With the notable absence of President Donald Trump, the Kennedy Center on Sunday celebrated singers Lionel Richie and Gloria Estefan, rapper LL Cool J, television producer Norman Lear and dancer Carmen de Lavallade with honors for the arts.
The awards, known as the Kennedy Center Honors, are considered the top recognition in the country for artists across a variety of fields, and the annual event’s importance is usually highlighted by a White House reception with the president and the first lady.
Not this year.
The White House said in August that Trump and his wife, Melania, would not attend the performance so that honorees could enjoy it ‘without any political distraction.’ The White House reception was also canceled after some of the honorees – namely producer Norman Lear – said they would boycott it.
Singer Lionel Richie (left) arrives at the 40th Annual Kennedy Center Honors. Right: Singers Lionel Richie (top right) and Gloria Estefan (bottom right), rapper turned actor LL Cool J (top left), producer Norman Lear (bottom center) and dancer Carmen de Lavallade (bottom right) are pictured at the US Department of State in Washington, D.C. on Saturday
‘I’ve never been more inspired,’ Hip Hop artist and actor LL Cool J, 49, who stars in the television show NCIS Los Angeles said
LL Cool J felt Trump’s attendance at the awards ceremony would have been a distraction
Kennedy Center officials didn’t hide their relief when Trump announced he wouldn’t attend.
Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter and Chairman David M. Rubenstein released a statement saying they were ‘grateful’ to the Trumps for avoiding a conflict that would overshadow the ceremony.
‘In choosing not to participate in this year’s honor’s activities, the administration has graciously signaled its respect for the Kennedy Center and ensures the honors gala remains a deservingly special moment for the honorees,’ the statement said.
Elegant! Dancer Carmen de Lavallade dazzles in a glamorous royal purple gown with a frilled tail. De Lavallade, 86, said: ‘I’m just most proud that I’ve reached this far’
Norman Lear is pictured as he arrives at the awards. Lear planned to boycott the White House reception that normally follows the Kennedy Center Honors but the administration cancelled the event this year
A subtle undercurrent of displeasure with Trump, a Republican who entered office in January, and his policies underlined a reception at the State Department on Saturday night ahead of the awards show.
‘Art transcends borders, cultures, politics,’ actress Julie Andrews said. ‘This event gives us an opportunity to step away from divisive discourse and appreciate excellence in art that has been created for everyone.’
All of the recipients expressed joy over receiving the awards.
Singer and songwriter Estefan, 60, who was born in Havana, Cuba, said she was thankful Trump chose not to attend
The honoree wore a navy gown that she complimented with a black clutch
‘I’ve never been more inspired,’ Hip Hop artist and actor LL Cool J, 49, who stars in the television show NCIS Los Angeles told Reuters.
‘It’s a reminder that art matters.’
LL Cool J said Trump’s presence would have been a distraction.
Pose for the cameras! Ballerina Stella Abrera is effortlessly dipped by her husband as they arrive at the awards show
Graceful! Ballerina Misty Copeland stuns in a mint dress with a deep cut perfectly, complimented by a sheer cover up
Motown founder and producer Quincy Jones was at the awards supporting his close friend Lionel Richie among the other honorees at the star studded event
Singer and songwriter Richie, known for hits such as Three Times a Lady, Say You, Say Me, and All Night Long, said he was proud.
‘Never thought in my life I’d lose my voice talking too much about how excited I am about being here,’ Richie said.
Singer and songwriter Estefan, 60, who was born in Havana, Cuba, said she was thankful Trump chose not to attend.
Classic ladies: Actresses Julie Andrews (left) and Rita Moreno (right) wore chic outfits that were quite different. Andrews – who voiced comments of displeasure aimed at Trump during a dinner held on Saturday before the show – wore a coal colored pant suit while Moreno opted for a shimmery wine gown
Art transcends borders, cultures, politics,’ actress Julie Andrews said. ‘This event gives us an opportunity to step away from divisive discourse and appreciate excellence in art that has been created for everyone’
Keepin’ it simple: Musician Questlove (right) dons a black suit jacket and black shirt with a red heart pin as he poses with a friend. Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter and Chairman David M. Rubenstein released a statement saying they were ‘grateful’ to the Trumps for avoiding a conflict that would overshadow the ceremony
LL Cool J and Rita Moreno share an embrace as they greet each other at the Kennedy Center Honors
WONDERful! Actress Lynda Carter dazzled in a shimmery navy blue dress that she styled well with a huge jeweled necklace
‘Whenever something becomes more about the controversy than the actual achievements of the people that are receiving the award, it kinda dampens it for everybody,’ she added.
De Lavallade, 86, an actress and dancer, said: ‘I’m just most proud that I’ve reached this far.’
Television producer and writer Lear, 95, who is famous for producing the hit comedy All in the Family as well as Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons, said it felt great to become a Kennedy Center honoree.
The White House said in August that President Trump and Melania would not be in attendance so that honorees could enjoy it ‘without any political distraction’
All in the family! Richie (center) had his family at the awards show. They were all proud of Lionel for getting the award
Fashionista! Nicole Richie looked amazing as she came to support her father Lionel at the DC awards
Unique! The fashion designer, 36, wore a light grey dress styled effortlessly with a floral print. She accessorized with diamond pieces and had her light brown tresses tightly pulled to the back
Stunning! Both singer Leona Lewis (left) and actress Eva Longoria (right) wowed in dark dresses at the center. Lewis wore a strapless navy gown with a deep cut along the leg. Longoria showed off her curvy frame in a sophisticated black dress that featured a plunging neckline
So chic! Singer and actress Becky G donned a sleek bob and a shimmering silver dress that dazzled as she made her way past the cameras
Black and White affair: Both philanthropist Adrienne Arsht and model Karolina Kurkova gave fresh takes on black-and-white attire. Arsht went for a floral pattern while Kurkova went for a striped Cristina Ottaviano dress with black pants underneath
Legendary singer Chaka Khan flaunts her busty figure in a tight skin toned and black patterned frock
Journalist David Gregory and wife Beth attend the event. Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton all missed ceremonies during their terms in office, but in all previous cases the first lady attended
Slightly political: Senator Rand Paul and his wife Kelley Paul arrive for the Kennedy Center Honors
‘It probably feels the same as it might have felt at 80. Everything else does,’ he quipped.
Lear said he was not upset that Trump chose not to attend.
He added: ‘It wasn’t a hand I needed to shake.’
In the past, most US presidents have attended the Kennedy Center ceremony, but it’s not unprecedented for a sitting president to skip it. Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton all missed ceremonies during their terms in office, but in all previous cases the first lady attended.
The show will be broadcast on CBS on December 26.
2013 Kennedy Center Honors recipient Herbie Hancock waves at camera, wearing a black suit jacket with matching shirt and tie
Singer Jon Baptiste sported a burgundy and black patterned blazer as he made his way to the ceremony on Sunday. The show will be broadcast on CBS on December 26