*The Kennedy Center Honors ceremony aired on CBS last night with one slight alteration in the balcony – no sitting president and first lady.
The first couple previously announced their decision not to attend this year’s ceremony or host the traditional pre-show reception at the White House after two of the five honorees – dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade and TV producer Norman Lear – said they would skit the ceremony altogether if Donald Trump was involved, in protest over his administration’s proposal to cut funding for the arts.
Shortly afterward, Donald and Melania released a statement saying they hoped their absence would “allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction.”
The show didn’t miss a beat, with the likes of Queen Latifah, Busta Rhymes and Questlove on hand to salute KCH’s first hip hop honoree LL Cool J, and ‘Black-ish’ creator Kenya Barris and star Anthony Anderson joining Dave Chappelle to praise Lear and his iconic TV sitcoms.
It’s the first time in the event’s 40-year history that a president or first lady hasn’t participated…and the honorees could care less.
“No distractions! This is about the arts,” said LL, according to The Washington Post. “It doesn’t help for me to get up on a soapbox and be divisive.”
“It’s about the art tonight — it’s about Lionel and Gloria. It’s about Carmen and Norman,” he added of his fellow honorees, Lear, de Lavallade, and musicians Lionel Richie and Gloria Estefan.
Watch must-see highlights of the tributes below and a recap of the whole evening above.