Entertainment Powerhouses

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The best and brightest in film, music, television and sports, these individuals are behind some of the year's most memorable pop culture moments.

Ariana DeBose
Ariana DeBose. Image: Emily Assiran.
Ariana DeBose
Academy Award-Winning Actress, Singer and Dancer

DeBose made history this year, becoming the first, openly queer woman of color to win an Oscar. As Anita in Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, DeBose’s Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress came after a heap of accolades, including a Golden Globe, BAFTA, Critics’ Choice and Screen Actors Guild Awards. The triple threat was also nominated for a Tony Award for her performance as Disco Donna in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical—and she even hosted the ceremony. Earlier this year, Time Magazine named her one of its 100 Most Influential People in The World.

Danielle Deadwyler
Danielle Deadwyler. Image: Phyllis Iller.
Danielle Deadwyler
Actress and Artist

As an actress, writer and performance artist whose work explores the impact of Black women’s emotional and sexual labor, Deadwyler makes a statement. Bringing a nuanced sensibility to all her roles, the Atlanta-born Spelman College alumnus has distinguished herself in Watchmen, starred as Quita Maxwell in Tyler Perry’s The Haves & The Have Nots and won critical acclaim as Cuffee in the Netflix western The Harder They Fall. Now she’s making her biggest statement yet as civil rights educator, activist and courageous mother Mamie Till-Mobley in Till.

H.E.R. Photo By Tim Saccenti.
H.E.R. Photo By Tim Saccenti.
H.E.R.
Grammy and Academy Award-Winning Singer, Songwriter and Multi-instrumentalist

EBONY June 2022 cover star H.E.R. wows with both her music and epic performances, like the one with rock legend Lenny Kravitz at the Grammys in April. Halfway to EGOT status, she won her latest Grammy for Song of the Year for “I Can’t Breathe” and her first Oscar for Best Original Song for “Fight for You” for the film Judas and the Black Messiah. Spreading her wings, she stars as Belle in ABC’s animated and live-action blended special, Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration, and makes her big screen debut in the musical version of The Color Purple next year.

Jerrod Carmichael
Jerrod Carmichael. Photo by Momodu Mansaray/Getty Images.
Jerrod Carmichael
Comedian, Director and Producer

After taking the world by storm years ago with his critically acclaimed NBC sitcom The Carmichael Show, Carmichael delivered one of the most provocative comedy specials of the year. Gently walking fans through uncomfortable conversations surrounding sensitive topics such as sexuality, often pointing to examples within his own family, the North Carolina native used Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel to officially come out as gay. Shortly after the release of the acclaimed HBO special, he inked a two-year overall deal with HBO and won his first Emmy.

kandi burruss
Kandi Burruss. Image: Will Sterling Photography.
Kandi Burruss
Broadway Producer, Actor, Singer, Songwriter and Entrepreneur

Back when her group Xscape was “Just Kickin’ It,” Burruss had no idea she’d be a platinum-certified songwriter (TLC’s “No Scrubs” and Destiny’s Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills”), a reality star with The Real Housewives of Atlanta, an actress (The Chi), a restaurateur (Old Lady Gang and Blaze Steak & Seafood in Atlanta) and a Broadway producer. One of the producers of the critically acclaimed play, Thoughts of a Colored Man, Burruss has expanded her Broadway bonafides with The Piano Lesson starring Samuel L. Jackson, John David Washington and Danielle Brooks, and directed by LaTanya Richardson Jackson.

Martin Lawrence. Photo by Keith Major for EBONY Media.
Martin Lawrence. Photo by Keith Major for EBONY Media.
Martin Lawrence
Comedian, Actor and Producer

The comedy legend and recent EBONY cover star has made us laugh for decades. Though he recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of his iconic series Martin with a BET+ special alongside co-stars Tisha Campbell, Tichina Arnold and Carl Anthony Payne II, this funnyman can claim more than a legendary sitcom as proof of his talent. Boomerang, Life, the House Party, Bad Boys and Big Momma’s House franchises are among the classics in his extensive filmography. To cap off all his achievements, Lawrence will receive his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2023.

Quinta Brunson
Quinta Brunson. Photo by Jonny Marlow.
Quinta Brunson
Emmy-winning Actress, Writer, Creator and Producer

Obsessed with comedy since her teen years in West Philadelphia, Brunson has joked her way to the top, becoming the first Black woman to be nominated three times in the comedy category at this year’s Emmys for her breakthrough ABC series Abbott Elementary. Not only did she win the Emmy for outstanding writing for a comedy series, but her beloved co-star Sheryl Lee Ralph won one in the comedy supporting actress category. Accolades from Forbes, Hollywood Reporter and Time for her comedic versatility and fresh approach to network comedy recognize the firm footing the newly minted face of OLAY now has as an acclaimed actor, writer, producer and best-selling author in Hollywood.

Tems. Photo by Roderick Ejuetami/Courtesy of RCA Records.
Tems. Photo by Roderick Ejuetami/Courtesy of RCA Records.
Tems
Singer-Songwriter

The Afrobeats superstar made history by becoming the Nigerian singer with the most entries on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. Future sampled vocals from Tem’s song “Higher” on his single “Wait for U,” which led to her being credited as a featured artist. The collaboration debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100, making Tems the first African artist to debut at No. 1 and the second Nigerian artist to top the chart. She covers Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” on the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack, which was released in July. The songstress also added her melodies to Beyonce’s new track, “Move,” which features Grace Jones.

Tunji Balogun. Photo Courtesy of Def Jam Recordings.
Tunji Balogun. Photo Courtesy of Def Jam Recordings.
Tunji Balogun
Chairman & CEO, Def Jam Recordings

From interning at both Warner Bros. and Virgin Records to assuming the position of CEO of the iconic Def Jam Recordings in January, Nigerian-born Balogun has made beautiful music. With key positions at Interscope and senior executive roles at RCA, including his Keep Cool joint venture, the Pomona College alum has been instrumental in the careers of many popular artists, including Kendrick Lamar, H.E.R., SZA, Bryson Tiller, Wizkid, Doja Cat and Normani.

Usher
Usher. Image: Marcus Ingram/Getty Images.
Usher
Grammy Award-Winning Recording Artist

Earlier this year, music superstar Usher commemorated the 25th anniversary of his breakthrough second album, featuring the No. 1 singles “You Make Me Wanna” and “Nice & Slow,” with the expanded reissue My Way: 25th Anniversary. Even without that milestone, the multi-platinum artist keeps his weight up with internet-breaking performances like his NPR Tiny Desk Concert appearance, his hit City Girls collab “Good Love” and his insanely successful Las Vegas residency, which sold out its 2022 run. With 25 new spring 2023 Vegas performances scheduled, it’s clear Usher still does it his way.

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