Actors, directors, musical artists, filmmakers and politicians such as Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé, Stacey Abrams, Ava DuVernay, Viola Davis, Samuel L. Jackson, Spike Lee, Tiffany Haddish, Whoopi Goldberg, Reginald Hudlin and Halle Berry showed up to support filmmaker and entrepreneur Tyler Perry as he formally opened his Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta.
Tyler Perry Studios marks the first time that an African-American person has owned and operated a major film studio anywhere in the U.S.
Perry also reportedly named his twelve sound stages after living and late legends such as Denzel Washington, Oprah Winfrey, Halle Berry, Sydney Poitier, Della Reese, Spike Lee, Harry Belafonte, Cicely Tyson, Whoopi Goldberg, Diahann Carroll and Will Smith.
“Why did it take so long?” Goldberg wondered in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “Why was he the first to get it? Now he’s the man who makes the decisions, chooses the movies, and he doesn’t have to ask anybody for shit. There’s nothing better than that. He’s never on his knees. He gets what he needs because he provided it.”
Davis concurred by saying, “Tonight is history. Tonight is not just entertainment and flamboyancy, it’s not just an excuse to get dressed up. It’s an excuse to celebrate a historic moment, which is a black artist taking control of their artistic life and the vision that God has for their life,” she said. “What’s happened with us historically is we’re waiting for people to get us. We’re waiting for people to throw us a crumb. That’s not what Tyler Perry has done. I want to be able to look back on this and say ‘I was there.'”
Winfrey added of Perry: “Tyler is my little big brother. To see him rise to this moment that I know he’s dreamed about, planned, defined, clarify for himself, it’s just a fulfillment of a dream. It’s wonderful to see.”
DuVernay, among others, touchingly reported on the momentous occasion on her Instagram and Twitter:
Fun Fact: The studio lots of Disney, Warner Bros, Paramount, Fox and Sony could fit inside @TylerPerry’s studio lot at the same time – and there would still be 60 acres to spare. All on a former Confederate Army base. A stunning achievement that will echo through the generations. https://t.co/XCeXE09y77
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.
While promoting her new film “Ghostbusters” on ABC’s “The View,” comedian and “Saturday Night Live” cast member Leslie Jones spent several minutes paying homage to “View” host and lifelong inspiration Whoopi Goldberg. She holds herself back from tears as she thanks Whoopi for being someone who she could watch on TV as a young woman who finally looked like her, who she could look up to, and one day emulate. It is a beautiful, sincere and poignant moment and we wanted to share it. Watch below:
According to Variety.com, ABChas renewed “The View” for its 20th season, which will start in the fall of 2016, and is naming Candi Carter as the show’s executive producer effective immediately. Carter has served as the interim showrunner on “The View” since September, working with consultant Hilary Estey McLoughlin and co-executive producer Brian Teta, to help reboot the talk show, which has struggled since creator Barbara Walters retired in May 2013. Carter is the first African-American executive producer in the show’s history.
It’s been an up-and-down period for “The View,” which saw viewership decline in season 18 after Rosie O’Donnell rejoined then departed the Hot Topics seat last February, and Rosie Perez and Nicolle Wallace left over the summer. But the numbers have slightly improved this season to date. “The View” is ranked first in viewers (2.97 million) for the second consecutive week, and it has beat CBS’ “The Talk” in the key demographic for four of the last six weeks.
In season 19, “The View” has tried to regain heat with its panel of Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Candace Cameron-Bure, Paula Faris, Michelle Collins and Raven-Symone. The show has increased its political debates during Hot Topics and landed interviews with presidential hopefuls such as Bernie Sanders, Carly Fiorina and Martin O’Malley.
Carter spent 15 years as a supervising producer at “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and has produced for BET. “It’s an honor to be part of the extraordinary legacy built by Barbara Walters, the exceptional, funny and smart women at the table led by Whoopi Goldberg and a terrific team behind the scenes,” Carter said. “Every day is a thrill.”
According to Variety.com, Whoopi Goldberg has teamed up with fellow producers Keith A. Beauchamp and Frederick Zollo to make a feature film entitled “Till” about the racially-motivated murder of Emmett Till in 1955.
Till, 14, was tortured and lynched on Aug. 28, 1955, after reportedly whistling at a white woman while visiting relatives in Money, Miss. His murder helped ignite what became the Civil Rights Movement.
“Till” will be based on Beauchamp’s 2004 documentary “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till,” and Simeon Wright’s “Simeon’s Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till.” Beauchamp’s film led the U.S. government to reopen the Till case in 2007.
“Here is a story that is as much a part of American history as the Boston Tea Party and may stand as the greatest argument for getting rid of sanctioned racism,” Goldberg said. “Emmett Till’s brutal death at the hands of ignorant, brutish people exposes the Jim Crow-era South that gave the implicit OK to uphold that kind of racism without any real fear of repercussions. Today, the return of rampant, unchallenged racism cries out for the telling of Emmett Till’s story again.”
Zollo produced the civil rights-based dramas “Mississippi Burning” (1988) and “Ghosts of Mississippi” (1996). Goldberg starred as Myrlie Evers, wife of murdered civil rights leader Medgar Evers, in the latter film.
Former co-host Sherri Shepherd has closed a deal to return to The View as a lead contributor for the upcoming 19th season. Shepherd is expected to appear in about 50 episodes. The addition of Shepherd is part of The View overhaul this summer as ABC News is looking to reignite the veteran daytime talk show to its former ratings glory after a turbulent 18th season, the first without co-creator Barbara Walters.
Shepherd was among the most popular View co-hosts of the past decade. She spent seven seasons on the show, sharing a hosting Emmy Award. She left last August after failing to agree on contract terms with ABC. Two months ago, Shepherd returned for the first time as a guest co-host.
Next season, The View will return to a five-host format after opting for four co-hosts this season. Confirmed for three of the chairs are Whoopi Goldberg, the only returning host, Raven-Symone, and Michelle Collins, to be joined by Candace Cameron Bure and Paula Faris. Shepherd is expected to lead a group of a half dozen or so contributors that also would include Stacey London and Molly Sims, among others.In the 11 months since leaving The View, Shepherd make her Broadway debut in Roger And Hammerstein’s Cinderella as the first black actress to play the Evil Stepmother, joined the cast of the TV Land comedy The Soul Man and filmed co-starring roles in the upcoming films Ride Along 2 and Woodlawn. She also stars in and executive produces Holy And Hungry, a new series for The Cooking Channel that premieres August 23.
Shepherd, who also has been traveling the country doing standup while working on a new book about love and life after divorce, a topic that has been a tabloid fodder for the past year.
Nevertheless, in her interview with Glamour magazine, she tells the magazine the attention she’s received has been overwhelming. “Right now I’m still adjusting. I guess I feel catapulted into a different place; I have a little whiplash,” she said. “I did have a dream to be an actress, but I didn’t think about being famous. And I haven’t yet figured out how to be a celebrity; that’s something I’m learning, and I wish there were a course on how to handle it.”
She couldn’t even imagine what winning the Oscar would be like, she observed.
“I don’t think I will ever be able to really articulate how bizarre it was to hear my name at the Academy Awards. I’d watched in my pajamas the year before!” she said. “I felt numb — dazed and confused. I remember feeling light — weightless. More like limbo than cloud nine.”
Nyong’o, who was born in Mexico of Kenyan parents, mentions that she didn’t know success on this level would be possible for a woman with darker skin. For her, Oprah Winfrey wasn’t just a role model but a “reference point,” and seeing Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg in “The Color Purple” was key to her belief that she could become successful.
She hopes she can have the same effect on people who see her.
“I’ve heard people talk about images in popular culture changing, and that makes me feel great, because it means that the little girl I was, once upon a time, has an image to instill in her that she is beautiful, that she is worthy,” she said. “Until I saw people who looked like me, doing the things I wanted to, I wasn’t so sure it was a possibility.”
The December issue of Glamour will be available on newsstands November 11.
Keke Palmer is sort of living a fairytale life right now. Not only is Palmer starring in the Broadway version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, but she is also still managing to find time to help others. Now the actress is partnering with Saving Our Daughters to help other girls feel like Cinderella.
When we spoke with Palmer, she explained how meaningful the role of Cinderella was to her. Performing on Broadway has also given her “a new respect for entertainers who, night after night, are out there performing their hearts out.” Even though she’s giving it her all each night, Palmer is squeezing in some time to help Saving Our Daughters, an organization she has worked with since she was 12.
According to Palmer, she’s partnered with the organization in the past to attack “issues such as bullying and self-esteem,” so joining forces when she’s playing Cinderella makes perfect sense; after all, Cinderella faces bullying at the hands of her stepsisters. On November 4th, Palmer is meeting with girls from the Boys & Girls Club of New York for an event called “Saving Our Cinderellas.”
At the event, Palmer will host a talk session with the girls to focus on “overcoming self-esteem challenges,” such as the type of bullying Cinderella endures when she is picked on by her mean stepsisters. The sessionwill also “emphasize strong self-esteem and aim to empower girls to save themselves and become influential ‘princesses.’” Another “princess” who stepped in to help the girls was gospel singer Kierra Sheard; the gospel singer will sponsor tickets for girls without parents in their lives to a showing of Cinderella and the talk session.
When we asked Palmer what her hope for the event was, she reiterated the importance of the theme of Cinderella: “to believe the impossible,” which is something she wants each girl to do.
Just in time for Easter, the Lifetime Channel will air the small screen adaptation of Terry McMillan‘s bestseller A Day Late and a Dollar Short. The film stars Whoopi Goldberg (who also executive produced) and Ving Rhames as an estranged couple, with Anika Noni Rose, Kimberly Elise, Tichina Arnold, and Mekhi Phifer playing their adult children.
In A Day Late and a Dollar Short, when irascible matriarch Viola Price (Goldberg) learns that her next asthma attack will likely kill her, she is determined to fix her fractured family before she leaves this world, from her relationship with her husband (Rhames), to the lives of her four children and grandchildren. While on this quest, she must contend with sibling rivalry, teen pregnancy and prescription drug addiction – and that is only one child. Additionally, her jailbird son (Phifer) needs to learn how to be a better father, her granddaughter is in bigger trouble than her daughter is willing to admit and her estranged husband needs saving from his scheming younger girlfriend. It’s the kind of meddling that the Price family hasn’t experienced from Viola in decades, and she won’t have an easy time bending her loved ones to her will.
The film was adapted for television from McMillan’s novel by Shernold Edwards and directed by Stephen Tolkin. It will premiere on April 19 at 8/7C.
12 Years A Slave topped off its amazing awards-season run by earning the Best Picture Oscar tonight at the 86th Academy Awards. 12 Years director/producer Steve McQueen and producer Brad Pitt accepted the award at the end of a night that also saw writer John Ridley win for Best Adapted Screenplay, and rising star Lupita Nyong’o triumph in the Best Supporting Actress category. According to Variety.com, McQueen made history by becoming the first black producer to ever win an Academy Award for Best Picture.
The star-studded night also saw an energizing performance of “Happy” by Original Song nominee Pharrell Williams (who danced with Nyong’o, Meryl Streep and Amy Adams in the aisles), a brief a cappella version of “Eye on the Sparrow” from Darlene Love during the Best Feature Documentary acceptance speech for 20 Feet From Stardom and Oscar presentations from Will Smith, Whoopi Goldberg, Jamie Foxx, Michael B. Jordan, Tyler Perry, Gabourey Sidibe, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, and the first black man to ever win a Leading Actor Oscar, Sidney Poitier.
One of the biggest highlights of the evening was Nyong’o’s acceptance speech, where she honored those who suffered so she could shine:
Thank you to the Academy for this incredible recognition. It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance. And for Solomon, thank you for telling her story and your own.
Nyong’o then went on to thank McQueen, co-star and Best Actor nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, her family and her chosen family, before closing with encouragement to children everywhere:
When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid. Thank you.