FEATURE: Misty Copeland Channels Degas’ Ballerinas for Photo Shoot, Opens Up about Making History

Copeland re-creates Degas’s The Star; Valentino dress, $15,500, 212-355-5811; Wilhelm headpiece, $495, and corsages, $135, wilhelm-nyc.com; Mokuba ribbon, $11 per yard, 212-869-8900. Photos by Ken Browar & Deborah Ory (via harpersbazaar.com)

Ballet dancers, Misty Copeland tells me, like to be in control. It’s something about ballet itself—the painstaking quest to achieve the appearance of a kind of effortless athleticism, fluidity, and grace—that makes it hard to let go. “I think all dancers are control freaks a bit,” she explains. “We just want to be in control of ourselves and our bodies. That’s just what the ballet structure, I think, kind of puts inside of you. If I’m put in a situation where I am not really sure what’s going to happen, it can be overwhelming. I get a bit anxious.”

Copeland says that’s part of the reason she found posing for the images that accompany this story—which were inspired by Edgar Degas‘s paintings and sculptures of dancers at the Paris Opéra Ballet—a challenge. “It was interesting to be on a shoot and to not have the freedom to just create like I normally do with my body,” she says. “Trying to re-create what Degas did was really difficult. It was amazing just to notice all of the small details but also how he still allows you to feel like there’s movement. That’s what I think is so beautiful and difficult about dance too. You’re trying to strive for this perfection, but you still want people to get that illusion that your line never ends and that you never stop moving.”

It should probably come as no surprise that Copeland would have trouble conforming to someone else’s idea of what a ballerina should look like; she gave that up a long time ago. At 33, she’s in the midst of the most illuminating pas de deux with pop culture for a classical dancer since Mikhail Baryshnikov went toe-to-toe with Gregory Hines in White Nights. Last June, she was named a principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre, the first African-American woman to hold that distinction.

Copeland as Swaying Dancer (Dancer in Green); Oscar de la Renta dress, $5,490, 212-288-5810; Mokuba ribbon, $11 per yard; Hatmaker by Jonathan Howard headpiece corsage, $70, hatmaker.com.au. (photo by Ken Browar & Deborah Ory)

She was also the subject of a documentary, Nelson George’s A Ballerina’s Tale, which chronicled her triumph over depression and body-image issues, as well as her comeback from a career-threatening leg injury in 2012. The story of her rise from living in a single room in a welfare motel with her mother and five siblings to the uppermost reaches of the dance world has become a sort of 21st-century parable: the unlikely ballerina, as Copeland referred to herself in the subtitle of her 2014 memoir, Life in Motion, who may be on her way to becoming the quintessential ballerina of her time.

Degas’s ballet works, which the artist began creating in the 1860s and continued making until the years before his death, in 1917, were infused with a very modern sensibility. Instead of idealized vis -ions of delicate creatures pirouetting onstage, he offered images of young girls congregating, practicing, laboring, dancing, training, and hanging around studios and the backstage areas of the theater. Occasionally, portly men or dark figures appear, directing or otherwise coloring the proceedings. “People call me the painter of dancing girls,” Degas is said to have once told his Paris art dealer Ambroise Vollard, the Larry Gagosian of the day. “It has never occurred to them that my chief interest in dancers lies in rendering movement and painting pretty clothes.” It’s an unsentimental place, Degas’s ballet, and his representation of the dancers is far from sympathetic. But it’s a space where he discovered not only a freedom for himself as an artist but also a kind of beauty that existed behind all the beauty of the performance and in the struggle of his subjects to become something.

Copeland as Degas’s Dancer; Carolina Herrera top, $1,490, skirt, $4,990, 212-249-6552; Hatmaker by Jonathan Howard headpiece, $750, hatmaker.com.au; Mokuba ribbon, $11 per yard, 212-869-8900; Mood Fabrics fabric (worn as a belt), 212-230-5003. (photo by Ken Browar & Deborah Ory)

“Degas’s focus on dance is part of his engagement with depicting the subjects, spaces, rhythms, and sensations of modern life,” says Jodi Hauptman, senior curator in the department of drawings and prints at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, where an exhibition that explores Degas’s extensive work in monotype, “Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty,” opens this month. “His vision wanders and focuses, taking note of what usually is overlooked and homing in on what best reflects the conditions of his time.”

In her own way, Copeland is now forcing people to look at ballet through a more contemporary lens. “I see a great affinity between Degas’s dancers and Misty,” says Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem. “She has knocked aside a long-standing music-box stereotype of the ballerina and replaced it with a thoroughly modern, multicultural image of presence and power,” Golden says. “Misty reminds us that even the greatest artists are humans living real lives.”

“I definitely feel like I can see myself in that sculpture…Ballet was just the one thing that brought me to life.”

The first blush with ballet for Copeland was famously unromantic. Her mother, Sylvia DelaCerna, was a cheerleader for the Kansas City Chiefs, and her older sister had been a member of the drill team at their middle school in Hawthorne, near their home in San Pedro, California. So, at the age of 13, Copeland decided to try out for the drill squad herself, choreographing her own routine—to George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex.” “An odd choice of song,” she says. “I chose ‘I Want Your Sex’ not really knowing anything about what that meant. But that’s how my whole dance career took off.”

Copeland as Degas’s Little Dancer Aged Fourteen; Alexander McQueen dress, $4,655, and corset, $4,525, 212-645-1797; Mood Fabrics ribbon (in hair), 212-230-5003. (photo by Ken Browar & Deborah Ory)

Copeland didn’t just make the team; she was named captain. Her drill coach, Elizabeth Cantine, had a background in classical dance and suggested that Copeland try taking a ballet class at the local Boys & Girls Club. “The class was given on a basketball court, and I was wearing my gym clothes and socks—pretty far from a Degas painting,” Copeland recalls. But she was hooked. Within three months, she was dancing en pointe. “Before dance came into my life, I don’t really remember having any major goals or dreams of wanting to be anything. In the environment I grew up in, we were constantly in survival mode,” Copeland says. “I went to school, and I was really just trying to fit in and not be seen. But ballet was this thing that just felt so innate in me, like I was meant to be doing this.”

To read more go to: http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/art-books-music/a14055/misty-copeland-degas-0316/?mag=har&list=nl_hnl_news&src=nl&date=021016

Patti LaBelle Joins “The Voice” on NBC as Christina Aguilera’s Advisor

Patti LaBelle Joins The Voice as Team Christina's Advisor

Patti LaBelle and Christina Aguilera (COURTESY NBC)

article by Melody Chiu via people.com

On the tenth season of NBC’s hit singing competition The Voice, Grammy winner Patti LaBelle will act as an advisor and help guide Christina Aguilera‘s contestants, PEOPLE confirms exclusively.

“I adore Christina, so I was honored and excited when she invited me to be a part of her team and we had a ball working together!” LaBelle tells PEOPLE exclusively. “And there is so much talent on our team … everyone else better watch out!”

Aguilera, 35, took a break last season from the show to focus on her family (she welcomed daughter Summer Rain with fiancé Matt Rutler in 2014) and other projects.

“Working with Patti was a dream come true,” Aguilera tells PEOPLE. “She is my girl and she has a voice like no other! It was such a great experience to have her mentor my team and she has such a great way of giving advice in a way that is clear and direct yet gentle and constructive.”

Meet Cat Frazier, the Woman Responsible for Animated Text – the Hottest GIFS on the Internet

Cat Frazier (Photo courtesy of Ms. Frazier)

Cat Frazier (Photo courtesy of Ms. Frazier)

article by via John Walker via fusion.net

As the internet continues to streamline itself down to an increasingly uniform, minimalist aesthetic, many young people are pushing back against all that sans serif black on white. One of those young people is Cat Frazier, a graphic designer from Oakland who just might be the patron saint of this retro-maximalist aesthetic movement.

You might not know Cat Frazier by name, but I can almost guarantee that you’ve seen her work. The 24-year-old is the creative genius behind the Animated Text Tumblr, where she creates intentionally tacky-looking gifs of rotating text that occupy some tonal void between “Feeling Myself” and “Teenage Dirtbag.” Aesthetically, the gifs—each one requested by a follower—look similar to the kind of animated welcome banners you might have seen on someone’s personal web site circa Y2K. (Maybe your own?) According to Cat, that GeoCities feel is totally intentional.

“My background is in graphic design, where you’re told to make it clean, make it pretty, make it legible, and make it generic so it appeals to a lot of different people,” Frazier told me over the phone. “But the internet I grew up with—like GeoCities and Myspace and Blingee—was always really personal, as tacky as it was. You didn’t need a degree in design,” to claim ownership over your corner of the web, she explained, and that empowerment-through-DIY is something she wants to bring back with Animated Text.

Cat, who works by day as an instructional designer for California’s Pacific Gas and Electric Company, says that the point of Animated Text is not so much the retro-’90s aesthetic itself, but rather her “relationship with the followers.” Every gif was specifically requested by one of her fans, so she sees each post as a collaborative process, rather than one where she’s the “keeper of the keys” or whatever.

Thinking back on that “Rihanna/Azealia Banks stole seapunk!” moment from 2012, I asked Cat if she was worried about being cool-hunted out of commission by larger brands. “I see a lot of clothing sites [use my gifs without attribution],” she told me. “But it doesn’t upset me… It’s, like, more power to them! Someday, I hope to see an entire internet of animated text.”

Cat Frazier/Animated Text

Cat Frazier/Animated Text

Animated Text’s follower base has grown substantially since its launch in 2012—thanks, in part, to a crucial March 2013 reblog of a “ur not gucci lol” by Frank Ocean. While more followers is obviously a good thing, Cat says that one particular problem keeps coming up.

“Literally everyone assumes I am a straight white man,” she said. That’s why Cat started posting pictures of herself along with the Animated Text gifs in recent months, to “prove I am female, that I am black, that I am gay,” and not that unholy trinity of falsely presumed neutrality: straight, white, and male.

By injecting more and more of herself into the Animated Text project, she became more and more comfortable with being vulnerable on the internet, something she did not expect when she was designing ostentatiously disaffected gif mantras like “lol nothing matters” or “blog the pain away.” That newfound comfort with being vulnerable online also inspired Frazier’s latest venture: Ask Cat, an “advice column for the smartphone age” that you can submit to by texting 510-962-9372.

To read more, go to: http://fusion.net/story/263103/animated-text-cat-frazier-ask-cat/

NBA: Miami Heat to Retire Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 32 Jersey

Shaquille O'Neal (in his No. 32 to be retired by the Heat) celebrates the Heat's championship in 2006 alongside current Heat guard Dwyane Wade. (Andrew D. Bernstein / NBAE/Getty Images)

Shaquille O’Neal (in his No. 32 to be retired by the Heat) celebrates the Heat’s championship in 2006 alongside current Heat guard Dwyane Wade. (Andrew D. Bernstein / NBAE/Getty Images)

article by Ira Winderman via chicagotribune.com

Shaquille O’Neal will become the third Miami Heat player to have his number retired, with the team announcing today that O’Neal’s No. 32 will join the No. 33 of Alonzo Mourning and No. 10 of Tim Hardaway already raised to the rafters at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“Shaquille O’Neal is one of the truly elite players in the history of the game and one of the greatest players to ever wear a Heat uniform,” Heat President Pat Riley said in a statement. “He took us to another level as a basketball franchise while leading us to our first NBA championship.

“Retiring his number in the rafters, along with Heat greats Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway, is something we are very proud of.”

O’Neal’s jersey will be raised early next season, with the 2016-17 schedule not to be released until mid-summer.

With O’Neal honored for his relatively brief Heat tenure and single championship with the franchise, it makes it all but inevitable the Heat eventually will retire LeBron James‘ No. 6, with James spending more time with the franchise and winning two titles in his four seasons with the team.

UC Davis in CA to Host 1st Energy Institute for Obama’s Young African Leaders Program

2014 Mandela Washington Fellows during the Summit with President Obama (photo via youngafricanleaders.state.gov)

2014 Mandela Washington Fellows during the Summit with President Obama (photo via youngafricanleaders.state.gov)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Twenty-five young African leaders will leverage the world leadership of the University of California, Davis, in zero-net energy and its global experience to tackle energy challenges in their countries.

They will come to UC Davis for the first and only energy-themed institute offered through the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative.

The U.S. State Department and IREX, the international nonprofit that administers the fellowship program, today (Feb. 9) announced the 36 universities that will host six-week summer programs — also in business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership and public management — for about 1,000 fellows.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi said one of the 21st century’s biggest challenges is transitioning to a sustainable energy future, and UC Davis is leading with research, education and outreach in energy sciences, technology, management and policy to develop solutions.

“The fellows are future leaders in Africa,” she added, “and UC Davis is partnering with them to make a difference in our communities, our countries and our world.”

Selected from countries in sub-Saharan Africa through a competition, the fellows are 25- to 35-year-olds who already have a record of leadership and accomplishments.

U.S. Rep. John Garamendi was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia and has led two peace mission teams to Africa. “I congratulate these young leaders from Africa for their participation in the Mandela Washington Fellowship Program, as well as their dedication to improving the energy future of their countries and the world,” he said. “I am also very proud of the University of California, Davis, for the global leadership it is showing by hosting this unique and important institute for the Mandela program.”

Expertise from campus and beyond

Institute seminars and lectures will draw on the expertise of faculty from a broad range of disciplines and some dozen UC Davis institutes and research centers — including the Energy Efficiency Center, which accelerates the development and commercialization of energy efficiency technologies, and the Institute of Transportation Studies, the world’s leading university center on sustainable transportation.

Field trips and guest lectures will expose the fellows to key energy organizations and leaders in the generation and use of renewable energy.

In hands-on service and learning, the fellows will help install solar energy systems for lower-income families, clean up a local watershed, perform campus energy audits, and work on a community garden.

‘Brilliant, energetic and fearless’

The fellows are 25- to 35-year-olds who have promoted innovation and accomplished positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities and countries. They have made a commitment to return to Africa and apply their leadership skills and training to benefit their community or country.

The fellows will be selected this spring, and the institute will be held in June and July.  To learn more about the program and how to apply, go to: Mandela Washington Fellowship

Will Smith “Definitely Doing” “Bad Boys 3” With Martin Lawrence

Will Smith “Definitely Doing” “Bad Boys 3” With Martin Lawrence

article by Danielle Harling via hiphopdx.com

Will Smith says he “may have gone too far” with the amount of freedom of expression given to his children, talks Bad Boys sequel.

During an interview with BBC Radio 1Xtra’s A.Dot, actor Will Smith was asked about his family, specifically his children and the freedom of expression they’re given. In response, Smith jokingly stated that “we may have gone too far.”

He later spoke on his son, Jaden Smith, who was recently featured in a campaign for Louis Vuitton’s new, womenswear collection.

“There’s a really powerful, internal quality as an artist that as parents we encourage,” Will Smith said. “You gotta get out on the edge. You have to try things. You have to be comfortable doing things that people don’t agree with. And you have to be comfortable doing things that you could fail. And Jaden is one-hundred percent fearless. He will do anything. So, as a parent it’s scary. It’s really terrifying. But he is completely willing to live and die by his own artistic decisions. And he just doesn’t concern himself with what people think.”

Smith later revealed that he was unable to star in the upcoming, Independence Day sequel because of his schedule. He also stated that after seeing fellow actor Martin Lawrence for the first time in two years, a Bad Boys sequel is “definitely” happening.

To read more, go to: http://hiphopdx.com/news/id.37395/title.will-smith-definitely-doing-bad-boys-3-with-martin-lawrence

Ibtihaj Muhammad Will Make History as 1st U.S. Olympian to Compete in a Hijab

Screenshot of Ibtihaj Muhammad, taken from Twitter on February 3, 2016. (photo via Colorlines.comP

article by Sameer Rao via colorlines.com

When she competes at this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Ibtihaj Muhammad will make history as the first member of Team USA to compete while wearing a hijab.

Muhammad, who is Black, secured her spot by winning a bronze medal during the fencing World Cup in Athens on January 30. She is now the second-highest-ranking fencer on Team USA’s women’s squad.

In an interview on TeamUSA.org, Muhammad said that she pursued fencing at the professional level in part to help break barriers in the sport:

“After I graduated from college, I saw there was a lack of minorities in the sport,” Muhammad told TeamUSA.org. “I recognized that I had a skill set, so I started to pursue fencing full time. I felt that it was something the squad needed. There were barriers that needed to be broken in women’s saber.”

Muhammad, who failed to quality for the 2012 Olympics due to a torn ligament, will compete in the Rio Olympics in both the individual and team events along with U.S. Olympic champion Mariel Zagunis.

“I want to compete in the Olympics for the United States to prove that nothing should hinder anyone from reaching their goals — not race, religion or gender,” said Muhammad, who was quoted by TeamUsa.org. “I want to set an example that anything is possible with perseverance.”

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