Diana Ross and Nine Other Musician-Turned-Actor Success Stories

Touch her in the mo-oor-ning.
Touch her in the mo-oor-ning.
Courtesy of Hard Rock Live

Before there was Beyoncé and Destiny's Child, there was Diana Ross and the Supremes. One of the original '60s girl groups and by far the most successful, they gave us every great song with the word "love" in its title: "Baby Love," "Stop! In the Name of Love," and "Where Did Our Love Go?"

In 1970, Ross left the trio to pursue a solo career, becoming one of the best-selling R&B/soul singers of her era and a 12-time Grammy nominee (finally winning a lifetime achievement award in 2012). She also tackled Hollywood, scoring her most memorable role in 1972 as Billie Holiday in the biopic Lady Sings the Blues. She went on to earn a nomination for Best Actress, and the double-album soundtrack of Ross' Holiday interpretations went gold in 1973.

But Ross is hardly the only musician to dip her toes into the acting pool. Despite Britney Spears in Crossroads, Mariah Carey in Glitter, and God help us, Christina Aguilera and Cher in Burlesque, we've enjoyed a handful of standout performances over the years from other musicians turned actors.

Eminem in 8 Mile
This one is kind of a cheat. Marshall Mathers essentially plays himself in the 2002 film about a struggling white rap battler. Not a huge stretch. Still, credit where it's due, this film could've been a hot mess or a throwaway, oversaturated version of a story we'd already heard via his albums. Instead, 8 Mile was an emotionally captivating drama showcasing Em's range beyond merely screaming all the time (you know, the way he raps these days).

Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight
Like Madonna, Lopez has made some stinkers (Gigli, Maid in Manhattan... let's just stop there), but she's also had her moments. It's not often a romantic crime caper comedy like Out of Sight surprises us as both a thoroughly funny movie, with dialogue rivaling a Quentin Tarantino script, and a critical darling; the back and forth between Clooney and Lopez achieves that with an undeniable chemistry she never achieved with Ben Affleck.

LL Cool J in Deep Blue Sea
The current star of NCIS Los Angeles, the replacement show in nursing homes once JAG went off the air, and former henchman for his mama, LL Cool J has built a middling career as an actor. Perhaps his greatest feat was being the one black guy who finally survives a horror movie in this oceanic bloodbath. True, Deep Blue Sea isn’t Hitchcock or Kubrick, but holy hell, that scene with Samuel L. Jackson speechifying and then…not, is well worth the terrible CGI and having to stare at Thomas Jane in a wet suit for two hours. 

Ice Cube in Boyz n the Hood
As one of the founding members of the groundbreaking hip-hop outfit N.W.A. and a star all his own as a solo rapper, Ice Cube never needed to commit his face to celluloid, but thankfully he did. In his film debut, Boyz n the Hood, Ice Cube helped bring the hood into the homes of middle-class, white Americans with a ferocity and a sincerity that couldn't be ignored.

Justin Timberlake/Harry Connick Jr./Tom Waits
You need a tough guy who sounds like he smokes cigars with a flamethrower? Call Tom Waits. Need a supersmooth serial killer/fighter pilot? Harry's your man. The studio wants a jack-of-all-trades who can sing, dance, and tell a joke? JT is money in the bank.


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