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.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.



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.


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?


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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  • Mcmoma26

    WHAT ABOUT WILL SMITH??????  I know he’s a rapper but he made the transition from rapper to actor seem effortlessly!  Everyone, except Diana Ross, needs a little time, maybe years,  to hone their craft.  This acting, singing, dancing thang is nothing new…i.e Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr. I do believe it was called a triple threat back in the day. Back in the day, If a actor/singer/dancer couldn’t do all three,  VERY WELL, they couldn’t get a job. That was then this is now!
    Not all of the people mentioned will become a Great or even Semi-Great actor but who cares…their are so many “Great Actors”  who suck, i.e. Tom Cruise…worst actor ever! 
    S/N: Kimberly Elise would have “KILLED” the female role in Obsessed…sorry Beyonce fans! 

  • ms.lisa

    yall 4got bow bow! over half the ppl mentioned on here cant act worth a damn!

  • Chessica450

    How to start a senseless argument online and online thumb thugging:  Express an opinion and wait smh

    • Lorisangel


  • Lola

    Where is Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Common????????????

  • 2manykidz

    Everyone on this list should stick to their day job with the exception of Diana Ross; who actually did not do bad!!!!!

  • Nicki


  • Jackieo Perkins

    DIANA ROSS AND JENFFIER HUDSON…it goes with out saying they mastered the art of acting JANET is getting better because she knows what it takes…the rest soso but…BEYONC’E is the worst and i dont think it well get any better every movie she been in she SUCKS…MARIAH CAREY is bad to but she dont need to act she can SING HER AZZ OFF…

  • Ona2684

    Beyonce is a terrible actress and its a shame that she gets roles at all. Its painful to watch her unless she’s on a stage. Janet’s not bad but I must admit I didnt see her in her last 2 roles so I cant really give an opinion on her. Whitney could act and I honestly think JT isnt too bad. He was great in Alpha Dog which wasnt mentioned and he’s pretty funny whenever he’s on SNL. I havent seen any of his other movies. Jennifer Hudson isnt that great either, I wasnt impressed with her in Sex in the City and I’m pretty sure she played a nun in that God aweful 3 stouges movie. I have no interest in seeing Ri Ri on film.

  • Stephanie

    “GOOD”: Diana Ross, Tyrese (he’s good in his movies, Baby Boy alone gets him on the “good” list), Queen Latifah (she IS a singer), Whitney ( I liked her in all of her movies), Cher, Barbra Streisand

    “DECENT”: Aaliyah (RIP, but she was not a “good” actress), Ne-Yo, he was ok in Red Tails & I saw him in an episode of CSI, he was good in that, A. Keys (I liked her in Smokin’ Aces, LOVED her in Secret Life of Bees; a few more “good” movie roles & honing of her craft, she might be able to go on the “good” list), Jennifer Hudson (her acting is just ok to me), Justin Timberlake (he’s shown some improvement, which is a sign of a decent/good actor)

    “DECENT, BUT ON THE VERGE OF BECOMING A DISASTER”: Beyonce (she’s not horrible, but she’s most def isn’t good enough to be “starring” in movies), Usher (I don’t believe him when he “acts”), it hurts me to put her on this list, but Janet’s “acting” is a hit or miss for me (although I LOVED her as Penny in Good Times, she was really good back then), Madonna (no explanation needed), Mariah (she was good in Precious, but she needs a few more “good” roles, then I’ll move her up to the “decent only” list), Jennifer Lopez (see Madonna)

    But the “rappers” got the acting game on lock & damn good at it: MOS DEF, Will Smith, Ludacris (I like him as an actor), Method Man (love him when he appears on CSI), ICE CUBE!!!

    • Stephanie

      Ooops, I forgot to put LL on the “rappers” list…he’s a good actor & EVE was great in the Barber Shop movies!!! 🙂

    • Squeezablechic

      I agree…the best actresses/singers are Cher, Bette Midler, and Barbara Streisand…anyone who has seen “Moonstrck,”…”Beaches,” and “Nuts” will agree. Jill Scott and Tyrese are good. JHud has potential, though she was great in Dreamgirls. I forgot Queen Latifah. Now, Janet, Mariah, and Beyonce?…puleez! Those three cannot act…not by “acting” standards. Madonna should be on the list too…terrible!

  • Chelle

    I like justin but …no(i need his music), Beyonce is a horrible actress and the ONLY movie I give her SOME credit is cadillac Records, J-hud is alright, Whitney Houston also just alright, Prince…STOP IT(not acting when you’re playing yourself), Diana Ross yeah she had her time, & Janet Jackson can’t act for ISH!!!!  THE ONLY REASON she was goood at Penny is because she was already getting beat at home.  Never saw battleship so I can’t speak for Rihanna, but since I like her and she can barily sing I don’t want to watch her embarrass herself on a big screen.  So I won’t see it(hell I didn’t even like the game lol)

  • Common is another great actor!

  • KeptWoman

    Macy Gray! Did she star in any other movies besides For Colored Girls?

    • christmas808

      Training Day…. where you been?

      • KeptWoman

        Oh yeahhhh, she was in Training Day. When Denzel busted in the house with the Chinese Food menu. Thanks for the reminder.

        Speaking of “rappers” again, David Banner, DMX, and Nas have done okay on film also.

        How did you like ANDRE 3000 in Idle Wild?

        *apologize for jumping from singers to rappers*

        • KeptWoman


          I apologize for changing the main topic by jumping from singers to rappers 😉

  • KeptWoman

    I stand corrected. This topic is focusing on SINGERS 😉

    One more person who did okay as a dancer, singer, and actress: JENNIFER LOPEZ. I liked Maid in Manhattan and Enough.

    And VANESSA WILLIAMS!! After her Miss America or Miss USA crown was taken, she started a singing career that lead to acting.

    • Stephanie

      Thumbs up to V. Williams, I forgot to put her on the list.

    • sweettea

      Jlo was really great in selena.

  • Trisha_B

    Don’t feel like clicking on all those, but Beyonce doesn’t need to be on anyone’s TV ever again. Girl can’t act…T.I is a great actor. I can’t wait to see him in more films.

  • Noneofurbiz

    beyonce sucks acting wise the worst being obsessed woooooo girl shldn’t have even been givin tht role as for tht oscar dream, keep dreaming, justin timberlake don’t care for him really he is just there u don’t really pay attn to him, janet is just as bland acting wise as her music… mariah she is ok bt she takes the cup musically, jill scott and mos def are really gd loved jill in #1 ladies detective she didn’t knw the language bt she did exceptionally well coming from a true south african


    mos def?  r u serious?  big fail.

    • mememe

      I saw Most Def on Broadway in a two-man show with Jeffrey Right “Top Dog/Under Dog.” From then, I have had NOTHING but respect for him as an actor. STOP IT. Next your going to say Beyonce is the creates actress of all time. LOL.

    • Ericka

      Mos Def is extremely talented… interesting that you chose to question his talent and said NOTHING about RuPaul, I mean Beyonce. “Interesting” perception.


    diana ross was lousy in lady sing the blues and mahogany.   beyonce was lousy in cadillac records.  even though alicia keys wasn’t mention she was bloody awful in smokin aces.  i could definatley see Aaliyah being sparkel…gone too soon.

    • sexcgenius

      And you are the authority on what’s good acting because?

  • Nitty

    Rihanna’s movie didn’t flop
    she did above what was expected..25million.
    Stop the hate.
    Bey stop acting
    janet stop acting and singing

    • MNEditor2
      • Chessica450

        He/she is entitled to their own opinion, even if you might disagree and despite what you might think…no respect for other ppl’s opinion smh that’s an insult to someone’s intelligence claiming they are in denial just cuz they think a certain way…please buy a cup of class

    • guest

      People will flock to the movies to see CRAP! It happens all the time. RiRi can’t act. Janet’s not bad. Bey PLEASE FOR THE SANITY OF US ALL stop singing AND acting! JUST SIT DOWN GIRL!

  • Baddvixentype

    beyonce, no. rihanna, no. janet, ehh (poetic justice was her best film IMO), aailyah, too soon to tell. whitney, yes, jhud, yes, mos def, def! jill, yes! mariah, ok.

  • Jgay79

    Not hating, but Beyonce is a better Singer and dancer than actress. She’s garbage!! She doesn’t make me believe her in any role she’s in. She needs to take a seat and be a mom!! Justin Timberlake GET BACK IN THE STUDIO!!! 🙂

  • Jlissa15

    All of them are good actors to me….they just improving in every film they be in

  • JusSayin

    Beyonce can not act! Absolutely not. She doesn’t take the role seriously. She is always performing… not acting. Mos Def? Awesome actor. He is just awesome… so is Jill Scott. Whitney Houston? She had many talents and being an actor was one of them… I am just thinking about how to acted in Waiting 2 Exhale? She didn’t play the diva role.. she was humble.

  • AnybodyIWannaBe

    Beyonce and Justin Timberlake need to never be in a movie again! They are both embarrassingly atrocious on screen. They epitomize that the name means more than anything else. For shame.

  • skygrey

    rihanna cannot act

  • Nekoj47

    None of these except JH IMO can act at all.  The others are phony and to proper or talk to ghetto in their roles, neither of which is attractive or I call acting.

  • KeptWoman

    A part 2 may be necessary for this topic. In my opinion, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Method Man, Ludacris, and Tyrese should have been added to the list. All of them have done very well in acting.

    • Stacy L


    • MNEditor2

      That’s a good idea, but this one was just for singers (though we forgot about Tyrese!). There have been many great musicians who’ve done acting though and could be mentioned, so we’ll keep a part II in mind with rappers. Thanks! 

    • Chessica450

      this list was based on “singers” they need to make a Rappers Edition …the ones you list are rappers, not singers i.e Ludacris, Ll Cool J, Queen La, Method man

  • YoungCosby

    The best actor/music artists are Jill Scott & Mos Def.

    • Ericka


  • Truth

    Except for Janet, Whitney & J Hud, the other spoil brats needs to sit down somewhere and know that they cant have everything…pfff

    Btw, it hurts my heart that these mediocre actors get roles while real black actors/actress cannot get roles in follywood!!

    • Guest

      PREACH!!!!!  it’s like talentless singers getting record deals and really talented people are singing in train stations trying to sell their CDs… sad

    • Ericka

      Agreed! Especially Beyonce- so tired of having her shoved down my throat. She also needs a speech therapist and a dictionary, ugghh!