Category: Entertainment

Ava DuVernay to Develop and Produce Romance Anthology Series ‘Cherish the Day’ for OWN

(Photo by Stephanie Moreno/Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications for Peabody Awards/University of Georgia)

According to Variety.com, creator/director Ava DuVernay has received a straight-to-series order from the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) for “Cherish The Day,” a romantic drama anthology.

Each season of the series will chronicle the romance of one couple, with each episode spanning a single day. The narrative will unfold to reveal significant moments in a relationship that compel people to hold true to the ones they love, from the extraordinary to the everyday. The show is scheduled to debut in winter 2020.

“OWN is home,” DuVernay said. “I’m honored to create television for a network headed by an artist with spectacular vision and unbridled passion for the stories that we want to tell.”

“Cherish The Day” will be the second series DuVernay delivers to OWN. The series adaptation of the novel “Queen Sugar” was DuVernay’s first for the network.  She directs and also serves as executive producer on the series. The fourth season will premiere in June.

DuVernay created “Cherish the Day” under her recently announced overall deal with Warner Horizon Scripted Television. She will executive produce “Cherish the Day” along with Oprah Winfrey. Tanya Hamilton, who has directed for “Queen Sugar,” will be the showrunner, an executive producer, and will also direct the series premiere. “Queen Sugar” executive producer Paul Garnes will also executive produce.

“Ava is a visionary storyteller,” said Winfrey. “She brings so much care, so much heart, so much love to the art she creates. I’m excited to continue collaborating together with our very first anthology series for OWN.”

Dancer Shaheem Sanchez Combines Sign Language and Hip Hop (VIDEO)

GBN just learned of dancer Shaheem Sanchez from the excellent post about him on inspirational website Ever Widening Circles. Sanchez, who is deaf, combines ASL (American sign language) with hip hop dancing. Read more about him here and watch his incredible story below:

Original Docu-Series “BET HER Presents: Exceptional Black Women” Premieres March 2, Celebrates MC Lyte, Maxine Waters and More

BET Networks recently announced its upcoming original docu-series BET HER PRESENTS: EXCEPTIONAL BLACK WOMEN will premiere tomorrow March 2, 2019 at 9pm ET on BET HER.

This season will document the lives of MC Lyte, Maxine Waters, Meagan Good, Terri J. Vaughn, and Regina Hall. “Exceptional Black Women” recognizes courageous, inspiring, and successful women who have overcome many of life’s obstacles, featuring never-before-seen photos, videos, intimate sit-down interviews and more.

On the premiere episode, legendary lyricist, DJ, author, actress, entertainer, philanthropist, and icon MC Lyte reveals her intimate stories of struggle, perseverance, and success in the music industry.

She also recounts her journey from growing up in a single-parent home in Brooklyn to being the first female solo rapper ever nominated for a Grammy and more. We also hear first-hand accounts from MC Lyte’s business partner Dr. Lynn Richardson and mother, Constance Moorer.

“BET HER PRESENTS: EXCEPTIONAL BLACK WOMEN” is Executive Produced by Keith Beauchamp, who also serves as series Director, and David Dessel for Till Freedom Come Production.

The episodes will air as follows:

  • MC LYTE (Premieres Saturday, March 2 at 9 pm ET/PT)
  • MAXINE WATERS (Premieres Saturday, March 9 at 9 pm ET/PT)
  • MEAGAN GOOD (Premieres Saturday, March 16 at 9 pm ET/PT)
  • TERRI J. VAUGHN (Premieres Saturday, March 23 at 9 pm ET/PT)
  • REGINA HALL (Premieres Saturday, March 30 at 9 pm ET/PT)

Spike Lee, Regina King, “Black Panther” and More Win at 91st Academy Awards

Best Supporting Actress nominee for ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Regina King accepts her Oscar during the 91st Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on February 24, 2019. (Credit: Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

2019 is arguably the year of #OscarsSoBlack. According to the Los Angeles Times, this year set the record for the most individual Black winners of Academy Awards, with seven victors in six categories.

Regina King kicked it all off by winning first award of the evening for Best Supporting Actress for her work in “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Already a recipient of a Golden Globe for the same role, King gave an emotional, touching acceptance speech.

“To be standing here, representing one of the greatest artists of our time, James Baldwin, is a little surreal,” King said. “James Baldwin birthed this baby, and Barry [Jenkins, the director], you nurtured her, you surrounded her with so much love and support. So it’s appropriate for me to be standing here because I am an example of what happens when support and love is poured into someone.”

“Black Panther” collaborators Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler made history with their wins, becoming the first African Americans to take home Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design, respectively.

“Marvel may have created the first black superhero, but through costume design, we made him an African king,” Carter said. Among those she thanked was director Ryan Coogler, whom she called “a guiding force.”

Beachler also acknowledged Coogler in her acceptance speech. “I stand here with agency and self-worth because of [director] Ryan Coogler, who not only made me a better designer, a better storyteller, a better person. When you think things are impossible, remember ‘I did my best, and my best is good enough.’”

Spike Lee accepts the Oscar for adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman.” (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

Spike Lee, along with writers Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott (who is black), won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Black KkKlansman.”

After full-body hugging presenter (and “Jungle Fever” alum) Samuel L. Jackson, in his acceptance speech Lee paid tribute to his grandmother, whose mother was a slave, who lived to be 100 years old and put him through Morehouse College and New York University film school.

Lee also made the first direct political comments of the night: “The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize, let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate,” he said.

“Let’s do the right thing!” Lee added. “You know I had to get that in there.”

Additionally, Peter Ramsey, co-director of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” won for Best Animated Feature.

Mahershala Ali won the Best Supporting Actor award for the second time in his career for his portrayal of pianist Don Shirley in “Green Book.” That movie also went on later in the evening to win the Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture categories.

Below is the full list of winners:

Best Picture

“Black Panther”
“BlacKkKlansman”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“The Favourite”
“Green Book” (WINNER)
“Roma”
“A Star Is Born”
“Vice”

Director

Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma” (WINNER)
Adam McKay, “Vice”

Lead Actress

Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite” (WINNER)
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Lead Actor

Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody” (WINNER)
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

Original Song

“All The Stars” from “Black Panther” by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
“I’ll Fight” from “RBG” by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns” by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
“Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice (WINNER)
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

Original Score

“BlacKkKlansman,” Terence Blanchard
“Black Panther,” Ludwig Goransson (WINNER)
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Nicholas Britell
“Isle of Dogs,” Alexandre Desplat
“Mary Poppins Returns,” Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman

Adapted Screenplay

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Joel Coen , Ethan Coen
“BlacKkKlansman,” Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee (WINNER)
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins
“A Star Is Born,” Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters Continue reading “Spike Lee, Regina King, “Black Panther” and More Win at 91st Academy Awards”

NY Metropolitan Opera to Hire All-Black Chorus for Fall Revival of “Porgy And Bess”

“Porgy and Bess” leads Eric Owens and Angel Blue (via metopera.org)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to washingtonpost.com, The Metropolitan Opera in New York plans to hire an all-Black outside chorus for its first presentation in nearly thirty years of ”Porgy and Bess,” which opens the Met’s season on September 23.

Performances of “Porgy and Bess,” which premiered in 1935, are licensed by the Gershwin family, which specifies an all-black cast. Written by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, and DuBose Heyward and Dorothy Heyward, “Porgy” depicts a man living in Catfish Row, a poor, Black community in Charleston, South Carolina.

When the Met originally presented “Porgy” in 1985, it hired an outside chorus then too. At that time, there were three only Black members of the Met’s regular chorus of 81. That number today is six Black members in a group of approximately the same total now, the Met said.

“I think the Met is regarded as an institution that is colorblind when it comes to casting,” Met general manager Peter Gelb said. “We have many African-Americans and other black artists who are appearing on our stage in major roles.”

The Hungarian State Opera created controversy last year when it presented an unauthorized production with a largely white cast.

Performers Eric Owens and Angel Blue (pictured above) head the opening-night cast, which will be conducted by David Robertson and includes Denyce Graves, Latonia Moore, Golda Schultz and Ryan Speedo Green.

To see video of Owens and Blue talking about the upcoming production, click here.

BHM: “Queen Sugar” Marathon to Screen February 23 & 24 at Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills

(Credit: OWN Network)

In honor of Black History Month, on February 23/24 at 12pm PST,The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills, CA is screening a FREE Queen Sugar marathon. It’s a chance for Queen Sugar fans to come together and enjoy several of their favorite episodes from the OWN series.

Exclusive merchandise will be given out to fans on a first come, first served, while supplies last.

Screening Schedule:

“First Things First”

In the series premiere, directed by award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay (Selma), Charley, a savvy wife and manager of a professional basketball star living an upscale Los Angeles lifestyle, returns to her family home—an 800-acre sugarcane farm in the heart of Louisiana—after her father suffers a stroke and she receives alarming news about her husband. There, she reunites with her estranged siblings Nova and Ralph Angel. Together, they must navigate the triumphs and struggles of their complicated lives in order to run an ailing farm in the New South. (2016; 44 minutes)

“Give Us This Day”

Charley continues to make calculated choices regarding Davis’s (Timon Kyle Durrett) basketball career and her desire to secure an investor. Nova and lover Calvin (Greg Vaughan) finally reunite, but their union causes controversy in the community. Davis attempts to repair his relationship with son Micah (Nicholas L. Ashe), but he faces resistance. Aunt Violet (Tina Lifford) learns of Hollywood’s (Omar J. Dorsey) departure and tries to make amends, and Ralph Angel makes a shocking discovery that changes everything. (2016; 43 minutes)

“After the Winter”

Charley and Davis remain entangled, Ralph Angel tries to find his footing on the family farm, and Aunt Violet confronts her feelings for Hollywood. Plus, Micah has a dangerous encounter with a police officer. (2017; 43 minutes)

“Dream Variations”

Charley’s shocking plan to save her business puts her relationship with Remy in jeopardy. Hollywood proposes to Violet, and Nova and Remy share an unexpected moment. Finally, Ralph Angel decides if he can forgive Darla. (2017; 65 minutes)

“From on the Pulse of Morning”

Ralph Angel receives some unexpected news, the fate of the correctional facility is revealed, and Charley makes a proposal on behalf of the farmers. Plus, Violet and Hollywood celebrate their love. (2018; 60 minutes)

About The Paley Center for Media:

The Paley Center for Media is a nonprofit organization with locations in New York and Los Angeles which works to expand the conversation about the cultural, creative, and social significance of television, radio, and emerging platforms. Drawing upon its curatorial expertise, an international collection, and close relationships with the leaders of the media community, the Paley Center examines the intersections between media and society.

The general public can access the Paley Center’s permanent media collection, which contains over 160,000 television and radio programs and advertisements, including the expanded collection of African-American Achievements in Television, and participate in programs that explore and celebrate the creativity, the innovations, the personalities, and the leaders who are shaping media.

For more information, visit paleycenter.org.

‘Genius: Aretha Franklin’ Greenlighted As Third Installment Of Nat Geo Series; Suzan-Lori Parks Set As Showrunner

 Credit: Photo by Roger Bamber/ANL/REX/Shutterstock 

by Nellie Andreeva via deadline.com

It’s official — the upcoming third season of National Geographic’s scripted anthology series Genius will be devoted to the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, who died in August at age 76. The announcement was made Sunday at TCA.

Suzan-Lori Parks, Pulitzer Prize award-winning playwright of Topdog/Underdog, will be executive producer and showrunner of the project, from Imagine Television and Fox 21 TV Studios. Music mogul and longtime Franklin collaborator Clive Davis as well as Atlantic Records chairman and CEO Craig Kallman also executive produce.

Genius was renewed for a third season in April, with author Mary Shelley revealed as its subject, to follow Albert Einstein and Picasso. The Mary Shelley story remains in consideration for future installments of the anthology series.

The idea of doing a Franklin-centered Genius came together quickly following the music icon’s August 16 death, spearheaded by Imagine’s Brian Grazer. The project had been moving full steam ahead since, with securing access to Franklin’s music considered the one key element that would clinch a green light.

Bringing David, Kallman and Warner Music Group on board was very important in that aspect, with the producers currently able to use about 80% of Franklin’s catalog and working to secure the remaining titles.

Read more: https://deadline.com/2019/02/genius-aretha-franklin-greenlighted-season-3-nat-geo-series-suzan-lori-parks-showrunner-1202553998/amp/

REVIEW: Aretha Franklin’s Soul-Stirring “Amazing Grace” Documentary Soars Into the Divine

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Before reading, please understand the deep degree to which I am an Aretha Franklin fan. I have been in rapture since I was a teen grooving to “Jump To It,”  “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” “Think,” and, of course, “Respect.” My devotion to her voice and musicianship only intensified when I gained full access to her catalog when I DJ’d for my college radio station. I went all the way in, past her Arista recordings, back and through her Chess, Columbia and Atlantic LPs, and never came back out.

I played her records over and over, never singing along, so as not to disrespect or sully the divinity I was taking in. Back then, during this time of discovery of the breadth of Aretha’s genius, it would have been as rude as chatting during a sermon. I could go on – there is so much more Aretha stanning in my history including the full day spent watching every hour, minute and second of her funeral – but it’s enough to get the picture.

I am in, down, and for all things Aretha.

So a few years ago when I heard about film footage existing of Aretha recording her 1972 gospel masterpiece “Amazing Grace” in Los Angeles at Reverend James Cleveland‘s New Temple Missionary Baptist Church with the Southern California Community Choir, shot over two nights by Sydney Pollack (“Tootsie,” “The Way We Were,” “The Firm”), I was ecstatic.

It didn’t get released in conjunction with the album’s 1972 release as originally planned by Warner Bros. because the film’s recording was mishandled. Pollack, who died in 2008, did not use clapper boards, a crucial tool in matching sound with filmed images in the pre-digital era. There were 20 hours of raw footage shot by five 16-millimeter cameras to sync, so the project got shelved, until the footage was re-discovered over three decades later.

The movie was then set to screen at several prominent film festivals, but Franklin herself sued to stop it from being released. So I checked my thirst out of loyalty and stood by the Queen’s side, even if it meant never seeing what I was sure would be a Technicolor feast of mind-blowing artistry.

I brightened when I heard Aretha’s beef with the project was not about its content – she reportedly loved the content – it was about the money. Okay, cool – Aretha wanted her coins as well as her respect. I hoped it would all settle quickly, because as much as a person can be in love with her recordings, watching Aretha live, doing her thing, has always been where it’s at.

Not long after her passing, producer Alan Elliott screened “Amazing Grace” for Franklin’s family and got the family’s approval for release. It was picked up by NEON Studios for North American distribution and is slated to be in theaters in the early part of this year. But when I got a chance to see the film Thursday in Los Angeles on Opening Night of the 27th Annual Pan African Film Festival (#PAFF), I jumped to it.

Even though I saw it with an audience so fully there for it, and even with my freely admitted pre-disposition towards loving it, viewing “Amazing Grace” is a sensorial experience that exceeds all expectations. This “making of” documentary is a pure, raw American musical treasure that should go down, like Aretha, as the greatest of its ilk.

In case you’ve never heard the “Amazing Grace” double album or perhaps only know Aretha from Inaugural Hat or “Great Gowns, Beautiful Gowns” Taylor Swift memes, in 1972, Aretha Franklin is 29 and at the absolute height of her recording success, fame and vocal prowess.

As Tirrell D. Whittley, another of the film’s producers, put it during the Q&A that followed its #PAFF screening, Aretha was “it” back then, the Beyoncé of her time. And while at that height, Aretha decided to honor and commune with the roots from which her unparalleled artistry grew – church music.

Listening to the “Amazing Grace” LP (still the best-selling gospel album of all time), I always imagined it was a packed Sunday morning service where Aretha was singing with a fully-robed choir joyfully bouncing in step behind her. But what the film shows you instead is nighttime, a handful of white guys with mics, wires and cameras running around, and maybe 80-90 audience members, several of them likely not even New Temple congregants (Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones are there one night, as are gospel great Clara Ward and her mother, Mother Ward).

Aretha Franklin from the film “Amazing Grace”

The backing choir, directed with great aptitude and verve by the lively Alexander Hamilton, does not wear church robes but all-black clothing underneath Vegas-style sparkly silver vests. They look more like they are at a local talent competition than a service, and they stay seated during most of the recording. Aretha alone is robed – the first night in a long, white, bejeweled caftan and the second in a beautiful chartreuse paisley one.

It is clear from her commanding sashays down the church aisle as she enters upon introduction from Rev. Cleveland, that Aretha is not only in church, but there to put in work. On the second night Aretha enters in one of her signature fur coats. Her walk, steps, bearing are those of a queen, unashamedly in charge and full of femininity. She touches outreached hands but intentionally keeps moving at her own pace.

While Cleveland plays host with avuncular affability as he encourages the crowd from the pulpit and piano, and Aretha’s father Rev. C.L. Franklin is solicited to offer remarks, Aretha herself barely talks during either session – seemingly conserving her voice between songs. When she does talk it’s brief and at whisper level.

I think it’s both the truth of what happened those nights as well as a great dramatic device – Aretha’s singing literally speaks for her. She has such sharp focus on what she is doing and trying to achieve – Aretha comes across not as a guileless prodigy, but as a hard-working, brilliant young woman who fully knows what she is capable of and what it takes to tap into and employ her superlative gift. She is also connected enough to know when to give in to it and allow a higher power work through her.

Aretha Franklin in “Amazing Grace”

Seeing the process with your own eyes makes it all the more impactful and palpable. When Aretha sits down at the piano and starts in on “Wholy Holy,” there is nothing to do but watch in awe. And at a certain point, song after great song, it hits you – as you take in the old-school microphones, the physical dynamics of the space and people in it, that the sound is, in a word, superb. I don’t know if it’s from remastering with present-day technology or because that audio was recorded so well back in 1972, but the depth and clarity of the music and the vocal responses to it are an aural delicacy.

The prosaic nature of the church space itself sits in humble, human contrast to the sublimeness occurring inside it. The church is not so much majestic as it is makeshift – and in the best way. The mural of Jesus on the wall behind the pulpit – let’s just say it’s barely a notch above paint-by-numbers. But looking at that amateur effort behind the woman who is evocatively singing “How I Got Over” and “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” in His name – it’s almost as if Mural Jesus sags in admission that no one could have painted an image to match the artistry and meditation of Aretha.

This is most evident during Aretha’s performance of the title track “Amazing Grace” – as she reaches higher and higher, the shouting and clapping from the audience rises and rises – people literally stand, fall, cry, and scream. Rev. Cleveland himself is so overcome by the power and beauty of what Aretha is delivering that he stops playing the piano so he can collect himself.

It’s such an incredible moment to watch – even the man running the show, a seasoned church pro – is overwhelmed and touched, all his pomp crumbling down under literal amazing grace. Many of us know that moment – when you witness something so superlative and divine, you can do nothing more than be in its presence and be thankful you exist to receive it.

The other indelible highlight in the film is Aretha’s delivery/deliverance of/during “Never Grow Old.” I have watched countless clips of Aretha performing live, at all ages and stages of her career. She is always professional and on point, but when she herself catches the spirit? There! Is! Nothing! Like! It!

Aretha is at the piano during “Never Grow Old” as you see it happening. She is so channelled and so in it that the spirit takes over the tempo, the piano, the choir, and several people in the audience. There is spirit dancing – Mother Ward falls out – an actual white towel is thrown in!

And as the towel comes towards camera, the audience watching the movie burst into laughter as did I, because it is perfect punctuation to what we were all feeling at that moment. We were in thrall and surrender to the power, the genius, the spirit, the joy that is flowing through Aretha Louise Franklin.

Even as you feel the heat, the light, the literal sweat on her brow coming at you through the screen, Aretha’s voice makes you shiver down to your bones.

“Amazing Grace” LP cover

The only song that doesn’t come across as powerful on film as it does on the record is “Mary Don’t You Weep.” According to producer Elliott, they did not have full visual coverage of “Mary” in the church, so they could not match it to the audio from the LP. What we do hear of “Mary” is still worthy of our time, suffering mainly from comparison to the oomph and punch so many of the other visually-realized songs have, including lesser-known songs such as “Climbing Higher Mountains” and “Precious Memories.”

But all in all, after dwelling for over 45 years in obscurity, the fact that the general public will finally get to see the best singer in the world recording the best gospel album of all time while communing in the most prolific and sustaining pillar of African-American society – the church – is the real blessing that needs to be recognized.

Even if you don’t know or revere Franklin’s work like I do but love any powerhouse singer from last 50 years, or just love music, you should see this film. For it proves without a doubt that since the sixties, all roads to enthralling, singular vocal ability, agility, facility and feeling lead back to one root, one person, one singer – Aretha. And her preternatural gift is never in finer form and potency than it is in “Amazing Grace.”

Born On This Day in 1950: Grammy Award-Winning Singer Natalie Cole

Natalie Maria Cole was born on February 6, 1950, and grew up in a heavily musical atmosphere in Los Angeles’ exclusive Hancock Park area. In addition to her famous father, jazz and pop musical legend Nat King Cole, Natalie’s mother Maria had been a background vocalist with Duke Ellington.

Cole’s own breakthrough as a musical artist came via her early 1970s association with Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy, who once worked with one of Natalie’s real-life idols, Aretha Franklin. Her debut album “Inseparable” came out in 1975, which included two of her signature hits – “This Will Be” (#6 on the pop charts and the title track. Her debut also garnered her Grammy Awards for Best R&B female vocals and Best New Artist.

Cole subsequently had hits with “Sophisticated Lady,” “Mr. Melody,” “I’ve Got Love on My Mind,” “Our Love,” “Stand By,” “What You Won’t Do for Love,” “Hold On” and “Nothing But a Fool,” along with more platinum and gold albums. Acute drug problems, however, hindered her career and Cole eventually took time off time for recovery.

In 1985, Natalie released, in what was the start of a comeback, her album “Dangerous” for Modern Records. Late 1980s pop singles included “Jump Start My Heart,” “Miss You Like Crazy”, “Pink Cadillac” and “I Live for Your Love.”

In the midst of her ebb-and-flow R&B success, in 1991 Cole shifted into her familial jazz roots to record a new CD, “Unforgettable…with Love,” paying homage to her late father. With the help and encouragement of family, Cole re-arranged and re-recorded some of his greatest songs in the same studio that he recorded (Capitol Studios), used some of the same musicians and even recreated one of his signature songs, the title tune “Unforgettable,” with a technological effect that appeared as if they were dueting together.

Never before or since has this been pulled off and marketed so successfully. Not only did it sell well over 30 million copies, it would become an eight-time over platinum winner. It earned several awards on Grammy night, including “Album of the Year” and “Record of the Year,.”

Over time Natalie began covering more jazz standards. A jazz CD in 1994 also captured a Grammy. In addition, Cole branched out into occasional acting roles, including the social drama Lily in Winter (1994) and the autobiographical feature film Livin’ for Love: The Natalie Cole Story (2000) in which she played herself. She has also made infrequent acting appearances on such shows as “I’ll Fly Away,” “Law & Order,” “Touched by an Angel” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Cole passed away from congestive heart failure on December 31, 2015 in Los Angeles. She was 65 and is survived by one son, Robert Adam Yancy.

BHM: Let’s Honor Oprah! Entrepreneur, Media Maven, Philanthropist, Actor, Influencer… Genius

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Not many people on Earth have their names become synonymous with genius in their profession, let alone genius in general. Einstein, Shakespeare, Mozart, even Spielberg and Prince easily come to mind. Notably, they are all men, mostly White, and only one is known by his first name. But when you say, “Hey, where are the women? What women do you think of when someone says ‘Who are the geniuses?,'” an immediate response would (or should) be… Oprah.

It may seem like opinion, but I want to go on record that saying “Oprah Winfrey is a genius” is a fact, and one that should be touted widely. Oprah’s status as a cultural icon, media mogul and inspirational leader is taken as a given, but when you look back and reflect on her journey from rural poverty in Mississippi to global icon, you too will recognize how much intelligence, excellence and genius it took to get there and what’s more – stay there.

What follows below in regards to recognizable achievement, vision and success rightfully will only add credence to the “Oprah Winfrey is a genius” fact, but I submit that the secret sauce of Oprah’s claim to that title has been best articulated (and realized) by Oprah herself:

Everybody has a calling. And your real job in life is to figure out as soon as possible what that is, who you were meant to be, and to begin to honor that in the best way possible for yourself. – Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Gail Winfrey, originally named “Orpah” after the biblical figure in the Book of Ruth but had it misspelled and mispronounced so much that “Oprah”  stuck, recently celebrated her 65th birthday on January 29, 1954. Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to Vernita Lee, an unmarried teenage mother and housemaid, and Vernon Winfrey, a coal miner turned barber turned city councilman who had been in the Armed Forces when Oprah was born.

According to wikipedia.org, Winfrey spent her first six years living with her maternal grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee, who was so poor that Winfrey often wore dresses made of potato sacks, and the local children made fun of her. Her grandmother, ever in Oprah’s corner, taught her to read before the age of three and took her to church, where she was nicknamed “The Preacher” for her preternatural ability to recite Bible verses and command the stage.

Despite parental neglect from her mother, sexual abuse by family members from the age of nine, and the stillbirth of a son at age 14, Oprah’s intellect and ability to speak powerfully in public earned her a full ride to HBCU Tennessee State University on an Oratory Scholarship.

As Oprah honed her skills through education and experience, she became the youngest news anchor and the first black female news anchor at Nashville’s WLAC-TV. Oprah then became an anchor in the larger market of Baltimore, MD before taking over the hosting position of low-rated AM Chicago in 1984.

Oprah aligned her talents, smarts, professionalism and relatability to catapult her over Phil Donahue’s long-venerated talk show Donahue for the top-rated slot. Oprah then wisely took advice from movie critic Roger Ebert to make a syndication deal with King World Media and have ownership in her program – the beginning of the Oprah brand.

The Oprah Winfrey Show debuted September 8, 1986 and topped daytime talk show ratings for 25 years until she retired from the show. Oprah really hit her stride and pinpointed her brand when she followed her instincts in the 1990s to shift away from “tabloid-style” shows to ones with a focus on literature, self-improvement, mindfulness and spirituality. Even though she briefly took a ratings dip during the change, she soared to the top again and outlasted several popular talk show hosts of the time such as Sally Jesse Raphael, Ricki Lake, Montel Williams, Donahue, Jenny Jones, and Jerry Springer. Continue reading “BHM: Let’s Honor Oprah! Entrepreneur, Media Maven, Philanthropist, Actor, Influencer… Genius”