7 Singers Turned Actors: Who Was a Natural On-Screen and Who Was a Hot Mess?

May 22, 2012  |  
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Rihanna has 11 #1 singles on the Hot 100, and now the Bajan superstar can officially add actress to her resume. Riri just made her silver screen debut in the sci-fi thriller, Battleship, and while folks were hoping the #RihannaNavy would make this movie #1 at the box office, it was pretty much an expensive flop. But she’s not the first singer to step outside her comfort zone to act and not have the best results. And at the same time, there have been many singer-turned-actors who’ve had major success on-screen. They’ve solidified the obvious: in this economy, two jobs are better than one.  Let’s take a look at some other musicians who decided two lanes were better than staying in one.

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Beyoncé

Blue Ivy’s momma has starred in The Fighting Temptations, Obsessed, Dreamgirls and Cadillac Records in her chase for the Oscar. She’s spoken about wanting that gold statue to join her 16 Grammy’s on her mantle for years now. Depending on who you ask, Bey can be a great actress or a horrible one. But I’ll guess we will find out  for sure soon because Bey’s next starring role is in the Clint Eastwood directed remake of A Star Is Born. We don’t have to tell her to keep hope alive that she’ll one day get to thank the Academy because the one woman army known as Beyoncé isn’t going to stop trying.

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Jennifer Hudson

J Hud went from being voted off “American Idol” to stealing the spotlight in Dreamgirls as Effie White. She’s got an Oscar to prove that homegirl’s got skills. Since winning over the Academy, Hudson has done a few roles here in there (that Nelson Mandela biopic with her as Winnie is still in the works I do believe), but she’s actually turned her focus back to doing more music, and of course, writing about and promoting her big weight loss.

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Justin Timberlake

Pop’s former prince has seemingly gone into retirement from music, leaving “JT” behind and letting “Justin” get his shine as he has starred in one movie after another. There’s been The Social Network, Friends With Benefits, In Time and numerous “Saturday Night Live” hosting gigs and cameos that have left us pining for him to bring swexy back one more time in the studio. We want another album–not movie.

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Prince

His Royal Highness gave us Purple Rain. It’s more than just an over-the-top cult classic with a flawless soundtrack–it’s a way of life. The next time you’ve got something to atone for, be extra and purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. Yeah, Purple Rain, even with its horrible acting, was THAT deal. Under the Cherry Moon though? C’mon Prince…

Mariah Carey

MC’s first foray into theaters was the much maligned Glitter. If you can appreciate camp, Mimi’s debut is put into perspective and isn’t that bad. But the 5 octave voiced diva redeemed herself with critically acclaimed roles in Precious and Tennessee. The Queen of the lambs was not staying in the critic’s slaughterhouse without putting up a fight.

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Whitney Houston

The fallen icon brought her pristine vocals and swag to The Bodyguard by playing a singer. It was art imitating life, what with the singing role being one most vocalists take on, but Whitney proved she was more than just a one-trick pony. Nippy showed us she could be both funny and dramatic in Waiting To Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife. And judging from the previews, Sparkle looks to let the star shine bright one last time.

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Aaliyah

Babygirl immortalized herself in Romeo Must Die, which also featured DMX. She brought her sweetness and sass to the character of Trish O’Day. Before she died, Aaliyah was set to star in Sparkle, but we were able to see her shine and her versatility as an actress in her last role, which was Queen of the Damned.

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Diana Ross

As one of the original divas, she created the blueprint that today’s stars follow. The critics were ready to rip her for portraying Billie Holliday in Lady Sings the Blues, but Miss Ross had the last laugh when she won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar for her work. And who doesn’t love her and her stellar fashion sense in Mahogany?

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Janet Jackson

J.J. got a head start flexing her acting chops on “Good Times” as Penny Woods. A sneak peek at the acting playbook served her well since she helped carry “Poetic Justice,” held her own against Eddie Murphy in the Nutty Professor sequel, and led an all-star cast in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? and For Colored Girls. Despite what you think of her acting chops, Miss Jackson has always been ready for her close up.

 

Stephanie Guerilus is a journalist and author. She can be reached at @qsteph.

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