So many things are said about age. That it’s “nothing but a number.” That “you’re only as old as you feel.” We’ve heard them all. And lately it’s been popular to espouse the new realities of what age means: You know, “50 is the new 40,” “60 is the new 50,” etc. Which makes sense considering the fact that people live longer today, work with as much zeal as in years past, take care of themselves, look good and do not think of themselves as out of the mainstream. Each birthday is a blessing, age notwithstanding. It is surprising how many people in the entertainment industry have reached the big 4-0, or maybe that should be “the big 4-oh!” And they are still going strong, and showing no signs of slowing down even a little bit anytime in the near — or distant — future. This week we are putting the spotlight on some of the performers who reached the 40 milestone this year, meaning they were all born in 1971. Remember when ALFONSO RIBEIRO, as a little boy, was featured with Michael Jackson in those popular “Pepsi” commercials, wearing a red leather jacket just like Michael’s? His birthday was Sept. 21. Forty sure looks good on MARY J. BLIGE (Jan. 11). She started out as a very rough-edged singer with a lot of personal problems, and became “the queen of hip-hop soul” along the way. Today she has herself together and is one of the music industry’s most glamorous stars. One of hardest-to-believe “new 40s” is the diminutive EMMANUEL LEWIS. There is a tendency to think of the “Webster” star — the show ran from 1983 to 1987 — as still a kid because he is so small, but on March 9 Lewis celebrated his 40th birthday.
REGINA KING (Jan. 15) first came to our attention as the charming and funny Brenda Jenkins on the sitcom “227.” She has since developed into one of the finest actresses in Hollywood, turning in one outstanding performance after another. There was a time when all rappers were in their teens or early twenties. Not anymore. Nostalgia (“old school”) rap concerts are now common. Hard-core rapper SNOOP DOGG will be 40 by the time most of you read this (Oct. 20). From the female rap world comes MC LYTE (Oct. 11). To look at the rapper/actress today, you would never believe she is the same person who became prominent in the early ’90s. She is now beautiful, as we saw when she was a regular on the TV series “Half & Half.” Joining her is MISSY ELLIOTT, who said goodbye to 39 on July 1. Appearing on the national charts for the first time in 1997, Elliott has the distinction of being the only female rapper to have six albums certified Platinum by the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA). SHAWN WAYANS (Jan. 19) is, of course, part of the first family of comedy. There must have been a lot of laughter in the Wayans household. He was introduced to the public by way of “In Living Color,” the long-running comedy sketch show created by his oldest brother, Keenen Ivory Wayans.
No one could ever accuse JADA PINKETT SMITH (Sept. 18) of riding on the coattails of her husband, megastar Will Smith. She had already made a name for herself long before they married. She is an outstanding actress and has mastered film producing and directing as well. TAYE DIGGS (Jan. 2) was profiled in last week’s edition as one of the most talented and consistently employed actors in Hollywood, Black or otherwise. He has many and varied movie, television and stage roles to his credit. He is currently a cast member on the popular series “Private Practice.” ERYKAH BADU, who emerged in 1997 with an attention-grabbing album titled “Baduizm,” has always known that she is not like anyone else and the public learned that quickly. She marches to no one’s band but her own, and that certainly includes her creative attire and often-startling hairstyles. Her birth date is Feb. 26. From 1992 into the early 2000s, one of the most popular female groups was TLC, who enjoyed a impressive string of hits, including “Creep,” “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” and “No Scrubs.” One of the members of the trio, ROZONDA “CHILLI” THOMAS, turned 40 on Feb. 27. Among others sure to remember 1971 at the year they entered their 40s are rock/rap star KID ROCK, actor and former “Soul Train” host DORIAN GREGORY, actress TASHA SMITH (most recently seen in “Jumping the Broom”), actor and former model JASON LEWIS (“Sex and the City”), actor EWAN MCGREGOR, actress and former beauty pageant star KENYA MOORE, Latin singing sensation RICKY MARTIN, rapper/actor FREDRO STARR and actor and former rap star MARK WAHLBERG.