As we gear up for the August 14 release of Sparkle, the new Jordin Sparks and Whitney Houston movie about the rise of a powerful girl’s group in the 1950s, we decided to look at some of the films other R&B and hip-hop singers have starred in. Some brought us to tears, others had us in stitches, but they’re all memorable in their own way.
Are you mad for Mahogany? Loony for Last Christmas? Share your favorite diva flicks in the comments!
Click through for Queerty’s roundup of musical divas in the movies.
Sparkle hits theaters on August 17.
Photo: TriStar Pictures
Rihanna in Battleship
Like Sparkle, Battleship was also an update—but of a board game, not a classic 1970s movie. RiRi went a little out of her comfort zone playing a weapons specialist on the USS John Paul Jones, but with hotties Alexander Skarsgård and Taylor Kitsch on board, they needed to cast someone with some serious star wattage to bring the girl power. Job well done, officer!
Queen Latifah in Chicago
Latifah was divine as matron Mama Morton in the film adaptation of the Broadway classic about killer dillers in the Windy City. The role was hardly as maternal as Houston’s is in Sparkle, but it was still “good” to her: Latifahe earned Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actress.
Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls
While they’re both about African-American girl groups, Dreamgirls, the Broadway musical, five years after the original Sparkle movie hit theaters in 1976. Nevertheless this film adaptation stars a pair of tremendously talented divas who both get to show off their vocal prowess. We’re thinking lightning might strike again.
Mariah Carey in Precious
Granted, this one isn’t nearly as glamorous or fun as the other flicks we’ve included but Mimi completely blew us away as a buttoned-down social worker who stands up to Mo’nique’s mother from hell. The fact that she looked so unlike her usual glamorous self is a testament to how serious she took the role. “Pitch perfect,” as Variety wrote at the time.
Diana Ross in The Wiz
We’re not gonna lie: We love The Wiz. It’s utter ridiculous in a totally funked-out 1970s way, but you can’t go wrong with Miss Ross as a modernized Dorothy, even if she was 33. Throw in performances by Lena Horne, Nispy Russell, Richard Pryor, Thelma Carpenter and Michael Jackson (!) and you’ve got a tornado of talent in one movie.
According to J. Randy Taraborelli, Berry Gordy was so burned by the failure of “The Wiz,” he forbade all mention of it on the Motown 25 special in 1983.
The one to praise, the one that proved Gordy was right to offer Ross to Hollywood, was her Oscar-nominated turn in “Lady Sings The Blues” in 1972. Liza won, but Ross was no less deserving.
Props also to Aretha Franklin for a musical, show-stopping turn in “The Blues Brothers,” 1980.
…And as for Beyonce, the role that asked much more of her -and she delivered(!)- was “Cadillac Records.”
@dvlaries: “The Wiz” just plain stunk.Over produced dance numbers and the urban settings were just not enjoyable except for the performances of Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross and Thelma Carpenter as “Miss One”. It’s not even campy just a bore. “Lady Sings The Blues” does deserve great praise. Diana was robbed of the Oscar.
no Tina Turner in Mad Max?
@QJ201: She’s considered more of a rock singer than an R&B one like the singers listed here, and even the theme song for Mad Max was a rock song.
I have always loved Mariah Carey’s voice and music. But I really respect her for an interview in 2008 where she said one of the best things about the gay community so great that it is years ahead of its time and where I hope the world can get to. The interviewer said someone about always giving the gay community resung dance remixes and she said she does not even want to stereotype a person by saying they listen to a particular genre. Not pandering, true equality. Sadly, it is overlooked and we as a community want people to pander. Oddly enough, a lot of my friends have said “Outside” a ballad saved their lives and brought them out of bad places.
But I love her for that
PS I am looking forward to Mariahs new single this summer I hope it’s great!
>Chaz said ”
“The Wiz” just plain stunk.Over produced dance numbers and the urban settings were just not enjoyable except for the performances of Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross and Thelma Carpenter as “Miss One”. It’s not even campy just a bore. “Lady Sings The Blues” does deserve great praise. Diana was robbed of the Oscar.<
Agreed. Taraborelli also notes in "Call Her Miss Ross," Diana was then was an enthusiastic est disciple and the film was loaded with all the ersatz self-help jargon of the previous 20 years.
Further, not only was Ross not the Dorothy of popular imagination, she wasn't even a recognizable Diana Ross. The public was not ready for the most glamorous, successful and self-confident black female entertainer of the 60s and 70s dressed in a severe wardrobe and close-cropped hairdo as a plain-jane scaredy cat. Further, Ross played the role with a firm seriousness, never supposing that a sense of humor might help.
You're right too that what relief was to be had came from the supporting players. With the sassy "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News," Mable King, as the wicked witch Evilene, lifts "The Wiz" for five minutes to the entertaining fun the whole movie should have been.
Not sure why you focused on “The Wiz” for Diana Ross – her Academy Award-nominated portrayal of Billie Holiday in “Lady Sings The Blues” should have been included in the post instead. I agree with Chas who also mentioned this performance.
Comments are closed.