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

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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.

David Bowie in Labyrinth
Discussing anything Bowie in the aftermath of his death is a tricky prospect. One must not give in to revisionist reviewing or oversentimentality (even as the tears well up). Labyrinth is a good — not great — film; however, we love it for Jim Henson's
puppets and boundless imagination and for Bowie's memorable Mad Hatter turn as Jareth the Goblin King. To those ends, the film is an inspiration to con geeks and budding filmmakers alike.

Madonna in A League of their Own
For years, Madonna tried her hand at being a thespian, but no amount of nudity (Body of Evidence) or directorial favoritism (Swept Away) could hide that she was almost entirely bereft of acting ability. With one sole exception: A League of Their Own. The Material Girl plays "All the Way" Mae. Perhaps not an entirely foreign role for the pop singer, she and the rest of the cast were absolutely charming as replacement ballplayers for the men fighting overseas in World War II. A bonus was her melodramatic single for the movie, “This Used to Be My Playground,” which appeared in the end credits, but curiously not on the official soundtrack. 

Meat Loaf in Fight Club
The first time we, and the Fight Club narrator, meet Robert Paulsen, former champion bodybuilder, he’s lost everything to testicular cancer, but has become saddled with enormous “bitch tits.” It’s in these mammoth man-pillows that Edward Norton’s character finds his happy place and says, “Babies don't sleep this well.” Paulson, played by theatrical rock 'n' roller Meat Loaf, becomes the symbol of Tyler Durden’s desire to destroy everything, including the innocent and the pure. Meat Loaf has appeared in dozens of film and TV projects, including Rocky Horror Picture Show, but Fight Club is by far his most famous role.

Sean Combs in Monster's Ball
Although he isn't in the film for very long, the execution of Sean Combs' death row character at the start of Monster's Ball is the catalyst for all of the seriously depressing things that subsequently unfold. In terms of replay value, it’s a one-and-done affair starring Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, and the gone-too-soon Heath Ledger. As the condemned Lawrence Musgrove, Combs’ brief appearance is heart-wrenching and brings an almost too difficult to watch human quality to the proceedings that resonates loudly with the fate of Ledger and Thornton as father and son, respectively. It’s not a star turn, per se, but strangely enough, we find Diddy at his best when he’s stripped of all the cars, girls, and glamour

Diana Ross

8 p.m. Tuesday, February 9, at Hard Rock Live, 5747 Seminole Way, Hollywood. Tickets cost $71 to $91. Visit ticketmaster.com.

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