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By: Renee Grant

Lionel Richie might be having the best year ever. He’s currently on a successful tour with Mariah Carey, and he was named as one of this year’s recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors. Speaking to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Richie says he’s “so proud” of that achievement.

Related: Lionel Richie, Norman Lear To Receive Kennedy Center Honors

“There are some things in life where it catches you so far off guard,” he says. “It really represents a lifetime body of work.”

Richie fully plans to be in attendance to accept his honor, stating, “I think as an African-American, it is my place to stand there and show kids…that it is possible to reach the heights like this. I was not born in Beverly Hills or raised on a trust fund. I got here by the sweat of my brow and the grace of God, so when you think of what it represents, yeah, I need to go.”

Related: Win Tickets To See Lionel Richie & Mariah Carey

While he doesn’t confirm or deny that he’ll be an American Idol judge in the interview, he does believe he’d be great at it.

“It’s being an artist, and if you don’t know anything about artistry, you’re judging a different thing,” says Richie. “You have to have star material. Being a singer does not qualify you as star material. It takes a little more than that.”

On Richie’s current tour, he’s a gracious co-headliner, saying he’s sure to tell Carey how well she did nightly.

“I make sure I see her every night when she comes off stage to tell her she was fantastic. You have to understand, this is not competitive… we are two artists that are trying to make sure the audience gets exactly what they want from us,” he says.

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