It’s already a hard enough accomplishment to establish yourself as a renowned music artist in the industry—but to be recognized as both an artist and actor takes tremendous talent. In this article, we highlight the successful transitional careers of five female musicians turned actors. Though this piece only features a select few, some honorable mentions include Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Hudson, and the late Whitney Houston.
The ever-so-missed and beloved Aaliyah was an angel on and off-screen. Well—some might argue the one exception to that was her blood-sucking role in Queen of the Damned (2002), where she played an exotic vampire queen. Still, with just two movie credits obtained before her passing, Aaliyah gave us a glimpse that her acting talents were night and day like her singing. She made her millennial screen debut in the Jet Li led Romeo Must Die (2000), and was rumored to play the Jada Pinkett-Smith-filled role of Niobe in The Matrix Reloaded (2003) starring Keanu Reeves.
The island goddess that is Rihanna knows no boundaries. She could sing, rap, act, stunt on fashion runways, and in front of paparazzi, all while running her Fenty empire as an expecting mother. Not only has the world stopped to watch her “Work” on stage, but also in her Hollywood debut film Battleship (2012), along with supporting roles in Ocean’s Eight (2018) and co-starring in Guava Island (2019) alongside Donald Glover. The pretty-toed RiRi has even stepped into TV territory making an appearance in the series Bates Motel (2017). The only thing the world might have to wait longer for than seeing her grace us with her next acting role—is her ninth studio album.
Hip-hop’s first lady, Queen Latifah, is a global icon. Making her unforgettable breakout screen performance in the hip-hop cult classic film Set It Off (1999), Latifah has done just that since. From animation work in Disney’s Ice Age (2016) to sharing screen time with comedy legends like Steve Martin in Bringing Down the House (2003), the Queen has reigned all over Hollywood. She’s so well known for her acting that her rap legacy is sometimes overlooked—hidden among an impressive list of film and TV credits. She succeeded Ice Cube in the Barbershop franchise and spin-off Beauty Shop (2005) and played the lead in TV series such as Star (2016) and The Equalizer (2021). Queen Latifah takes no days off—even when she’s on a Girls Trip (2017) with Tiffany Haddish.
Mary. J. Blige
Mary. J. Blige, the queen of hip-hop soul, is a powerhouse. For her music, she’s won an impressive nine Grammy awards to date and has successfully transitioned her talents on-screen, planting her acting seeds in the early 1990s. She’s notched film appearances in I Can Do Bad All by Myself (2009) and Rock of Ages (2012), and shook Hollywood with her oscar-nominated performance in Mudbound (2017). Fun fact: She made Oscars history as the first double nominee for best song and best-supporting actress. Blige also played a supervillain in the Netflix adaptation of Dark Horse Comic’s The Umbrella Academy (2019), and like the star Blige is, landed a co-starring role in the 50 Cent executive produced Starz hit show, Power Book 2: Ghost (2019) (Jeez–that’s a lot of “stars”). Blige wouldn’t be Blige if she didn’t show up stunting in iconic fashion, just like she did at Superbowl LVI. After she shut it down, so did her body—leaving us with the meme of the night.
Since making her big-screen debut in the critically-acclaimed Moonlight (2016), alongside Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe has acted her ass off. Simultaneously picture-released that same year, was the Octavia Spencer, and Taraji P. Henson co-led film Hidden Figures (2016). The supermodel and multi-platinum recording artist could be next anticipated in the upcoming mystery and crime drama Knives Out 2 (2022) starring Daniel Craig. Other credits include the horror film Antebellum (2020), and Homecoming (2018), the Amazon Prime original series co-starring Stephan James.
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