This year's Kennedy Center honorees will include two singers, a television writer, a dancer - and for the first time, a hip-hop artist.
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday announced the recipients of the 2017 Kennedy Center Honors. They are: hip-hop artist LL Cool J, singers Gloria Estefan and Lionel Richie, television writer and producer Norman Lear and dancer Carmen de Lavallade. It's the 40th year of the awards, which honor people who have influenced American culture through the arts.
The honorees will be celebrated at a gala on Dec. 3, featuring performances and tributes from top entertainers and attended by President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump. The show will be broadcast on Dec. 26 on CBS.
Estefan was in a car on the way to the airport when she learned she'd be honored by the Kennedy Center. Her husband got the news first, she said, and before announcing it told her to prepare herself. "Buckle your seatbelt," he said, even though she was already strapped in.
The Cuban-American artist has won three Grammy awards and four Latin Grammy awards and sold more than 100 million records worldwide. These days there's little the 59-year-old hasn't done. She's acted, written two children's books, and she and husband Emilio Estefan own businesses including restaurants and hotels as well as a minority share in the Miami Dolphins. The couple was honored by President Barack Obama with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.
"I'd be greedy if I wanted anything else in life," she said in a telephone interview.
Estefan shot to fame as the lead singer of the Miami Sound Machine, a group formed by the man who would become her husband. Her hits include: "Conga," ''Rhythm Is Gonna Get You," ''Get on Your Feet" and "1-2-3." A musical based on the couple's lives and music opened on Broadway in 2015 and closes later this month. Estefan called the show's closing "bittersweet." But a national tour of the show begins in the fall, what Estefan called a "new beginning." The show will also make its international premiere in the Netherlands in October.
What hasn't she done that she'd like to? "Take an extended vacation," Estefan joked in an interview before adding that she'd like to write a book about how she got through a 1990 tour bus crash in which her back was broken. And, she said, she'd like perform in a "free Cuba," one not led by Fidel or Raul Castro.
Estefan, who once hosted a fundraiser for Obama but says she and her husband are not affiliated with a political party, said her personal politics will be on hold in accepting the honor with Trump in the audience. But she said the image of a Cuban immigrant being honored is important when Latino immigrants in particular have "taken a beating in the recent past."
"I'm happy to be a very clear example of the good things that immigrants have done in this country," she said.