People: Smithsonian hosts 'The Black List'

Whoopi Goldberg, John Legend, Sean Combs and Serena Williams now have a place in the National Portrait Gallery in a new show featuring leading black figures from entertainment, politics, sports and business.

"The Black List" opens today featuring 50 large-scale photographs from Timothy Greenfield-Sanders' project that also included a 2008 HBO film.

The idea for the project came from the historical term, "blacklist," referring to a marginalized group. But Greenfield-Sanders says he wanted to turn the phrase into a roll call of distinction to show the broad achievements of African-Americans. Beyond celebrities, the project also includes influential but lesser-known figures.

Singers to honor VH1 Divas

This year's "VH1 Divas" is celebrating soulful voices -- and the cities where soul flourished.

Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson and Florence and the Machine are among the acts that will pay tribute to the places that helped create or contributed to the genre. According to a statement issued Thursday, Memphis, Chicago, Detroit, London and Philadelphia will serve as the musical inspirations for the performers, who will also include Jennifer Hudson, Jill Scott and Jessie J.

The Roots will be the house band for the "VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul" special, which will air Dec. 19. The concert will be taped the day before in New York City.

Elton John lauds N.Y. governor

Elton John says politics have divided the United States, but he singled out one politician during his foundation's annual benefit as an example for others to follow.

The British singer praised New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at Wednesday night's 10th annual Enduring Vision gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

John thanked Cuomo for "taking a stand in New York and making the dream of marriage equality a reality in the state."

In July, New York became the sixth U.S. state to recognize same-sex nuptials.

The benefit raised $2 million for John's foundation.

Duchess handles first solo duties

Britain's royal family says the Duchess of Cambridge has handled her first solo duties since her wedding to Prince William -- acting as a last-minute stand-in for father-in-law Prince Charles at a charity dinner.

The young royal hosted an event Wednesday night in aid of In Kind Direct, a charity supported by the heir to the British throne, at London's Clarence House.

St. James's Palace said Thursday that the duchess had been "delighted to be able to step in" and greet the 30 guests attending the reception.

-- From Our Press Services

Today's birthdays

Actress Joan Plowright, 82; country musician Charlie Daniels, 75; actress Annie Potts, 59; singer-guitarist William Reid of The Jesus and Mary Chain, 53; actress Lauren Holly, 48; actress Julia Roberts, 44; singer Ben Harper, 42; country singer Brad Paisley, 39; actor Joaquin Phoenix, 37; guitarist Dave Tirio of Plain White T's, 32; actor Nolan Gould ("Modern Family"), 13.

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