Five national icons will be celebrated at the 40th Annual Kennedy Center Honors, which has been broadcast on CBS for the past 40 years, and recognizes the lifetime contributions of all types of performance artists.

The honorees are selected based on one simple criterion: excellence.

Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein described this year’s group as “five artists whose talent and ingenuity have enriched and shaped cultural life in America” and explained how each earned their place:

Carmen de Lavallade is a national treasure whose elegance and talent as a dancer led to a career touching many art forms; international superstar Gloria Estefan has influenced American music through her infectious Miami Sound; landmark hip-hop artist LL COOL J taught the world how to rhyme as one of the pioneers of the hip-hop phenomenon; Norman Lear spoke to the human condition and sparked poignant cultural conversations with some of the most epochal TV sitcoms of the 20th century; and Lionel Richie‘s irresistibly recognizable melodies capture the heart and transcend generations.”

The honorees will be feted by their peers through performances and tributes at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C. The star-studded program will air on Tuesday, Dec. 26 at 9/8c on CBS and CBS All Access.

“Each of this year’s honorees became known to and loved by the world because of their complete originality and bold genius,” said Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. “They are creators of the highest order, and as President Kennedy’s living memorial, the Kennedy Center is so proud to shine a light on their boundless ‘contributions to the human spirit.'”

Lionel Richie photo by Dirk Vanoucek; Norman Lear photo courtesy Norman Lear​; Carmen de Lavallade photo by Betti Franceschi; LL COOL J photo by Robert Voets; Gloria Estefan photo by Jesus Cordero.

Watch the 40th Annual Kennedy Center Honors on Tuesday, Dec. 26 at 9/8c on CBS and CBS All Access.

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