N.Y., aims to give back to his local community by offering a five-week athletic and team building program dedicated to bringing wholesome fun to young people.
Norman Lear (Television Writer and Producer)
At age 95, Norman Lear has enjoyed a long career in television and film and as a political and social activist, as well as philanthropist. Lear’s latest show, a re-imagined Cuban-American version of the popular television series “One Day at a Time,” is now entering its second season, while his latest podcast, “All of the Above with Norman Lear,” is available on Podcast One.
Born in 1922 in New Haven, Conn., Lear flew 52 combat missions in World War II with the Fifteenth Air Force out of Foggia, Italy before beginning his television writing career. Lear’s hit shows of the 1970s and 1980s, including “All in the Family,” “Maude,” “Good Times,” “The Jeffersons,” “Sanford and Son” and “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” collectively reached as many as 120 million viewers per week and are said to have transformed the American cultural landscape, bringing the social and political issues of the day into American living rooms.
In 1999 President Clinton bestowed the National Medal of Arts on Mr. Lear, noting that “Norman Lear has held up a mirror to American society and changed the way we look at it.” In 1984 Lear was among the first seven television pioneers inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. This year, he was awarded a Peabody Lifetime Achievement Award.
People for the American Way, the nonprofit organization Lear founded in 1980, an influential voice against the radical religious right, is as relevant and effective today as ever. Lear is husband to Lyn Davis Lear, and he is a father of six and a grandfather of four.
Lionel Richie (Renowned Musician and Record Producer)
Music superstar Lionel Richie has a discography of albums and singles that are second to none. His music is part of the fabric of pop music. Richie is one of only two songwriters in history to achieve the honor of having #1 records for nine consecutive years. With over 100 million albums sold worldwide, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, four GRAMMY® Awards and the distinction of 2016 MusiCares Person of the Year, the Tuskegee, Ala. native is a true music legend.
Richie is known for his mega-hit songs, including “Endless Love,” “Lady,” “Truly,” “All Night Long,” “Penny Lover,” “Stuck On You,” “Hello,” “Say You, Say Me,” “Dancing on the Ceiling” and “We Are the World,” written with Michael Jackson for USA for Africa. Also, his song catalog includes his early work with The Commodores where he developed a groundbreaking style that defied genre categories, penning hit songs such as “Three Times A Lady,” “Still” and “Easy.”
Richie launched his Las Vegas headlining residency show, “Lionel Richie – All the Hits,” at The AXIS at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in April 2016. In an unforgettable evening featuring his brightest and best anthems which have defined the music star’s unparalleled career, Richie takes fans on a spectacular musical journey, performing a variety of his seminal hits.
With his most recent All the Hits, All Night Long Tour, Richie sold out arenas worldwide with a set list of his brightest and best anthems. In recent years, Richie also headlined Bonnaroo, Outside Lands and Glastonbury festivals, drawing their largest crowds ever with over 200,000 attendees.
Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment are executive producers of the special. White Cherry Entertainment is well known for producing the award-winning Tony Awards® for the last 16 consecutive years, as well as producing the Emmy Awards®, NFL Opening Kickoff and Super Bowl Halftime Shows, the Democratic National Convention, Presidential Inaugural Galas, and many others. To date, White Cherry Entertainment has won eight Emmy Awards, while Kirshner and Weiss have individually received an additional four Emmy Awards, seven Directors Guild Awards, a Peabody Award, and more than 30 Emmy nominations. This is the third consecutive year White Cherry will produce the Kennedy Center Honors. The Kennedy Center Honors Founding Producer is George Stevens, Jr.