The first Kennedy Center honorees under the Trump administration have been announced, The New York Times reports.
The star-studded award ceremony held at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center Opera House is an annual event that recognizes those in the performing arts for their contributions to American culture.
Each year, the president and first lady host a reception in December for the recipients at the White House prior to the ceremony.
This long honored tradition began in 1978, and will not be put to a halt under Trump's administration.
This year's honorees include dancer and actress Carmen de Lavallade, 95-year-old television writer and producer Norman Lear, singer/songwriter Lionel Richie, Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan and rapper/actor LL Cool J.
Making the good news even better is the fact that LL Cool J will be the first hip-hop artist to be recognized at the honors!
So, as anyone might guess, he was thrilled about the award.
"Yo, this is amazing," LL Cool J said. "To be able to go from the corner in Queens beatin' on a garbage can to getting a Kennedy Center Honor with this type of company and to be first is just an amazing feeling. You know, it just adds another level of legitimacy to hip-hop culture."
Because of Donald Trump's negative comments towards immigrants and minority groups, one might suspect that there could be some awkwardness at the ceremony considering that most of the honorees fall into at least one of those categories. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that a few of this year's honorees have made it known that they aren't the biggest fans of President Trump.
But LL Cool J says he's just going to focus on the positive and enjoy himself at the event.
“I don’t have any stunts planned. I’m not saying I need to be there backslapping and all of that, but this time, this one ain’t about him,” LL said, referring to Donald Trump. “I’m not going to block my blessings or let the political divide stop me from embracing my art. I’m banking on the goodness and the optimism of people to say: ‘You know what? I get it. Let this guy have this honor.’”
However, honorees Gloria Estefan and Norman Lear, don't quite feel the same.
Estefan gave The Times a sample of the remarks she plans to make at the event: “Mr. President, as a proud immigrant of this country, it’s very important for me that you see the wonderful contributions we have made. We have seen a lot of anti-immigrant backlash this year, so for us, it may hold even more beauty than for someone who has lived here all their lives. To get this kind of award is so American.”
Lear, legendary producer of The Jeffersons, Good Times and all your other favorite shows of that era, says he will not be attending the reception at the White House at all.
“This is a presidency that has chosen to neglect totally the arts and humanities — deliberately defund them — and that doesn’t rest pleasantly with me," he said.
Music icon, Lionel Ritchie, however, seems to be neutral concerning attending the reception with Trump.
“In the world of entertainment, I’ve got to tell you, Mr. Trump has been front and center,” he said. “That’s just what he does. You can’t miss him! Listen, when you say, do you want to sit next to the president or not — are you kidding me? He’s the president!”
The black-tie event, which was created by George Stevens, Jr., has featured countless big-names in the entertainment industry, including Cicely Tyson, Al Green, Herbie Hancock and Buddy Guy.
Chairman of the Kennedy Center, David M. Rubenstein, said about this about this year's five honorees:
"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.”
Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter added, "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.'"
Congratulations to the honorees!
The ceremony will air on CBS on Tuesday, December 26 at 9/8c.