Lauren Christine Mims is a former assistant director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans and a Ph.D. candidate in Educational Psychology at the University of Virginia. She’s also one of the many women inspired by Michelle Obama’s Becoming, a New York Times best-selling book that sold more than 1.4 million copies within the first seven days of its release. Now, Mims is turning Obama’s book into a curriculum for black girls to further their learning and development.
“Reading Becoming was like sitting on the couch with your best friend and having one of those soulful conversations about life,” said Mims.
“Reading about how Michelle Obama felt unchallenged in elementary school, teased for the way she spoke, and noticed a difference in how she was perceived during adolescence was affirming.”
Mims hopes the Becoming curriculum will make space for black girls to thrive in a world that often seems to try and deny their humanity. As part of her doctoral research at the University of Virginia, Mims explores what it means to be a young, gifted, black girl in school.
“I disrupt the traditional practice of talking about black girls in pejorative ways and center them and their unique experiences to study how we can support them. For example, my research highlights what ‘Black Girl Magic’ means to black girls; the role teachers play in supporting or stopping the success of black girls; and more about what they are learning and how it makes them feel.”
“If you follow Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Norris, and Willow Smith, think about my interviews as Red Table Talks where black girls are supported in discussing challenges and designing solutions.”
As part of the curriculum, students read Becoming, and watch films featuring black girls in leading roles. Additionally, “we will have important conversations, like about what it means to feel like your presence is a threat or that you do not belong. We will discuss Maddie Whitsett and McKenzie Nicole Adams; two 9-year-old black girls who died by suicide after being subjected to bullying. At the end of the course, students will apply their knowledge to draft new research proposals, policies, and practices,” says Mims.
Beyond the walls of the classroom, Mims says there are four things we can all do to support black girls:
Create supportive, affirming, and loving environments by listening to their needs and centering their unique experiences of Becoming;
Advocate for, adopt, and enforce school policies and accountability practices that recognize the brilliance of black girls and ensure they are not being pushed out of school.
Address the bullying, harassment, and discrimination of black girls and ensure that all students have access to mental healthcare;
Care for your own mental health and well-being.
Ultimately, Mims wants girls to know that they are enough. As Michelle Obama writes, “Becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim,” yet there is so much pressure in college to define your identity and pick a career path. It can take a toll on you. Know that you are brilliant and never “underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”
Tiffany Haddish’s love for Groupon is sending her to the Super Bowl. The Girls Tripactress went viral last summer, when she told Jimmy Kimmel a story about taking co-star Jada Pinkett-Smith and husband Will Smith on a Groupon swamp tour while filming in New Orleans (watch below).
The hilarious re-telling, which included the revelation that the Smiths had no idea what Groupon was, apparently spread quickly through the ranks of the discount e-commerce site. The company decided that they wanted to work with the actress and offered her a role as spokesperson. Now, she’ll be featured in a series of ads for the company, including its first Super Bowl commercial in seven years, which will air during the fourth quarter of the game.
According to Groupon’s head of marketing for North America, Jon Wild, when the company looked into Haddish, they not only found that the actress is a bonafide fan of its service, but that she is actually in the top 1% of most frequent purchasers. “She knows our product better than a lot of Groupon employees,” Wild said. “She could name what she’d done, the experience she had and how much she’d saved.”
That expertise not only landed Haddish the spokesperson gig, but also effectively made her an honorary employee. Groupon has also given Haddish her own section of the site, given her access to the employee app, and “put some Groupon bucks in her account.”
The HBCU Power Awards has announced that actress, singer-songwriter, director, and philanthropist Jada Pinkett Smith will receive the “Icon Award” on the evening of excellence on Friday, October 20, 7PM at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
Smith began her acting career as the feisty “Lena” from the 80s sitcom “A Different World,” a show that brought HBCU life to tv screens across the country 30 years ago. Since then, Smith has curated a successful career in film and music while giving back to the community through the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation.
Actor/choreographer Derek “Fonzworth Bentley” Watkins (Morehouse c/o ’96) supermodel Jessica White and actor/comedian Deon Cole will co-host the show. Co-founded by Watkins along with event producer Jash’d Kambui Belcher (Morehouse c/o ’99) and Wall Street executive Roderick Hardamon (Morehouse c/o ’98), the HBCU Power Awards honors the achievements and accomplishments of HBCU alumni and supporters who are making innovative and leading-edge achievements in business, sports, philanthropy, media, music, technology, TV, film, politics, civil service and fashion.
“We created the HBCU Power Awards to serve as a platform to celebrate black excellence and to highlight the importance of HBCUs in our communities,” says Belcher. “Our honorees embody the spirit of success and commitment to community that HBCUs have instilled in students for decades.”Adds Watkins: “In a time when the existence of our HBCUs is being threatened, the Power Awards is a shining reminder of the genius and innovation that black colleges generate every year.”
Sponsors of the 2017 HBCU Power Awards include Morehouse College, the Atlanta Hawks, Radio One, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Experience Grands Rapids and the Lowman Group/ dba the Athletes Foot.
According to Deadline.com, Universal’sGirls Trip has earned director Malcolm D. Lee not only his second A+ CinemaScore following 2013’s The Best Man Holiday, but also the best opening of his career at the domestic B.O. with $30.4M, beating Holiday‘s $30.1M. This is an incredible start for a movie that cost under $20M, is getting across-the-board positive reviews (plus, Tiffany Haddish‘s viral Will-and-Jada swamp story on “Jimmy Kimmel” exists because of this movie, so even more reason to give it up to “Girls Trip”) and it’s great for comedies in a marketplace. On Friday, the film made $11.7M and eased 5% on Saturday for $11.1M.
RelishMix sees Girls Trip‘s momentum fueled by its cast’s passion to promote on social media. “It’s encouraging to see an entire cast get behind a film — every cast member is social and activated, which is a true rarity. So, many of the YouTube views are surely driven by the super-social cast, led by Queen Latifah’s 18M followers,” reported the social media firm. Jada Pinkett Smith counts 8.9M followers across Facebook and Twitter.
“Girls Trip is a break-through comedy that is providing audiences with big entertainment, big laughs,” said Universal domestic distribution chief Nick Carpou, “Malcolm D. Lee is a master at creating characters and telling stories that resonate, and in conjunction with producers Will Packer and James Lopez, has brought us a fresh, raunchy, empowering comedy.”
In other box office news, World War II drama “Dunkirk” came in at number one this weekend, earning $50.5 million, but sci-fi spectacle “Valerian” crashed hard, collecting only $17M in its fifth-place debut. The top 5 were rounded out by holdovers “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which earned $22M in its third week, and “War for the Planet of the Apes,” scoring $20.4M in its second.
Making it in Hollywood is no easy feat, and doing so as a woman is even more difficult. If that woman is black — or Latina or Asian or otherwise nonwhite — the odds just aren’t in her favor. But with the release of “Girls Trip,” four black women — Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddish — attempt a takeover of the buddy comedy, possibly the first time black women have led such a picture.
One reason as to why? The number of black women thought to be able to carry a studio-backed film is slim, and there hasn’t been a bona-fide black female comedic superstar since Whoopi Goldberg. We spoke to 18 funny black women about their industry experiences. Below are their thoughts:
Tracee Ellis Ross
While most probably know Tracee Ellis Ross as Rainbow on the hit “black-ish,” others see Joan Clayton of “Girlfriends,” the early 2000s show almost no one would argue about rebooting.
While most probably know Tracee Ellis Ross as Rainbow on the hit “Black-ish,” others see Joan Clayton of “Girlfriends” — the early 2000s show fans would love to see earn the revival or reunion treatment.
Regardless of her career experiences, Ross is just beginning to get her due recognition. In addition to nabbing a Golden Globe earlier this year, she’s earned her second consecutive Emmy nomination. Some might say she has all the makings of a comedic superstar.
But when she takes a moment to ponder other black women who fit the bill she’s forced to think hard.
“Regina Hall … Issa Rae … Jessica Williams,” she said after a moment, “but I shouldn’t have to search to come up with those names. The difficulty is, and I think what happens is, you might see somebody in a role and you’re like, ‘Holy …! She is so funny.’ Then she doesn’t get another opportunity, but she needs those roles because they help you build a career so everybody knows your name and knows what you’re capable of.
“And it’s not just black comedic women. There are, I’m sure, a lot of very funny Asian women and Latina women, and we know some of them, but it’s not because the talent doesn’t exist. The other thing is, the talent exists, but [performers] need the experience to keep getting better and have more depth.”
Ross is encouraged, however, by the likes of Rae.
“I think Issa is a beautiful example of ‘You’re not going to give me any real estate? Fine. I’m going to make it,’” she said. “There is revolution going on.”
How did you settle into comedic acting?
I loved making people laugh when I was younger. It was frowned upon during dinner time but I thought it was hilarious to make my sister laugh. It was often the thing that got me kicked out of class because I was always silly. It was one of the ways my shyness manifested and the way I protected myself and kept people at bay. And I’ve always been a very physical person so when I experience a feeling, I experience it in my entire body.
As I look back, it was a natural progression into the physical comedy and the ways I use my body. In terms of my career, I don’t know that it was a conscious choice that I moved into comedy, but it was an authentic choice. I don’t consider myself funny. I consider myself silly. I just tell the truth and my truth comes out in a way that makes people laugh. My goal isn’t to make people laugh, but I enjoy that exchange.
I think the difficulty for actors of any kind is when you get stuck with what other people assume is who you are. We’re actors and we can do anything.
— Tracee Ellis Ross
Who are some of your comedic inspirations?
I was a Carol Burnett, Lucy [Ball], Lily Tomlin type of girl. They were the three women that etched it in for me. I remember looking back and seeing Goldie Hawn in “Private Benjamin.” I was drawn to all of that growing up. Those were the women that defined freedom and courage [for me]. From there so many funny women like Julia Louis-Dreyfus — I don’t even understand [how she does it].
And then Whoopi Goldberg did the Moms Mabley documentary, and I was so grateful that she did that because it really showed me that Moms Mabley is specifically one of the reasons I can do what I do. She carved something out and did something so consciously that allows me to be a black woman in comedy.
Tiffany Haddish is legitimately having a moment. As a star of “Girls Trip,” opposite industry vets Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Regina Hall. Based on her performance, and with an upcoming Showtime comedy special, she’s on her way to household-name status.
But what else would you expect from “the last black unicorn?”
How did you get into comedy?
My social worker. [laughs] I was living in South Central L.A. and was being bused to Woodland Hills. I was getting in trouble because I was not sure how to make friends. So I made this imaginary friend up because I thought I was at the Nickelodeon Awards — I had never been around this many white people. I thought I was at the Nickelodeon Awards every day so I thought I needed to be all creative and entertaining because I thought white people lived in TV — my concept of people was really messed up.
I remember going to court and seeing the judge. I thought he was the judge from “People’s Court.” [laughs] By the time I got to 10th grade, it was bothering my social worker that she was getting called to the school every week. I was getting sent to the dean’s office for being racist because I had this bird named Cracker. It was this imaginary bird, and I would be like, “Cracker want a Polly?” And I would take actual crackers and break them up on my shoulder. Kids would laugh and stuff. We’d be taking a test and I would be like, “What’s the answer to number seven Cracker?” And they’d be like, “Go to the dean’s office!”
So my social worker was like, “You have two choices this time. You can go to Laugh Factory Academy Camp or you can go to psychiatric therapy. Which one you want to do this summer?” I was like, “Which one got drugs?” and I went to comedy camp. It was the first time a man ever told me I was beautiful and I didn’t feel like I was going to be hurt in some kind of way. They taught me confidence, communication skills, how to write, how to have stage presence.
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are serious about seeing women succeed in Hollywood. The couple just donated $30,000 to New York University’s film school as part of a foundation project designed to help female filmmakers and to finance student television projects.
“Will and Jada Smith have a strong desire and commitment to the education of tomorrow’s storytellers, and we’re thrilled that they have decided to support some of out standout students and programs,” said Joe Pichirallo, chair of Tisch’s undergraduate film and TV department.
The money will go to finance two student-created television pilots and will also go toward the Fusion Film Festival, which supports up to five female filmmakers whose work is submitted to the festival.
In a unanimous vote Thursday night, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences‘ 51-member board of governors approved a sweeping series of changes designed to diversify its membership, the academy said in a statement Friday.
The board committed to doubling the number of women and minority members in the academy by 2020.
AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced the plan Friday after many of Hollywood’s A-listers slammed the organization for their all-white award nominees. “The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” she said in a statement.
The board approved reforms late Thursday to “begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition,” Isaacs explained.
It also approved a series of changes limiting members’ lifetime voting rights. “Beginning later this year, each new member’s voting status will last 10 years, and will be renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade,” the academy statement said. “In addition, members will receive lifetime voting rights after three 10-year terms; or if they have won or been nominated for an Academy Award. We will apply these same standards retroactively to current members. In other words, if a current member has not been active in the last 10 years they can still qualify by meeting the other criteria. Those who do not qualify for active status will be moved to emeritus status. Emeritus members do not pay dues but enjoy all the privileges of membership, except voting. This will not affect voting for this year’s Oscars. ”
The move follows pledges by director Spike Lee and actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith to stay home from the Oscar telecast on Feb. 28, and calls for a boycott of the show online.
For the last three years, the awards body has been in the midst of a push for more diversity, inviting larger and demographically broader groups to join its 6,261 voting members. But given the size of the academy, and the fact that members belong for life, any change to the organization’s overall demographics had been incremental.
The academy will also launch a campaign to identify and recruit new members who represent greater diversity, the statement said, and will add new members who are not governors to its executive and board committees to influence key decisions about membership.
“Murder Town,” a legal drama to be exec produced by star Jada Pinkett Smith, has landed at ABC as a put pilot, Variety has learned.
The potential series hails from A+E Studios and marks the first project to be sold to a network outside the A+E Networks portfolio.
Pinkett Smith will star as a complicated prosecutor who makes history as Wilmington, Delaware’s first African-American District Attorney. She finds herself confronted by old loyalties and loves, a shocking revelation about her murdered husband and a polarizing, racially-charged case that threatens to burn her and her city to the ground.
Barry Schindel (“Intelligence,” “Numb3rs”) penned the pilot, which is based on an original script by Rob Fresco. “Murder Town” marks a reunion for the writer/producer and ABC, as he has worked on the network’s long-running crime drama “Castle.”
Schindel will executive produce with Pinkett Smith, plus Miguel Melendez. Overbrook Entertainment will produce with A+E Studios.
Sixteen-year-old actress (and more) Amandla Stenberg has launched a new comic book franchise titled “NIOBE: She is Life,” which she co-wrote with Sebastian A. Jones, and is illustrated by Ashley A. Woods, with a layout by Darrell May.
It’ll be published via Los Angeles-based Stranger Comics (founded by Jones) – a multi-platform company which seeks to produce and distribute narratives about the experiences of people of color, via different artistic mediums; comic books being one of them obviously.
May serves as the company’s art director.
The official synopsis for the “NIOBE: She is Life” describes it as a coming of age tale of love, betrayal, and ultimate sacrifice: “Niobe Ayutami is an orphaned wild elf teenager and also the would-be savior of the vast and volatile fantasy world of Asunda. She is running from a past where the Devil himself would see her damned… toward an epic future that patiently waits for her to bind nations against the hordes of hell. The weight of prophecy is heavy upon her shoulders and the wolf is close on her heels.”
“I was drawn to give voice to Niobe and co-write her story because her journey is my journey. I connect to her mixed racial background and quest to discover her innate powers and strengths, to learn who she truly is,” Stenberg told The Huffington Post.
Stenberg first became involved with the project when she met Stranger Comics founder Jones at the Mixed Remixed Festival – an annual celebration of people of mixed race heritage through the cultural arts.
Jones added: “It did not take long for me to know she was the person I needed to develop; she’s the most beloved character in a franchise I have been brewing for more than two decades – a hero that has the weight of the world on her winged shoulders, a woman who will bind nations.”
Niobe first appeared in Jones’ series “The Untamed,” which follows the story’s protagonist, known as The Stranger, and his quest to seek vengeance for the deaths of his wife and daughter.
“She [Niobe] is on a path to a destiny that will test her faith and her will, something we can all relate to,” said Stenberg, “But there’s never been a character quite like her – one who shatters the traditional ideal of what a hero is. We need more badass girls!”
“NIOBE” is scheduled for release in November alongside “The Untamed” graphic novel.
By the way, it may just be a coincidence, but Niobe also happens to be the name of the character Jada Pinkett Smith played in “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions,” and one of the protagonists of video game “Enter the Matrix.” And she certainly was a “badass girl,” to use Stenberg’s words.
First Daughters Sasha Obama and Malia Obama, Little League superstar Mo’ne Davis and Jaden Smith are included in Time Magazine’s “25 Most Influential Teens of 2014” list.
Davis (pictured above), is the first girl to earn a win and pitch a shutout game in Little League World Series history. The braided cutie is also the first Little League baseball player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a Little League player.
The Obama girls are bright, opinionated and it is already very evident that they will one day be accomplished, strong, opinionated leaders in their own right, just like their famous mom and dad.
Jaden Smith (pictured), the 16-year-old son of Hollywood A-listers, Will and Jada is an accomplishedactor in his own right and the kid already has quite a way with words. Known for his brow-raising Twitter postings, Jaden has managed to garner 5 million followers on the popular social medium.
The unranked list, which was released Monday morning, “analyzed social-media followings cultural accolades, business acumen and more” in order to highlight worthy candidates who influence society in a positive way.