25 Musicians Turned Actors

25 Musicians Turned Actors
ESSENCE.COM Jan, 23, 2012

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As natural on the screen as she is on the stage, Beyonce dazzled when she portrayed late blues legend Etta James in 2008’s “Cadillac Records.”


“Playing Etta James taught me so much about myself, and singing her music inspired me to be a stronger artist,” Beyonce said in a statement following James’ death.


She’s also starred in “Obsessed” (2009), “Dreamgirls” (2006) and “The Fighting Temptations” (2003).

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This year, singer Whitney Houston makes her silver screen return starring in the “Sparkle” remake co-starring Jordin Sparks and Tika Sumpter. Though she’s only starred in five movies, Houston has been behind blockbusters like “The Bodyguard” (1992) and “Waiting to Exhale” (1995).

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The R&B singer/songwriter (second from left) currently stars in the WWII action flick “Red Tails”, a biopic about the Tuskegee Airmen. This isn’t the first time Ne-Yo has graced the screen. His movie credits include “Good Deeds” (out February 24), “Stomp the Yard” (2007) and “Save the Last Dance” (2006).

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It’s hard to believe that Jennifer Husdon’s performance as Effie White in “Dreamgirls” (2006) was her acting debut. The role earned Hudson a Best Actress Oscar and the respect of Hollywood. Next, she starred in “Sex and the City” (2008), “The Secret Life of Bees” (2009) and next up she will play Winnie Mandela in the biopic “Winnie” (slated for a 2012 release).

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By far one of the most successful musician-turned-actor, Will Smith broke into acting in the 90s shortly after winning his first Grammy as The Fresh Prince. Over 20 movies later, he is considered one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, according to Forbes Magazine.

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Alicia Keys made her on-screen debut as a child on “The Cosby Show” in 1985. She has since starred in three movies, including “Smokin’ Aces” (2006) and 2008’s “Secret Life of Bees” (pictured).

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In her biggest role yet, the Queen of Hip Hop Soul Mary J. Blige stars as singing bartender Justice Charlier in the musical “Rock of Ages” (out June 12) with Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin. Next up for Blige she will play another legendary singer, Nina Simone, in the biopic “Nina” (slated for a 2012 release).

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Rapper-turned-actor and author, Common doesn’t believe in staying in any lane. The Grammy winner has over 10 movies under his belt, including “American Gangster” (2007) and “Smokin’ Aces” (2006). He won an Oscar for his musical contribution to the film Selma in which he also starred.

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Starring roles in blockbusters like “Fast Five” (2011) and “Transformers” have certified Tyrese as a power player in Hollywood action films. In 2011, he also released his fifth album, “Open Invitation.”

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“American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks makes her big-screen debut this year in the remake of the 70s musical “Sparkle,” co-starring Whitney Houston.

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The legendary rapper hung up his mic in the late 00s to pursue a career in acting. He currently stars in CBS’s “NCIS: Los Angeles.”

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Mariah Carey made her movie debut in 1999’s “The Bachelor,” but it was her role as a social worker in “Precious” (2009) that earned her respect in Hollywood. The singer, who stripped herself of all glamour to play Ms. Weiss, says the role changed her life.

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Not long after making her musical debut in 1988, Queen Latifah showed off her acting chops in Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever” (1991). She has since starred in classics like “Set if Off” (1996) and “Chicago” (2002). She currently shares the screen with Dolly Parton and KeKe Palmer in “Joyful Noise” (out now).

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The rapper has actively cultivated his acting along with his music career, starring in popular movies like “ATL” (2006) and “Takers” (2010).

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Singer Jill Scott has as much presence on screen as she does being a mic. Most recently she starred in Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married Too” (2010), right, and got rave reviews for her turn as Precious Ramotswe in the HBO series “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” (2009).

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This veteran rapper can currently be seen playing detective Odafin ‘Fin’ Tutuola on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” after starring in classics like “New Jack City” and “Ricochet” (both in 1991).

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Rihanna makes her acting debut playing a sailor in the movie “Battleship” (out May 18).

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Ludacris made a name for himself outside of hip hop in movies like “Crash” (2003) and “Hustle and Flow” (2006). Most recently he starred in Furious 7, the latest installment of the Fast and Furious franchise.

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A talented emcee and actor Mos Def has cultivated a career in film that includes starring roles in “Monster’s Ball” (2001) and 2008’s “Cadillac Records” (where he played Chuck Berry). Most recently he had a recurring role on the Showtime thriller, “Dexter.”

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Her performance as Billie Holiday in 1972’s “Lady Sings the Blues” catapulted Diana Ross’ star power, earning her a Best Actress Academy Award nomination and one of her best-selling albums. Throughout her career, Ross starred in nine films, including “Mahogany” (1975) and 1980’s “The Wiz” with Michael Jackson.

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You can always count on rapper 50 Cent to go the extra mile. For the movie “All Things Fall Apart” (2011), 50 dropped 80 pounds to play a cancer-ridden football player. He also starred and produced his own biopic, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” in 2005.

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Jackson started her career playing Penny on “Good Times” in 1977. Since then, she has starred in classics like “Poetic Justice” (1993) and “The Nutty Professor” (1996). Most recently she played icy magazine editor Patricia in Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls” (2010).

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A Hollywood power player, rapper Ice Cube (far right) has not only starred in but also produced movies like “Friday” (1995) and ’Lottery Ticket" (2010).

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The former child rapper has recently dedicated all his energy to acting, starring in movies like “Roll Bounce” (2005) and “Madea’s Big Happy Family” (2011). These days, you can find Bow Wow on CSI: Cyber

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Rapper Andre 3000 has chosen films as eclectic as his music, from the action-packed “Four Brothers” (2005) to the musical film, “Idlewild” (2006) and the lead role as Jimi Hendrix in the biopic Jimi: All Is By My Side.

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