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Billy Crystal, Queen Latifah among Kennedy Center honourees

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Beloved comedian Billy Crystal and pioneering rapper Queen Latifah are among the 46th crop of Kennedy Center honourees, one of the United States’ most prestigious arts awards, the centre announced on Thursday.

Crystal and Queen Latifah will be honoured on December 3 along with acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming, sole surviving Bee Gee Barry Gibb and singer Dionne Warwick at the annual gala held in Washington, according to a statement.

The event at the Kennedy Center – Washington’s performing arts complex that serves as a living monument to slain president John F Kennedy – brings a dose of glitz to the capital, where such red carpet events are rare.

The gala regularly sees the cream of the cultural crop mix with Washington’s top political echelons, including sitting presidents, with US President Joe Biden attending the past two years.

The 46th iteration will be hosted for a third time by 2017 Kennedy Center Honouree Gloria Estefan to steer a slate of star-studded tributes.

In this file photo, Billy Crystal accepts the lifetime achievement award at the 27th annual Critics Choice Awards on March 13, 2022, at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. PHOTO: AP

The new class of honourees expressed their gratitude for the recognition in a statement, with Queen Latifah, an actress and singer as well as a rapper, saying she was “humbled to be included in this incredible list of artists.”

“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,” said the hit UNITY rapper.

“To now be recognised amongst so many multi-hyphenates feels unbelievable, not for just me and my team, but for our community.”

Crystal, known for an extensive comedic career marked by hits such as When Harry Met Sally, echoed the sentiment.

“I am overwhelmed to be part of this fantastic group of artists,” he said.

“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.”