Nubia is a spoken word
artist, writer and performer whose CD is quite hypnotic and
stimulating to say the least. Speaking of stimulating,
the title cut “Poetic Arousal”
is very arousing but in an intellectual stimulating kind of
way if that makes sense. You have to hear it to
Check out Gary Johnson’s
interview with Nubia.
I want to talk about your spoken word
CD, “Poetic Arousal.”
The CD is stimulating, spiritual and thought provoking. How
has the CD been received?
has been received well by many. I’ve received positive
responses from both male and female (all ages and races) as
to how the music as well as the words motivate and up-lift
them spiritually, which encourages me to keep pushing to a
How did you become a spoken
life has led me to writing and from writing to wanting to
express verbally thus opening a door for me to perform and
share my passion by speaking words from within
unto listening ears and longing souls.
What makes a “successful”
spoken word artist?
Diligence, Faith, Commitment in your art, acknowledging and
appreciating others that have helped along the way. Staying
positive, not for the accolades but for the love of what you
do and being True to SELF.
How often do you tour?
moment I get LOL! I enjoy sharing my passions in life.
You wrote the music, you
speak the music, and you sing the songs. I get the sense
that you’ve had a wide variety of musical influences. Who
are some of your musical influences?
a good one. Sade, Erika Badu, Patti Labelle
Angelou. All of these women express UNIQUELY from their
What do you want people to
“get” as a result of listening to your CD?
my writings I aspire to evoke thoughts of candor, open the
doors of consciousness for self-reflection, and to encourage
/motivate all to be free spiritually. My CD contains many
How much of your personal
life is reflected in your music?
music is a reflection of my life. As a writer, I am
inspired by all situations in life. Whether it affects me
directly or indirectly. Sometimes I reflect upon personal
experiences through my writings or merely through
observation of some one else’s experience. Sometimes I just
write about life.
Do you have any professional
ambitions outside of music?
what some would call a Nubia of all trades. I am owner of
"Nubia's Baskets-N-More" (my gift basket
company), I am a health care professional/counselor for the
VA Medical Center. I work with substance abusers.
I’m also a licensed massage therapist. My company’s name is
"A Touch for Better Health."
How would you describe your
Like none other. It is unlimited and uninhibited.
Uniquely flavored with a sultry mix of thought provoking
What’s the best thing about
possess an open mind, linked with a heart that allows me to
do what I can for others without a thought of how it
affects me. Nubia allows me to voice my heart to many
How involved are you with
the business side of your career?
the Alpha and Omega within my businesses. I know where I
want my talents to take me, so I keep things flowing from
the cradle to grave.
How much can you share about
your personal life? Are you married? Single? Have a
married to my passions in life.
Where do you see Nubia 5
years from now?
with each passing day. Still learning, growing and
accomplishing different and new endeavors. I do not put a
time span on my goals and future accomplishments. My future
is NOW!!! What can be done within 5 years can also be
accomplished in within 1 month, 3 months, 1 year or 3
years. It is merely up to the individual and how they carry
out their Plan of Action.
What are the most important
issue facing black men in America? Black women?
Education, and not focusing on our children’s future, and
supporting each other as one. Color is just that, color,
and it does not dictate who you are, what you can do, or
where you can go in life. Each person, controls that walk
individually. Life is what we make it. Always has been and
always will be.
How can we support you and
Networking, word of mouth as well as online
advertising. I am thankful to God for people such as you
for the support and promotion. Gary I would like to give a
special thanks to you, not only for what you do, but also
for who you are. You’re a positive Black Man in America.
”Keep on doing what you do.”
Special thanks to the Omnipotent One (God),
Gregory of Jazz Poetry Café’, Kimberly Banks of Promise
Land Productions, Cassandra Faye Armstrong, Darryl (D’Poet)
Thomas, Lajeanne’ Mizell, Allen James the Chef,
family, friends and fans for all of the love and
Deanna James-McCray - Mrs. Maryland United States 2005
Deanna McCray-James was born and raised
the in Washington, DC Metropolitan Area. Showing an early
interest in politics and government, she served as a State Page
in the Maryland Senate as well as a Congressional Intern. Mrs.
McCray-James is a graduate of the
University of Maryland University College
with a B.S. in Management Studies. She is
currently pursuing a dual Masters of Science in Management/MBA
with a focus in Marketing from the University of Maryland
University College. In 2003, she and her business partner
formed the Metropolitan Young Ladies Council (MYLC), a program
dedicated to mentoring young women ages 13-18. MYLC efforts
focus on guiding financial, intellectual, cultural and social
development–preparing young women for a brighter, diverse and
independent future. Deanna by way of her platform is making a
difference in our community. You can learn more about this
multi-talented woman by reading our interview with her.
Hello Deanna. Thanks for taking the time out for this
interview. However, you have a very impressive and eclectic
background that I will get to in a minute. I know that you grew
up in the Washington, DC metro area and graduated from the
University of Maryland University College.
You also served as a State Page in the
Maryland Senate as well as a Congressional Intern for the
Honorable Albert R. Wynn, (D-MD) during the 104th Congress’ 2nd
session and the Democratic National Committee. How in the world
did you get into pageantry?
Well as most young ladies, I grew up watching the Miss America
pageant on TV every year and dreamed of being on stage like
those women. I really didn’t understand that it was a
scholarship pageant, nor did I understand what it took to be a
part of that world, in terms of financing, talent and time. I
just knew they were on stage, they were princesses and they won
lots of prizes. As I grew older and began to research it I
became very disheartened about how to become involved. In the
late 80's and early 90's pageantry in Maryland was pretty much a
predominately white and well to do arena. I wasn’t aware how to
get financial and in-kind sponsorships that would help me enter
the local pageants and as a result I was never able to compete.
There were a few local titles that I tried to enter in PG county
but somehow they always ended up being cancelled due to lack of
participation. I did however when Homecoming Duchess, my
sophomore year at Forestville High School. I decided to try
again when I entered college and subsequently competed and won
the title of Miss Black Student Alliance. It was a very
interesting pageant for the university’s black student group was
a lot of fun to represent at Homecoming. Unfortunately I never
got to fulfill my dream of being in that pageant system because
I never fully understood how to get financing and I became
pregnant with my son. As you know – you can’t enter Miss
America once you have a child, especially if you are unwed.
Once I got married, I started surfing around on the web to find out if there were pageants
that were available for married women and to my surprise there
are. To the best of my knowledge there are four major pageants
for married women: Mrs. America, Mrs. United States,
Black Mrs. International and Mrs.
share what its like to be Mrs. Maryland in terms of the
challenges, responsibilities and the opportunities?
Click On Photo To Enlarge
Being Mrs. Maryland
United States is absolutely dynamic. Pageants and the women
that enter them often have very bad reps. A lot of it is
misunderstandings about the culture and the preparation that
goes into competing. As Mrs. Maryland, I have had the
opportunity to volunteer for a number of causes and bring
attention to a number of issues in the state. For instance,
currently I am on the planning committee for the Alzheimer’s
Association’s –National Capital Area Chapter’s annual
fundraising event. This event will raise thousands of dollars
for Alzheimer’s care and research. Of course I could have
volunteered on my own and raised money on my own – but there is
something different about calling a company to solicit a
sponsorship or a donation and to say the call is coming from
Mrs. Maryland – for whatever reason it makes a difference.
Throughout the year, I have also been able to work with the Asthma & Allergy Foundation,
Black Women’s Health
Imperative and my organization, the Metropolitan Young
Ladies Council. I have also had the opportunity to do some
very fun and exciting things – I went to Las Vegas in July to
compete for the national title of Mrs. United States. I didn’t
win, but I met 50 dynamic women from across the country all
different races, ages, ethnicities, educational backgrounds,
etc. and we had a ball developing lasting friendships and
sharing experiences about things we would have never otherwise
encountered. You couldn’t have told me three years ago that I
would have a dynamic friendship with a 35-year-old white woman
from Wyoming or Idaho, but now I do. I was also able to meet
Mrs. Starr Jones-Reynolds, which was really a highlight – LOL.
In terms of challenges, I haven’t had very many. Perhaps that
is due to my attitude and temperament. I have always been very much of a go-getter and
don’t let to much get in my way. I don’t believe in the first
no being a final answer and have a pretty good negotiating
What’s good about the title and what makes it different from
some of the "Miss" titles is that there really aren’t a lot of
demands and requirements on your time. It is truly what you
make of it. The systems understands that the women who hold
these titles are wives and oftentimes mothers first and have a
number of other responsibilities and priorities that will take
precedence over making an appearance for a store. The director
looks to me to outline my goals and my time commitments and I
fit them in where I can. Talking with my husband and my family
also helps to determine where I can give and to whom.
BMIA.com: I understand that some
of these pageants are very competitive and grueling. Is it
tougher for a black woman to compete in pageants today?
It is still very tough and competitive for black women in the
pageant industry. Despite the gains that have been made by
Vanessa Williams, Suzzette Charles, Ericka Dunlap
Shauntay Hilton, there has NEVER been a Black Mrs. National
Titleholder. Additionally, the most famous black Mrs. state
titleholder just happens to be Omarosa, so you can only imagine
how that plays with folks sometime. Ultimately, I can’t say why
it is so difficult for us, without pointing to the traditional
stereotypical reasons of they just don’t want us to have it.
I don’t like to say because it sounds like such a cop out. I
personally have never faced anything negative being said to me,
or at least to my face, or have I had people outwardly act
indifferent to me. But you read things on some of the pageant
message boards and you hear things in passing that people say in
general conversations. My Mrs. United States class (contestants
that competed in 2005) had seven Black women. Seven sounds
good, but seven out of 52 doesn’t sound too exciting. No Black
women made it to the top 10, but you can’t think it was a
conspiracy it is just the way it
happened. In the Mrs. America
pageant, there were no black women
at all this year. Unfortunately, there is really
no clear way to remedy these types of
instances because we don’t know the route of the problem. It is
easy to say, “oh they are trying not to pick black women,” but
then you realize – “”hey there aren’t many black women
competing. When I won Mrs. Maryland United States last year,
there were only two black contestants and I think the total
number of women was 10. Now we know there are way more
competent, beautiful black women in Maryland than that, but that
is the way it was. So the statistical probability of a black
woman winning last year wasn’t very high – but it happened. I
was the only black woman in the top 5 and I won, so it is hard
for me to say they are truly targeting against picking a black
women. I just knew going in it I had to be at the tip top of my
A game and bring it because I won’t be able to slack – since I
am black. By the grace of God and a lot of preparation I won.
You can tell sometimes that the pageant systems, don’t “expect”
to have a black or any minority winner for that matter. There
was a pageant for another system in Maryland a few years back
that had a black winner, you could clearly tell the director and
the organizers weren’t expecting that because the prize package
included things like: tickets to the hockey game, a years worth
of tickets for tanning, standing appointments at a very
exclusive white salon, and other things that are predominately
used by white women. Do I think the director did this to be
malicious or anything – no, but she just wasn’t expecting a
black woman to win. It is just a lot of people’s way of
Another fact is that it is VERY expensive as a Mrs. to compete
in pageants, because you aren’t very likely to get the same
types of sponsorship opportunities that the teens or single
women may get. Entry fees alone can run between $400 - $1000
and then you still have to prepare your wardrobe and think about
any “training” or assistance you may need – exercise, bio
preparation, interviewing skills, stage presence, etc. Not to
say that black women can’t or won’t spend this kind of money,
but it is something to think about and this is not how we
traditionally spend our discretionary income and there aren’t
usually a lot of monetary awards for Mrs. pageants. One thing
that is beginning to change with the increase of black state
winners is society’s notion that we are not going to be rail
thin and we aren’t matching the norm for model beauty. As you
can see in the picture of the Black contestants at Mrs. United
States – we are some nice healthy sisters.
am however, delighted to see the increase of black teens
competing in pageants. One of my goals through the year has
been to motivate and assist young black women to become more
involved in pageants, if for nothing else the scholarship
dollars. A winner of a local Miss Maryland America title (say,
Miss College Park or Miss Suitland) can win anywhere from $1,000
to $5,000 depending on how the pageant is run.
the best part of being Mrs. Maryland 2005?
Click On Photo To Enlarge
I would have to say the best part of being Mrs. Maryland was
actually winning. The pageant was exactly one week after my
graduation from college so I was still riding high. Also, I had
the biggest personal audience I have ever had at a competition,
including my parents. Of course, my husband is always there but
my parents had never seen me compete so I felt so blessed they
were there to witness it. My younger sister, my cousin and
her husband and two of my very good friends all made the trip to
Delaware to support me. I know I will compete again, but if I
never win another pageant – having all of them there to witness
that win would really be enough for me.
Yes, I do
still attend the University of Maryland University College. As
I stated previously, I graduated in May of last year with my
Bachelors of Science degree in Management Studies. I took the
summer off and returned in September to pursue my first of two
Currently, I am working on completing my Masters of Science in
Management (MSM) with a focus in Public Relations. UMUC has
this dynamic option where you can earn a dual degree by taking a
few more classes. I will complete my MSM in the summer of 2007
and then I will begin working towards my MBA and hope to
complete that in summer 2008. By pursuing both degrees
consecutively without interruption, I am only required to take ½
the credits of a traditional MBA. It is great, right now I am
contemplating going for my Doctorate in Management after that –
but we will have to see how I feel about that in a few years.
education was important in your life. How did education become
so important in your life?
You know, it’s very funny – I actually started out wanting to be
“smarter than my mom.” My sister and I grew up in a very loving
family but no different than a lot of people. We were lower
middle class and had average experiences. I don’t remember how
my mom actually told me, but somewhere along the way she
mentioned graduating number 7 in her class at Anacostia High
School. I thought okay, well she was number 7. I have to
do the same or better. I attended Prince George’s County Public
Schools for my entire education and had the best time and think
I received an education that is on par or better with that of a
private school, so I have no regrets. In Kindergarten they
tested me for Talented and Gifted (TAG). I don’t even
think they told my parents they were doing it. I vaguely
remember being pulled out of class and told that I was taking a
test and that was that. So I was labeled as a TAG student very
early and was always placed in talented classes. I really don’t
remember thinking anything special about it because all my
friends were doing it also. My mother was very important in
making sure that my sister and I understood there was a whole
world out there for us to explore and made sure we did a variety
of things. She introduced us to different types of music,
literature and art. It was never explained to us as a “white
thing” or something that we should think of as special it was
the norm. I guess it helps that I went to a pretty
integrated elementary school and a lot of my friends were
military brats who lived on Andrews Air Force Base, so I was
constantly being exposed to kids that had lived overseas who had
parents that spoke different languages. I began playing the
flute in the 5th grade and loved it and learned from
there that I could earn scholarships and that I had an
opportunity to do things that all the kids in the school
couldn’t do – get out of class early, perform for the student
body. Things like that. The year I started middle school at
Andrew Jackson, was the same year they were instituting the
magnet program in Prince Georges County Schools. I had the
opportunity to be in the inaugural class for the Humanities and
Social Sciences program in the county. My mom had spoken often
of learning Spanish in school, of course wanting to be just like
my mom, I wanted to learn Spanish also. Well I got my wish and
more, one of the components of the program was that each student
in the cohort had to take one quarter of a different language
and one full year of Latin. So in the 7th grade, I
studied French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Latin. In the 8th
grade, you picked a primary language, which was Spanish or
French, and then you had a semester each of Japanese and Latin.
It was very different although to this day, I can’t stand the
sound of German – too much hacking and coughing with your
words. It did however give me the opportunity to learn about
careers that required these skills and how those careers could
allow you to see the world at little cost to you. To excel in
these careers you needed a supreme education. When I got to
high school, I still had the same dream of being better than my
mom and surrounded myself with like-minded people. I took
plenty of advanced placement classes and faired very well
throughout my high school career. I did achieve my goal of
being just as smart as my mom (at least in my mind.) I
graduated in the top 10% of my class and received several
scholarships and acceptances to a number of universities on the
Education remains so important to me because I can see the
difference it really makes in one’s life. I had been in my same
career field for about six years before receiving my degree
however once I attained that goal, higher level positions and
higher salaries were no longer considered out of the question
for me. Personnel directors looked at my resume with a little
more respect after that. Now I realize that if I want to
continue to go further, I need to continue my education. I am
also involved with my alumni association and will serve on the
Board of Directors beginning in September of 2006.
Lost in the “pageantry” of being Mrs. Maryland, you are quite
the entrepreneur. What type of businesses are you involved in?
operate a consulting and event-planning firm in the area. For a
number of years, I have worked in the association management
industry doing membership, chapter relations, marketing and
event planning. With my company, I outsource my skills to
associations to help them better develop their membership
departments, analysis member records and help them determine how
to use their data to better understand their membership
demographics and what services or benefits they may want to
offer or discontinue. I also do event planning for a number of
smaller groups and causes. I do a series of networking and
informational workshops for African-American women and really
try to stress the importance of networking for them. Often
times the difference between getting that job is who you know
and what they know about your character and work. My latest
project is actually a pro-bono effort that I connected with
through Mrs. Maryland. I will be working with the Educators
Serving the Community (EDUSERC) Organization to plan their
2007 Awards program and conference. I made an appearance for
them and was subsequently asked to serve as the Spokesperson for
the organization. As I learned more about them, I knew I had to
work in a greater capacity for their mission outside of just
making appearances. I am so excited and can’t wait to start
publicizing the event.
would eventually like to open up a teen center so that my kids
will have somewhere to go when they get to that age.
Let’s talk about work and family. In 2002 you married the love of your life
Darrin. You also have two children (Amira
Is it hard for you to find a comfortable balance between work
and family? What’s the biggest challenge in this area?
Husband Darrin and
(Click On Photo To
Well I am a pretty high strung and active person so it isn’t
hard for me to find the balance, but it is quite the balancing
act. I would be totally lost without my organizer. There are
certain days that I dedicated to being outside of my home to
work on “extracurricular things” so I am able to maintain,
somewhat of a steady schedule. I have the old fashioned big
book – can’t do the electronic thing. My family is a blended
family; my husband and I both brought a child to the
relationship. The children get along wonderfully and we are
both very fortunate to have good, open relationships with their
other parents. This makes life a lot easier for us and makes
planning things simpler. My husband is a HUGE support system
for me I guess we compliment each other well. I am very
outgoing and very into community service and doing things and
having lots of appointments and meetings to do this and do that.
Where as he is laid back, very relaxed and can just chill and
watch sports and be happy. He is a southern guy, he is from New
Orleans so he loves to cook and entertain friends at home. As I
get older, I am starting to slow down more and appreciate being
home more but I don’t think I will ever completely empty my
calendar. My parents and sister are a huge support system as
well. My dad is very instrumental in after school care for my
son and because of this he has developed a strong and loving
bond with his grandparents. Ironically, the biggest challenge
might be keeping up with the kids’ schedule as it begins to take
on a life of its own. Pretty soon I will have no choice but to
rearrange my life around them. Between the two of them, there
is track, basketball, soccer, softball, Girl Scouts and
football. That’s not even including homework and academic
pursuits. I am very happy to say that my son and daughter
usually maintain between a 3.75 and 4.00 GPA and take a lot of
pride in doing well in school and being their best.
What are you doing now?
Well currently, I am preparing to crown my successor for Mrs.
Maryland United States – it will truly be a bittersweet moment
but all good things must come to an end. My family just moved
into a new home so I am constantly finding something to
redecorate. Of course, I am spending a lot of time right now
preparing my final research papers and other items for class as
well as getting my children settled for summer camps and
activities for the summer. My next pageant isn’t until April
2007, so I have a little time to rest on the pageant front.
As I said earlier, my two key projects right now are the
Alzheimer’s Association and EDUSERC. The Alzheimer’s
Association is so important to me because I lost one of my great
aunts to this horrible disease. This was a woman who was so
vivacious and was the life of the party in our family. Very
stylish and would often teach the younger ones how to crochet.
When she was struck with this disease, she became a very violent
and volatile woman who was often angry and mad at the world. We
eventually had to put her in a home in an effort to stop her
from being a danger to her self and others. Right now, I have a
very dear Uncle, well family friend – you know how we are, that
is suffering from this disease. It isn’t really bad yet, it is
in the early stages. However because of the disease he had to
resign his post as a minister at a local church. The event that
I am working on with the DC Chapter is called the Maintain Your
Brain Challenge and it will be held at American University in
Washington, DC on Saturday, June 10th. The event is
being held to bring awareness to the importance focusing on your
brain can play in the prevention of Alzheimer’s. It is a family
event and will have a few areas of interest for just about
everyone. A few of my friends from Mrs. United States will be
there to help out, including Mrs. United States – Dr. Chiann Fan
Gibson. Anyone that wants to donate or learn more about the
event can do so by going to my team’s webpage - https://www.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=165460&supId=123199426.
BMIA.com: Who are some of the
people that motivate and inspire you?
My number one
inspiration has been my grandmother. She passed away in 2001
but we were so very, very close. She was born in 1911 and as
most young black women in that era she didn’t have a lot of
education and had to sacrifice a lot for the good of the family
but she persevered. She was just a shining example of
self-determination, faith and belief in Christ, doing the right
thing and just living life in such a happy way. She always had
a kind word for people and didn’t believe in harping on the
negative. I initially left my first college because I wanted to
be grown. I wanted to get a job and work and all the things I
thought were fun in life. After that, I became pregnant and
couldn’t return to school for some time. Through it all, she
never told me she was disappointed and just hoped that I would
return to school and achieve all the things she wanted for me
and knew I wanted for myself. I finally returned to UMUC after
she passed and didn’t go to visit her gravesite until I picked
up my cap and gown for commencement activities from school.
Something in my psyche didn’t want to go until I could tell her
that I would be a college graduate.
My motivation now is my family, my children. I am not motivated
to make a lot of money or be the most popular however I am
motivated to live a good example for my kids and try to
demonstrate to them what success and happiness can be. Everyone
has to define success for themselves, but I want them to be able
to say great things about me and my influence and impact on them
the way I do about my parents. Even today, in my 30s I think my
parents are the best people in the world. In high school, all
my friends would call my parents the Huxtables. At the time, I
hated it but now I see what an honor and a blessing that was.
They were together, they were PRESENT, something a lot of kids
are missing now, and they were supportive. That’s what I want
to be for my kids and in order to do that I must strive to make
myself happy, I have to continue to try to achieve things that
make me feel fulfilled and happy and useful. I am motivated by
my husband and my family in a sense I want to continue to make
them proud of the things I am accomplishing and the way I serve
BMIA.com: What advice would you
give to women who want to compete in pageants?
I would definitely
advise them to not be deterred
by cost factors. Where there is a will there is a way and
anything you want is worth working hard for. Don’t be afraid to
ask for help and look for out of the box and unconventional ways
to get what you need. Never be afraid to self-promote, just be
honest and humble about it. No one is ever going to love you as
much as you love yourself and there is nothing wrong with that.
Most importantly don’t be afraid to try and fail – if you don’t
win the first time, don’t give up. Take your experience and
learn from it, study it, eat and sleep it and figure out how to
make it better. Competing in pageants is no different that
competing for other things in life. If you put in half work,
you will get half results. If you go in scared, that fear will
show and overtake you.
my first attempt at Mrs. Maryland United States- I BOMBED, so
badly. I was afraid to ask about things I didn’t understand and
I didn’t think outside the box. My next competition, Mrs.
Maryland America I asked for help. I had friends quiz me, I
asked my husband his opinion on outfits and I read a lot on what
people were saying about the industry. I was lucky enough to
place 2nd runner up and won the Mrs. Congeniality
award. My second attempt at Mrs. Maryland United States, I
prepared I read everything, I sought the help of a coach, I
asked friends for their help and I even went to local business
to see what types of sponsorship opportunities were available.
If I had quit after my first disaster, I would have never won
this dynamic title.
Deanna and Star Jones-Reynolds
at Karibu Books (Bowie, MD)
Click On Photo To Enlarge
So what do you think? If you would
like to respond to this article
and sign our
to leave a public or private
Producer/Songwriter/Author Kashif - Poised To Be Black Bill
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locate, and connect with over 35,000 top music industry
Here’s how it works. You have
just finished recording a demo and want to send it to record
companies for review. Music Business 411 allows you to search for record
companies or individuals by specific genre - R&B, Hip Hop, or
Rock. Once it has completed the search (almost instantly), a
list appears. Click on any name on the list and gain access to
telephone numbers, addresses, e-mails, fax numbers, staff
information and a whole lot more. You can then use the
software’s auto-letter-writing function to write to hundreds of
record companies or thousands of radio stations at one time. You
can even e-mail your music to managers and agents right from the
Having grown up in eight foster
homes and never knowing any real family, Kashif says he is used
to exploring uncharted territory. “I spent most of childhood
moving from home-to-home and had to be inventive in order to
survive, so I am more apt to think outside the box and willing
to take bigger chances than most of my peers. Even with my
music, I am more comfortable blazing trails than following the
pack.” My experiences in foster care taught me that nothing is
promised and that life is uncertain, therefore I had to learn to
trust others and seek mentorship in many areas of my life. Just
as important is my trust in my own instincts.” His success in
music inspired him to write the enormously successful Everything
You’d Better Know About The Record Industrybook, considered by many to be the music industry
bible. “Kashif is a bit of a genre hopper,” says mentor and
business associate Bill Shack. “He is just as comfortable
writing books, and software as he is writing/producing music.”
Music Business 411 also boasts an
impressive list of type of contacts it contains including;
record companies, publishers, radio stations, press contacts,
producers, recording studios, managers, agents, attorneys,
distributors, retailers, and manufacturers.
The information contained in
Music Business 411 would otherwise be expensive and/or time
consuming to acquire. Costs can range from several hundred to
even thousands of dollars. However,
Kashif believes in simple solutions for big problems that are
affordable for the masses.
novice music maker or an established music organization, your
biggest challenge in realizing more success is connecting with
people and organizations that will share your dreams, and are
willing to support you and your goals.” Music Business 411
solves that problem.
“Bill Gates is one of my heroes.
If I am going to be in software I might as well pattern myself
after one of the best,” says Kashif. CNN says, “It appears to
put all the tools for success in music right at your
fingertips.” Cynthia Johnson of Warner Brothers Records calls it
“The best way to break into the music business, period.”
Brooklyn Boy Software is projecting $35 million dollars in sales
revenue in 2006. Annual growth is expected to be between 15-20
His career spans over four decades. He’s
sold over 70 million records. He’s the author of arguably the
most recommended book on the music business. Who is he? Want a
few more hints? OK. This man has written and produced for
award-winning albums for Whitney Houston, George Benson, Al Jarreau, Kenny G.,
Evelyn “Champagne” King,
Melba Moore, Me’lisa Morgan, Barry White, Da Brat, Glenn Jones,
Howard Johnson, Lil’ Kim,
don’t know? Folks, I’m talking about the one and only Kashif.
With hit records like “I Just Got To Have You (Lover Turn Me
On),” “Stone Love,” “Help Yourself To My Love” and the
Grammy-nominated instrumental “The Mood,” Kashif began creating
a solid reputation among record buyers for his distinctive
Never knowing his real parents, Kashif grew up in eight foster
homes. Learning to play a $3.00 song flute at the age of seven
provided him with what turned out to be an important common
denominator in his unstable environments. By age 15 when he
Express whose credits included
early funk/dance hits like "Here Comes The Express"
and "Do It 'Til
You're Satisfied," Kashif was already an accomplished musician.
teamed up with then-newcomer Whitney Houston and contributed to
her first smash hit “You Give Good Love,” which he also
co-wrote, and “Thinking About You,” on Houston’s astounding
17-million selling debut-album. Kashif has also amassed gold
and platinum albums for his work with
Evelyn King, George Benson
and Kenny G.
In the 90's, with an invitation from the
famed UCLA Extension program, Kashif created a course called “Contemporary Record Production With Kashif.” He wrote and
released the now highly acclaimed book
Everything You’d Better Know About The
Record Industry, as
well as The Urban Music
Directory, A&R Source Guide,
and Music Publisher’s
Source Guide. Each of
these books is designed to assist people that have an interest
in the music industry.
BMIA.com: Hey Kashif, thanks for
taking the time to do this interview. I want to jump right into
the interview. In preparing for this interview, I’ve discovered
quite a few folks, under 35 years old, who may not be familiar
with you or your music. So hip these “new schoolers” to you.
How long have you been in the music business?
Kashif: I have been in the music
business for 32 years. My first professional gig was when I
joined BT Express back in 1974.
BMIA.com: The name Kashif is very
unique. What is the origin or significance of your name?
Kashif: It is Arabic. I first
took on this name back in 1975. One of the members of BT
Express, Jamal Rasool – The bass player was a Muslim. The group
was on tour and I had seen a lot of musicians and people about
that lived with low morals and little discipline. But I
respected Jamal as he demonstrated personality traits that I
aspired to. He was studious, respectful, a hard worker, and
seemed to have a real plan as to where he was going. He became
my role model. He had a great influence on my life. He offered
me a book of Islamic names and I chose the name Kashif – Which
means discoverer and inventor. Saleem, my last name means one
who comes in peace.
BMIA.com: Tell us about your
background. (Where you grew up, family background, level of
Kashif: I grew up in Brooklyn New
York. My early childhood was spent moving from foster home to
foster home, eight, to be exact. I never know any real family
but found a solid foundation with the Simpson family. I stayed
with them until I was 14 when my foster mother died. The next
year I graduated high school. I did not attend any college
because I was on the road with BT Express. But that was not the
end of my education. To this day I spend a lot of hours doing
research and studying business, music, science, and other
BMIA.com: How old were you when
you joined the group B. T. Express? What did you learn from
Kashif: I joined B.T. Express
when I was 15 years old. Up until then I had done little
traveling and was not exposed to things outside of Brooklyn very
much. But when I toured with the Express all that changed. We
visited Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Kwala Lumpur, and all over
the America in the first year alone. I gained an appreciation
for the variations in life, to respect and value the way other
BMIA.com: I’ve been playing your
music (albums and CD’s) in the office. When I think back to the
early 80’s, you had a very distinctive sound with such hits as
like “I Just Got To Have You (Lover Turn Me On)”, “Stone Love”,
“Help Yourself To My Love” and the Grammy-nominated instrumental
“The Mood.” When I listen to music recorded in the 90’s and
today, I can hear your influence in other artists. Who are some
of the artists that you’ve influenced?
Kashif: I really don’t think
about that at all. When I create I try to practice what I call
free thinking. That means that I try not to adhere to any school
of thought as far as making music is concerned. Of course there
is a natural tendency to give into the gravity of past successes
that I have experienced. But I really try to ignore what has
worked in the past and try to give into what I feel is the best
choice for that record and production at that time. As far as
fine art goes whether we are play writes, dancers, painters,
scientist etc., the things we admire influence us all.
BMIA.com: Approximately how many
records have you sold and who are some of the people that you’ve
written and produced for?
Kashif: My recordings have sold
over 70 million units worldwide and counting. I have been so
fortunate to have worked with some of the most talented artists
during my career. They have been the vehicles for my songwriting
Houston, Kenny G., George Benson, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Barry
White, Will Downing, All Jarreau, B.T. Express, The Stylistics,
Dionne Warwick, make up
some of the people I have worked with.
BMIA.com: How many gold and
platinum records have you earned?
Kashif: I have no idea! I don’t
think about that.
BMIA.com: Who are some of the
people who influenced you?
Kashif: My influences come from
many different disciplines. Science, politics, music, art,
technology, business, and humanitarian.
Leonardo Di Vinci, Mahatma Gandhi, Steven
Jobs, Steven Covey, Deepak Chopra, Bono, Bill Gates, Dr, Charles
Drew, Quincy Jones, Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan.
How much time do you have?
BMIA.com: We have all the time
you need. One of the things that I noticed about you early on
in your career was a determination to be diversified. Did you
make a conscious effort to prepare for life after the music
Kashif: I will always be involved
with the music business. Music is my first love. But my interest
in science, medicine, art, technology and other disciplines also
drive me. Music gives me the financial support to dabble and
exercise my interest in the others areas. It’s really funny to
me when I see other music artists with great big egos. After all
it is only entertainment. But it is courage and the willingness
to challenge the status quo that makes one great.
BMIA.com: Most folks don’t know
that you’re a successful entrepreneur. What made you write the
highly acclaimed book, Everything You’d Better Know
About The Record Industry, and your software
enterprises? How did this all start?
Kashif: When I am out touring I
get questioned quite a bit about what it takes to be successful
in the music business. In 1996 I decided to write a book that
would help newcomers and veterans of the music industry. That
book became a big seller for me. I really had no intentions of
becoming a book publisher but 10 years later here I am.
that I developed is called the Music Business 411. It was
developed to help anyone who is interested in the music industry
connect with the right people. There are over 35,000 music
industry contacts in the professional version of the program,
including; record companies, talent scouts, publishers,
attorneys, agents managers, producers, recording studio, radio
stations and much more. With this we have solve the number one
problem of getting into the music business… You now have
thousands of contacts that you can reach out to who can help you
BMIA.com: What do you want people
to “get or learn” as a result of reading your books?
Kashif: I want to teach people
how to think for themselves, to learn the basics of the music
business so that they can make the proper decisions to have
health and prosperous careers.
BMIA.com: The other night I
watching a re-run of “VH-1’s Behind The Music,” featuring
The show pointed out that after their first major tour, the
group got a check for $1.87. How can artists protect themselves
from being ripped off?
Kashif: Again, the most important
thing about the music business is that you realize that it is
in-fact a business first. Take care of your business and your
business will take care of you. It is as simple as that.
Most people react on emotions and that tends to get them in
trouble. When you act on facts and you are clear about
that agreements that you make then you can make decisions that
will work for you and not against you.
Is the FOX TV
show “American Idol”
good for the music business? Why or why not?
I think “American Idol”
is good in a sense that it provides a real career opportunity
for a very limited number of singers to showcase their talent.
However, that is precisely why it is not that great for the
business. American Idol looks for one type of singer.
But there are all types of singers, folk, and gospel, R&B, Rock,
etc. There are also People who do not sing but play an
instrument instead. They too deserve a chance. American
Idol is about stardom, not music. Imagine
Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, John Denver,
or any other superstar that did not have the all American
belting voice that Idol looks for. They would be booted off
right? You do the math. It is one-dimensional at
BMIA.com: Is there anyone that
you haven’t worked with but would have liked to?
Alicia Keys, Stevie
Seal is my favorite artist, and others.
BMIA.com: OK Kashif, this is the
part of the interview where we “strap” you in the Black Men
In America.com Hot Seat. This is our version of “Call and
Response,” where we say something and you call out the first
thing that comes to mind. Are you ready? Great.
Whitney Houston -
Great Talent but Challenges
Kenny G –
Playing below his real talent
Clive Davis -
P Diddy –
Jay Z -
Sly Stone –
Favorite female artist –
Favorite male artist -
Favorite charity or cause –
Favorite way to relax -
Favorite song of all time –
Too many to list
Top 3 things you must do to
make it in the music business –
Work hard, be aware, network
Most common mistake people make when
starting out in the music business –
Signing agreements without the advice
of an expert music industry attorney
you are officially out of the Black Men In America.com Hot Seat!
BMIA.com: What are the biggest
challenges facing black men in America?
Kashif: America itself. The
playing fields are still not even and fair. But as black men
don’t have time to stop and complain to the referee. We must
forge ahead dunk the ball celebrate for a moment get back down
the court and do it all over again.
BMIA.com: How can people reading
this article support you?
Kashif: Tell their friends that
we have a web site devoted to helping musicians, singers and
songwriter become successful in the music business.
BMIA.com: Tell us the name of the
company again and give us the web site address?
Kashif: Live life to the
fullest. Enjoy your health, family, and loved ones. Say hello
to a stranger. Seek to understand your adversaries before you
demand that they see things your way. Lead by example. Smile
all the time. Eat healthy. Avoid stress. If you can’t avoid
stress then make sure to do things that will help to offset it.
Avoid toxic people and substances at all costs. Be proactive
about your health. Spend less on cars and more on organic
fruits and vegetables. Where light colors. Get plenty of sun.
Call someone and tell then that you appreciate them. I could go
on and on but I think I made my point. I wish you all health,
wealth and happiness.
BMIA.com: Brother, you said a
mouthful. Wow! These are certainly words to live by.
is from Lynchburg Virginia. He started acting at age 6 when his
parents had him doing theatre and various plays. He acted in
all his schools from Elementary to High School and in other
things for the city and churches.
credits everything to God, his parents (who are now deceased,)
supporters and mentors. "Well, it's self explanatory why I
credit God. I wouldn't be without Him. Everything that I hoped
in my heart has been made a reality, and is being made a
reality. My parents, were, and still are, my best inspiration.
They encouraged me to be myself and do what I enjoy, as long as
I don't hurt anyone intentionally. They taught me to be humble
because you can lose things faster than you got them."
This is a
talented young man who epitomizes what this web site is all
about and we are proud to bring you his story.
The Eli Harris Interview
Eli, thank you for taking the time to participate in this
interview. Brother, you are some kind of talent. Where do I
It’s my pleasure to talk with you and be part of BMIA.com.
You’ve got a very comprehensive, one of a kind site here, Gary
Tell us about your background. (Family background, where you
grew up, etc.)
originally from Lynchburg Virginia. I was adopted by Louis and
Margaret Bradley at the age of 2 months. I had ADD so they got
me involved in theatre and martial arts as a way to channel my
energy. I have been active in martial arts since the age of 13
and have been acting since I was 6 years of age.
You are accomplished at so many things. You’ve worked on stage,
television, and films.
have worked in all those areas. But I am also a script writer
and that’s where I found I can be the most expressive along with
my acting. I am looking forward to being able to do greater
things. I feel The Lord has blessed me. I want to be able to
be a blessing to others through my work and to be able to
provide work for other hungry artists. My goal is really to
establish my own entertainment company with various branches of
How long have you been in the entertainment business?
been entertaining since I was 6 years old. I really didn’t do
anything major until my early 20’s, but now my career is
starting to rocket.
What TV shows and movies have you been a part of?
My list of shows is
Psychic Witnesses, FBI Files, Hack, Monk,
Sex and the City, Law and Order, New Detectives, Surface, Line
of Fire, The District, The Sopranos
Wire. Films I have been in:
Saga Tier, The Departed, 16
Blocks, XXX2 and The Interpreter.
Do you consider your talents to be a gift? Hard work? Or both?
It helps to have both so they can compliment each other. But
I’d say mainly a gift.
When you think about all of your entertainment talents, which
one is your favorite?
hard to say. If I had to say just one, I would say my
personality in acting, because it takes a lot of personality to
be able to reach people. Some people can act well but have no
Let’s talk about the whole experience of your independent film
“Saga Tier.” Tell us about the origin of the film and then talk
about what it was like to write, cast, direct, act and raise
money for the film.
“Saga Tier” was conceived from a series of dreams; it means the “Highest Saga”.
It actually took me a little while to sit down and write the
script because when I get my creative spells I have a flurry of
ideas coming in. What really motivated me to sit down and write
this is when “Soul Plane” came out. I think that was my
breaking point. I got fed up with the films that African
Americans were coming out with. Often times we complain about
being typecast, yet we feed into it and I felt it was time to
make a change. So I got on my grind. After the script was
completed, I drew up a business proposal and met with several
businesses. I was blessed with being able to secure 6 sponsors
for the film. Then I did a casting call and held auditions.
After selecting my roles, I held a meeting with all of the cast
members so they could have a chance to meet with each other,
practice their roles together and also meet the driving force
behind the film. I wanted to make sure the story I did wasn’t
typical and stereotypical. In fact, that’s part of the problem
we had when seeking distributors ~ our film isn’t considered
urban. It’s too commercial, especially with the multiple
ethnicities in it. So we have many businesses interested in it
because this film is so different. We have a few offers we’re
considering, but we also want to do a re-shoot, be it now or
later. That’s that with that.
Who are some of the people in your life that you admire?
admire my parents because they were a huge influence on my life
and how I got my strengths and my relentless persistence. I
admire my business partner for his professionalism and
smoothness in dealing with things. I admire my pastor because
unlike the majority of the pastors I have dealt with he is real
and not on an “I am a pastor-God” status. I admire my
publicist. I have never met anyone in my life (aside from my
parents and partner) who is as loving and caring as she is.
Even on my worst day, she makes me smile. I admire my ex-wife.
Her support and care for me is unheard of for an ex. She’s
always there no matter what. I admire my supporters. It takes
a lot of love and faith to stand behind someone through thick
You’ve worked with a lot of talented people. Who are some of
the people in “show business” that have mentored or helped you
in your career?
Woooooo. That is a good question. I have had the honor of
working with some great people but the ones that stand out to me
the most are (1) Danny Glover.
Let me feed you the situation on how we met. I was working on
the film “16 Blocks” (Mos Def, Bruce Willis) and I
was resetting to re-shoot a scene and someone leans over in my
cab and says,” What’s up man?” So I look over and I’m like
“Danny Glover? What the hell are you doing here?” LOL, it was
in a funny way. So I parked the car and we sat down for a while
and talked and he gave me tons of insight on the business. He
was a huge blessing.
Eli and Danny Glover
Damon. Oh man where do I
begin? Damon has to be the most humble, genuine, talented
person I have ever met. Man we talked for a good while when I
was working on The Departed. We not only talked about the forms
of martial arts that we took, but he also showed an interest in
my film and gave his agent the OK to receive the package. So he
is looking at it right now as we speak.
(3) Let’s see,
was mad cool, hilarious really.
(4) I was mentored by the late
who was best known for his role in “Jesus Christ Superstar”. He
was a very passionate man and he will be greatly missed. There
are many others but those stand out the most.
What role did they play in your personal and/or professional
All of them taught me humbleness, hard work and perseverance ~
to stay on my grind.
is the part of the interview where we “strap” you in the Black
Men In America.com Hot Seat. This is our version of “Call and
Response,” where we say something and you call out the first
thing that comes to mind. Are you ready? Great.
Favorite male actor - Samuel L Jackson
Favorite female actor - Sanaa Lathan
Favorite movie - The Negotiator
Favorite Cause or Charity - Urban Outreach
Cube - New level of acting
Anthony Anderson - Too funny for words
Penn - Focused
Willis - Taller than expected
Washington - Well respected
Leonardo Dicaprio - Not as stuck up as people say
Def - Mad Chill
Russell Simmons - The life of the party
Scorsese - One of the best directors
Eli Harris, you are officially off of the Black Men In
America.com Hot Seat!
What’s the best thing about being Eli Harris?
willingness to bless everyone around him.
What’s the hardest thing about being Eli Harris?
so honest and straightforward.
In your opinion what’s the biggest challenge facing black men in
lack of support and willingness to be open to new ideas.
Thinking outside of the box.
How can people reading this interview support you?
Midnite Oil (my company) is all about. Invest in what we are
doing because it is something completely different and
groundbreaking. I would like to encourage everyone to see the
movie trailer by going to
See what we did with no budget. See what projects we are doing
and get ready for the ride of your life. I can be contacted at
or via my publicist at
What’s next for Eli Harris?
I’m very excited to let the BMIA site visitors be among the first
to know about the World Premiere of my independent film “Saga
Tier I.” I’ll be at the Channelside Cinemas & IMAX in Tampa
Florida on Friday, March 24 to meet everybody, watch the film,
and participate in an informal Q&A about making “Saga Tier I,”
my experiences working in the new Martin Scorsese film “The Departed,” my career, martial arts, and anything else
people want to talk about. TV 32 Film Critic Miguel E.
Rodriguez will host the event. Hope to see you there!
That’s great. What else is new?
This summer I'm scheduled to appear in Black Belt, the
world's leading magazine of self-defense. I grew up reading
that magazine, so I'm really looking forward to it!
were going to start on Tier 2, but an interesting event took
place. I don’t know if you remember the movie Breakin’ with
Turbo and Ozone, but I was listening to Chaka Khan’s “I
Feel for You” and it brought that movie to mind. So I started
watching both Breakin’ 1 and 2 and started developing ideas for
a new script. I started on this and one thing people will
realize about my writing is that it’s deep and dramatic. So I
contacted Ozone’s agent and she got back in touch with me and
relayed the message to me. To my surprise, she called back not
only telling me that Ozone was interested, but he wanted to
co-write and join the team. We had a conference and went from
there. So we have him attached. I spoke with Turbo and he’s
interested. We’re looking to have Ginuwine in this and I
have already talked with his manager. We’re pretty cool with
each other. We’re also looking to have Mary J. Blige. I
have also spoken with her agency, so this is going to be tight.
Ozone and Ginuwine will be archenemies in this. The film
is a dramatic piece, still all of the dancing, but dramatic and
definitely groundbreaking. So we will be looking for more
investors for this one.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into the
faith. It definitely takes faith to be in this business and
realize you’ll get a thousand no’s. You’ll get friends and
family members who tell you to give it up and that it’s a
dream. My faith in the Lord has been my basis, but one thing
that applies across the spectrum, whether you’re a believer or
not, is perseverance. Be strong and when you get a "no," thank
them for it and keep on because someone will say "Yes."
Eli, thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
you for having me Gary, and I look forward to speaking with you
again. Be blessed.
Eli, Mos Def and Bruce Willis
Anthony Anderson, Eli and
Leonardo Decaprio Photo #3:
Photos To Enlarge
Find out more about Eli’s “Saga Tier I” premiere in Tampa
Florida on the
BMIA.com Events page.
This interview was conducted by Gary Johnson for Black Men In
America.com. Special thanks to
C. Ann Bloom
for all of your hard work and perseverance. You made this
Otto: Man About Town
Otto, or “Rich,” as his friends know him, greets me with a smile
and a handshake as he opens the passenger door to a BMW 745.
the proprietor of Mansfield’s Executive Transportation Services.
Mansfield’s Executive Transportation Services is known for their
superior fleet of luxury cars and SUV vehicles, namely Mercedes
Benz, Cadillac, and BMW.
who’s who from celebrities to diplomats to politicians along
with providing a service to each individual that goes above and
beyond of just providing a car to get one to their appointed
born and raised in New York City; he is the son of musician
parents. His father, Richard Otto, was a violinist. His mother,
Sarah, McLawler, is an accomplished jazz organist.
limousine service was not what he envisioned for himself. In
fact, he was interested in the arts. “Art is my first love”,
says Otto. “I was actually a schoolteacher in the New York
Public School System when I realized this wasn’t for me, so I
decided to try something different and go into business for
making that lifestyle changing decision Rich has done very well,
employing a staff of approximately 12 drivers, including him.
It’s obvious Rich loves what he does, judging from a ride one
evening. He’s full of stories about his experiences, from his
childhood, being in such an artistic family, to the stories he
shared about the entertainers who have a favorite vehicle, or
the story as to how he managed to get a famous singer to their
destination with minutes to spare before the singer went on
stage to perform.
We go to
our destination, Chez Josephine’s, owned by the legendary
entertainer’s son Jean-Claude. He greets us with open arms and
we are escorted to a table where we watch the main attraction,
Sarah McLawler, his mother. She’s a vivacious woman who is very
proud of her son. “Some of Richard’s best traits is that he’s a
perfectionist, practical, and honest - sometimes too honest”,
says McLawler. She wishes that he would go back to pursuing his
art, which he’s always loved.
As we’re waiting
for Ms. Mc Lawler to perform, I ask him about the differences
between a car service and a limo service. “With a car service
you’re on the driver’s time,” says Otto. “They’re in a rush to
get you where you have to go without going the extra mile and
giving you the personal touch. With a limousine service the
driver works on your time, helping you with your luggage, if
necessary, opens your door for you, and if asked, gives you
ideas on where the popular spots are in the city. The chauffeur
is like a mobile concierge, and that’s what you get from my
company, the personal touch.”
evening comes to an end and we navigate through the streets of
New York on a mild winter night, Rich has some last thoughts. “I
believe that positivity overcomes adversity. I had, and still
have a lot of adversity in this day and age, unfortunately; but
in the long run my record and quality of work speaks for itself.
I believe in giving the best of what I have to offer to my
clients in terms of service and competence, and in the long run
that’s what is most important.”
like a true artist.
Click on Photos To Enlarge
Tonya Giddens and Richard
Otto Photo #2:
Thanks to Ms.
Tonya Giddens for writing a wonderful article and to F. Justin
Hall (Editor). Also, a big thanks to Mr. Terrance Russ of
The Russ Group of Companies for
arranging this interview.
To contact Richard Otto for an event you
can e-mail him at
or at 212-281-0017.
Click On Photo To Enlarge
Vicki Vann - Country Music Goddess
Vicki Vann is one of country
music’s hottest new artists. Her CD entitled
was released to popular acclaim and her single
"This Is Where I Get Off"
moved up the charts in 30 countries. Vicki Vann is one of the
most requested female artists on the international country music
scene. Vicki's CD “Dream Catcher”
was one of 2005’s hottest country music
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with
great pleasure that we present the Vicki Vann interview.
Click On Photos To Enlarge
BMIA: Hey Vicki!
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. How have
you been since our last interview?
Vicki Vann: Great
Gary. Things have been wonderful.
BMIA: OK, let’s get
started. What was it about country music that made you want to
do it for a career?
Vicki Vann: Country
music tells "real-life" stories, and I was drawn to that even
when I was a little girl. There's nothing like a song that helps
you escape in life for 3 minutes. Country music has always done
that for me.
BMIA: Vicki, who
are some of your favorite artists?
Growing up, I wanted to be just like
I also loved Barbara Mandrell,
and Reba McEntire.
I also enjoy Garth Brooks,
and the late, great, Patsy Cline.
I have too many favorites to name them all!
BMIA: How long did
it take for you to get to where you are now, from the time you
started your career?
Vicki Vann: I first
went to Nashville in June of 1998 to Fan Fair (before it
was named Country Music Festival) I played a show while I was
there also, so about 7 years.
I’ve seen you on television. What was it like to have CMT's
(Country Music Television) cameras following you around when you
appeared in the documentary
“Waiting In The Wings?”
Vicki Vann: I was
tickled pink! I wanted them to follow me everywhere! I thought
‘how cool is this to have cameras shooting me as I go about my
day, having coffee, talking to my doggie, puttin’ my make up on,
getting ready for a gig, etc.’ It was all very surreal. I told
myself to remember that feeling because that doesn’t come along
too often in one’s lifetime. I savored it for every moment.
BMIA: Would you do
Vicki Vann: Yes, in
a New York minute! I think as long as the fans want to know
what’s going on with me. I’ll let them in. It’s when they
don’t care about what I’m doing - that’s when I’ll get nervous.
After all, it’s not that difficult when you’re a natural born
ham in front of the camera!
Your CD opens up with the song "I Should Have Left You In Tucson"
What drew you to that song?
Vicki Vann: "I
Should Have Left You In Tucson " This song was sent to me by my
producer John Northrup. When I heard it for the first time, I
thought about how much I love the southwest and turquoise and
anything relative to Native American culture being that it’s
also a part of my heritage as well which I happen to embrace. I
thought right away to have this song on my record, as the lead
off song, well it shows you "me" right away. I like to think
that I'm ‘embracing my heritage’ through my music. So I decided
it should be on my album.
BMIA: Wow! That’s
great. Your CD features songs written by many of Nashville's
finest songwriters, do you feel lucky to have such a strong
group of songs on your CD?
Vicki Vann: I am
very blessed that these amazing songwriters shared their gifts
with me. When I started looking for songs for this record, I was
worried that I wouldn’t be presented with top-notch songs since
I’m a new artist. I am so thankful that I had a bunch of amazing
songs to choose from. They’re all very close to my heart, the
songwriters, as well as their compositions.
qualities do you look for when choosing songs?
Vicki Vann: The
song has to touch me in some way. "I look for how I can relate
to a song."
BMIA: You related
to a song? Say more about that.
Vicki Vann: If I
haven't lived the song personally, then someone I know has to
have lived it. This allows me to pour my emotion into it every
single time I sing it. Basically I look for my ability to
interpret a song with my gift much like the way an actor
interprets a screenwriter’s script in a film.
BMIA: Was it a long
process in searching for the songs?
Vicki Vann: We
(myself, my manager, & Red Canyon Records A&R) listened to
hundreds of songs and attended many listening meetings. It took
months to find all of the songs. I can usually tell by the time
we get to the first chorus whether or not the song works. If I
want to hear it a second time that’s usually a good sign.
BMIA: Country music
has really evolved. Do you favor the more traditional country
music or the pop sounding country music?
Vicki Vann: I love
country music! Period! To me, it doesn't matter if it's
traditional or pop sounding. As long as the song moves me, I
like it. I really relate to songs that make me feel something,
good or bad, it’s about the emotion the song brings about.
BMIA: What track is
your favorite off of the CD?
My answer to this question changes day to day. I just spoke
with a dear friend who just broke up with her boyfriend of 6
years. He kept promising her they would get married, but it was
all lies, so today I will say that my favorite song is
and Picket Fences."
The lyrics are so true to her life.
BMIA: Where were
you when you heard your song on the radio for the first time?
I heard it first on
KFRG, 95.1 FM,
on my radio tour, driving from San Diego, CA. to San Antonio,
TX! It was early in the morning, and I was so excited! I was
kinda waiting for it because I had just finished an interview
with the station earlier, but the actuality of it playing just
completely blew me away. I’ll never forget that feeling as long
as I live! To me, that’s what success feels like.
BMIA: Can you
compare that feeling to anything else?
Vicki Vann: No, not
really. That’s an emotion all its own. That feeling deserves
its own page. I have to say singing the National Anthem to fans
before the races at Irwindale Speedway up there right above the
track where the cars race pulls a pretty close second. Man!
What a rush! That was EMOTIONAL!
BMIA: Let’s switch
gears for a moment. What are some of your goals for your
Vicki Vann: Well
first of all, longevity. I don’t want to be a one hit wonder
and then show up on the “whatever happened to....” page in the
tabloids. I want to sing great songs, and give outstanding
performances. I want people to be touched somehow by sharing my
gift. Because that’s why I believe I was given the gift in the
first place, to share it with all of you.
BMIA: If you could
sing with any artist who would it be?
voices would blend so nicely together. I absolutely love to
listen to his voice, and he can sing and play guitar on a
country song like nobody else can!!
BMIA: What are
three words you would use to describe yourself?
Vicki Vann: That's
a hard question because I’m a complex, eclectic person.
But I’ll give it a try... a
little bit glamorous, extremely
but very easy going. I guess I need more than three words.
BMIA: What CD is
currently in your CD player?
Usually I listen to my iPod which holds about 1000 songs, and I
listen to different genres of music depending on my mood -
to Keith Urban,
to The Winans
BMIA: We understand
that you were chosen as a spokesperson for the Native
American Futures program. What can you tell us about
Vicki Vann: This
program is all about encouraging and empowering kids to stay in
school because of the huge drop out rate of Native American kids
in particular. It involves mentoring a child with the support
and encouragement necessary to continue in school.
BMIA: Do you have a
motto that you live by?
I have several actually. “Life is short, so don’t put off ‘til
tomorrow what you can do today.”“If at first you don’t
succeed, try, try, try and try again.”“Smile and
the world smiles with you, frown, and you frown alone.” “Love
what you do, and do what you love.”
BMIA: You always
look so fashionable yet relaxed. How would you describe your
Vicki Vann: I tend
to go for timeless, classy, yet sexy without looking like I’m
‘trying too hard’ sense of style. I tend to stick to what fits
and feels good. Except with shoes. I’ll wear uncomfortable
shoes for just a little while just because they’re fabulous!
BMIA: What is your
favorite thing to cook?
Vicki Vann: I’m
crazy about cooking! I love to cook for the fun of it, not
because I have to. My favorite thing to cook is Linguini with a
red clam sauce. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!
BMIA: You are
gorgeous and your body is in great shape. Do you maintain a
Vicki Vann: Yes,
when I’m home I work out every morning for about an hour of
cardio 3 days a week, and with weights 3 days a week, followed
by a half hour of yoga for stretching my muscles followed by
eating whatever I want and pigging out on Sundays! Ha! Ha!
BMIA: What would
you like to say to your fans reading this interview?
Thank you so much for your interest in my music and me! Please
to purchase my CD “Dream
Catcher” as well as my debut CD
merchandise. Gary, I cannot thank you enough for all that you're
doing to help me live out my dreams. I can't wait to meet you
all out on the road soon! God Bless you all!!!
Mike Phillips Is An “Uncommon Denominator”
By Mike McKoy
Mike Phillips has taken his game to a new level with release of
his new CD “Uncommon Denominator.” Phillips, who hails
from Harlem, NY, has played with former NBA Power Forward and
now jazz musician Wayman Tisdale, Jonathan Butler
and Rachelle Farrell. In R&B quarters he’s shared the
stage with Babyface, Brian McKnight, Teddy Riley,
Simply Red and Boyz II Men. And in the summer of
2001, Mike blazed a trail across the country as the opening act
for his Hidden Beach Records label mate Jill Scott during
her sold-out "Words & Sounds" tour.
As a young
man Mike began experimenting with different instruments,
including acoustic and electric bass, piano, trumpet, and French
horn. By age 16, “Mike Philly” knew that the saxophone would be
his instrument of choice.
Phillips has had a number of milestones in his career. He
performed at President Clinton's Inaugural Gala, the 80th
Birthday Celebration for President Nelson Mandela in
South Africa, a Super Bowl appearance with Stevie Wonder
and the Billboard Music Awards. His television credits include
Saturday Night Live, The David Letterman Show, BET On Jazz, BET
Sound Stage, and The Tonight Show.
His new CD,
“Uncommon Denominator,” reflects a new age jazz sound
that’s certainly unique. Sitting down with him, I couldn’t help
but notice the brother’s humorous and articulate charisma. This
is an artist whom at a young age not only understood the music
business but also understood his fans. Throughout the interview
Mike made constant references to the spiritual-ness of his music
and the spiritual connection with his fans.
But he also
has an edgier side as captured in this “Mike-on-Mike”
Where do you come from? A lot of artist’s creative passions
start in childhood. How did it happen for you?
It was my mother really. When I was younger my mother bought me
a toy record player. I played with it so much that whenever a
record was missing I would make a big fuss about it. I mean I
would play these records and didn’t hear everything I figured
out that a certain sound was missing. So she knew then that
something musical was happening.
Nobody in my family is musical
inclined. So I’m like the black sheep. She was observant towards
me and nurtured my interests. I feel this is really important
for us as parents to create the infrastructure for support. When
I took a left she took a left with me. She bought me a little
piano. It was like she thought “He’s getting into music so
let me get into music with him”.
So you started out on the Piano? And then you went from the
piano to saxophone?
Yes Piano first, then bass, and then saxophone. I ended up
playing saxophone because it was like the ultimate instrument of
expression. When I put it to my lips and there’s something in me
that can transcend through that instrument that I don’t think
any other instrument can do. For me it’s like when I want to get
down, the saxophone is the only instrument that can squeal it
out. For me it’s just the ultimate expressive instrument.
When was your first professional gig? Did you start in the
Yea I played in church. That’s where it’s at. I had no formal
school training so church was the breeding ground for my ear.
Basically, I heard something then I figured how to play it. I
never went to Berkeley school of music or those big programs
that charge 50,000 per year because I didn’t have the music
background to get in. I tried out for it but they told me I had
to take remedial music reading courses. I said “You know what?
You’re not going to clown or down play God’s gift.” That’s how I
took it. I was like “I don’t need your schools” and started
playing wherever I could on my own. The church setup the
scenario of understanding that when I learned to play something
that has spiritual ramifications in a good way; I could see the
connection between what I do and how the music affects people
that hear it. Getting that experience helped me to understand
that it’s bigger then how many notes I’m playing. If your music
doesn’t spiritually connect with the people that you’re playing
for then it’s just sonic wallpaper.
When you started playing out in town did you have your own band?
Well, in NY I used to sit in clubs all the time. Certain clubs I
wasn’t even old enough to get into so I would sneak in and do
the Quincy Jones juke joint thing. I’d listen, play, do my thing
and get home before I got in trouble.
So tell me about your first time on stage in public. Were you
Yea bit but I was so focused that it alleviated me being
nervous. It really didn’t factor in. I just wanted to get it
over with. Sitting in those juke joints like Sylvia’s and
Wilson’s and other places in NY that had live music, really
helped me because I was able to step onto the stage with other
people before I tried to do my own thing. I kinda weaved into
How’d you feel when you got off the stage?
It felt good. I mean when people clapped and stood up and told
me “Man, I really felt something when you played.” It was like
everything I’d done had come to fruition and affected somebody.
I could only feel good about that.
So tell us about your new album Uncommon Denominator
different from the first one. “You’ve reached Mike Phillips.”
Where did the name come from?
Well, “You’ve Reached Mike Phillips” was like an
introduction. Not really a concept album but it was like letting
everyone know I’m here. “Uncommon Denominator”was like showing that I’ve grown. It came after I toured
with Prince and Stevie Wonder. Being exposed to
all of that music made “Uncommon Denominator” a
more mature sound of what I was exposed.
Where did the name “Uncommon Denominator” come from? It’s pretty
Well you know, if you look it up in the dictionary “uncommon”
means different and “denominator” is something common. It’s a
word play because basically it’s something different that is
still common. You know jazz music is a denominator in American
society. It’s an art form that was built here. Look at Bird,
Sonny Rollins, Duke [Ellington], and Sara [Vaughn] that laid
down the infrastructure. Now I’m into this genre called smooth
jazz that has the opportunity to grow but some reason until now
hasn’t. This is how the industry is now. For an instrumentalist
like me smooth jazz is the genre that validates who I am. I
listen to this elevator music sometimes and I think, “You know
I’m going to play jazz but I’m not going to be like you.” That’s
where “Uncommon Denominator” came from. So in the
end “Uncommon Denominator” is about staying true
to what Mike Phillip’s sound is. I play jazz but I’m totally
There’s one particular song, “It Takes All night” and I like
that song. How did that come together?
Well, umm, someone played the track for me and it had some
vocals on it. I was like this is nice. But I wanted to do it my
way. I told them to take the vocalist off the lead and let me do
the lead melody. Now, the background music was like crazy. So I
dealt with about a week and it was a wrap. I originally heard
the track with the singer and I was like man, I want to keep
that concept but I want to use my sax to express it in a totally
different way. I mean saxophone is like the closest instrument
to the human voice.
“If You Had A Heart” is a song that kind of makes me reflect.
It’s seems like and emotional song.
Yea! That’s another one to that was played for me first. When I
heard it I asked the producer to explain it to me. You know,
explain to me what the song is about. He told me that it’s about
this couple who has been dating for years and the dude is
basically playing with the girl’s feelings. She says to him “if
you had a heart you’d let me go.” So once he told me what it was
about I was able to recreate it in my way. It’s a really deep
song and I had to be able to visualize the song before I could
just put notes to it.
Now “Crazy,” that song is just fun? What was that about?
That was me just wilding out. It was basically me having fun.
Almost like I’m saying look what I can do. Think of it as a
street ball player coming to the NBA and saying, “I know that we
don’t play this way here in the NBA, but look this is what I can
do.” I broke out with all kinds of crossovers and fancy dunks on
that one. That’s the whole analogy of that is what “Crazy” is
about. Basically I’m letting all the competition know to
practice because I can pull this out of my hat at any time. And
don’t let me catch you at a live show where I have a chance to
So do you have a favorite track? What is it?
The last one with my daughter singing. She’s six years old and I
gave her some notes to sing. A four-point harmony. The computer
was on at the time. So when she sang, Pro Tools printed out the
waveforms and they came out the identical every single time! To
sing four different octets and have Pro Tools recognize it to
have the same wave patterns every time? That’s wild. I mean I
just had her to sing for fun and she nailed it precisely! That’s
So two more questions and then we’re done. The tracks on your
album flow really well. Did you only have 16 tracks? Was it hard
to pick which ones to release?
Yea man I recorded 40 tracks for this project and all were good.
It was one of the hardest decisions ever. Seriously, when I get
check out of here I’ll be another Tupac. There will be so many
tracks that albums will be coming out long after I’ve gone.
So what’s next for Mike Phillips?
Well Stevie Wonder has a new album dropping on October 17th.
We’re talking about touring together and all that is left is to
solidify the dates. Other then that I’m taking my sound to
everyone that hasn’t heard it yet.
You can listen to some cuts
from Mike's new CD. Click on the song titles below.
You can learn more about Mike Phillips by visiting the
Hidden Beach Records web site at:
BMIA.com Special Correspondent Mike McKoy ofFullBlown Entertainmentconducted this interview. This interview was posted on 10/3/05.
Click On Photos To Enlarge
The Genius of Photographer Richard Franklin
Some people have an
eye for beauty. If you’ve looked at some of
the black models on the Internet, chances are you’ve experienced them
through the eyes of glamour photographer Richard Franklin. This distinguished
Englishman has made a name for himself creating masterpieces in the form
of photography featuring beautiful black women.
I don’t consider myself to be
particularly artistic, but I know good work when I see it. Richard
Franklin has a gift for photographing models and adding a fresh and
unique flair to their existing beauty. When you look at the wide range
of models that he has photographed you just get the sense that
Franklinhas brought out the best in
each model. Simply put, Franklin has the skill and the talent to
capture in print, the essence of beauty, and he does itexclusively with women of color.
includes fitness, bikini and lingerie shots. He’s conducted shoots in
Miami, the Caribbean, Los Angeles and Brazil. This
self-taught photographer has no nudity on his web site Richard Franklin Photography.
Franklinprefers to bring
out the natural beauty of his models.
Click On Photo To Enlarge
a very interesting background. The son of a banker, Franklin was born
in London in the house of Sir Alexander Fleming, the man who discovered
penicillin. His father’s side of the family was one of the oldest
Jewish families in England. His grandfather was a
cantor, the singer of Jewish prayers in the Synagogue service.
His family moved to the
U.S. in 1980, and his father found success in New York
where he became a leader in the corporate takeover movement until he
retired in 1990. “I first lived in Miami for a while and
ran an unsuccessful furniture company and for a very short while owned a
model agency,” said Franklin. In 1984, he joined his father’s company
and had a very exciting time at his side for four years. After the
company disbanded, Franklin decided not to follow
in his father’s footsteps and turned his attention to other projects.
Over the next several years
Franklin worked on improving the education in the American
school system, made a documentary on the Holocaust for PBS with Dr.
Ruth, was instrumental in launching the career of Fabio, produced a play
and worked with pop singer Toma.
When you look at his work its
hard to believe that Franklin got into photography about five years ago
as a form of therapy to cope with the disappointment over the failure of
some of his ventures. Franklin explained, “My parents had retired to
Antigua in the
Caribbean and I first began to shoot pictures of
the beach and of my family. I read camera books and manuals and
gradually began to think of shooting girls. I made friends with other
glamour photographers mostly from the adult world and started to shoot
(very erratically) girls in my home. I had only been attracted to
dating black girls since Alex (a former black Flight Attendant he met
and moved in with. She later co-starred in the moviePassenger 57with Wesley
Snipes). Since that time Franklin said he began to concentrate on black
women, his main subject and passion.
Franklin was kind enough to
answer questions about his success as a glamour photographer. We hope
you enjoy this interview.
The Richard Franklin
Click On Photo To
What was your earliest or most vivid recollection of being or feeling
I was an unhappy
child and that continued quite late into adulthood. I had low
self-esteem and basically disliked myself. I had a very sensitive nature
and loved classical music from a very early age. I fantasized a lot
about being a sports or movie star or a superhero! Being the son of a
successful father can have disadvantages also. Looking back I think I
had an artistic and creative mind but had no outlet for it. The banking
background I came from is based on logic and verification. The arts are
very much based on the emotions. I suspect I only became a contented
person after much struggle to recreate myself as an independent creative
Los Angeles. For most of my life I
lived in the past or future. It took many years to learn to live in the
How old were you when you moved to the
United States of America?
What makes you different?
I think that
concentrating only on women of color is the first thing. That’s almost
unique. Secondly I clearly have a love for very vivid colors and that is
also a signature of my work. My love of color came long before my
interest in women of color. When I was a child my bedroom had a purple
carpet and my walls were bright yellow. I simply loved bright colors. I
remember having a lust at a very early age for a black woman that I saw
in a naughty magazine. However, amazingly enough I don’t believe I ever
met a black person until I was in my thirties. I never heard a word of
prejudice against blacks in England. There just were very few living on
my side of the
Thames in London when I
was growing up and they had not yet become a successful minority. I
never met a Japanese, Chinese, Russian, etc, etc growing up. Life in
is very different now and there are many very successful minority
Why do you think models come to you?
I would like to
think that I have a good reputation for quality work. Girls are
attracted, I think, to my use of color and hopefully my good taste in
composition. They want to look as sexy as possible and also to have a
distinctive look. My reputation is “sexy but classy” and I think the
majority of women want that look.
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Have you always wanted to be a glamour photographer?
At different times
in my life I have wanted to be a great skier, tennis player, violinist,
actor and martial artist! Glamour photographer is pretty cool so I can
dig it and do without the other dreams on my list!
What other creative endeavors are you a part of?
I have an active
interest in an Internet business.
Do you have any hobbies?
My photography is
my hobby. I read a quote the other day, attributed to Socrates which
said, “…the man that truly loves his work never works a day in his
How involved are
you with the business aspect of your career? I am a latecomer to
photography. I think the time is coming nearer when I can turn whatever
skills I have acquired to profitable use. Up until now I have not really
capitalized on my work. I wanted to build up a quality site and then
let people come to me who liked the work. That is now happening. I want
to expand my range in the coming months by doing a lot of exotic beach
shoots in the
Caribbean and Brazil. I am also planning some
calendar shoots. I subscribe to the old maxim “do what you love and the
money will follow.” I hope to have a long and profitable career in this
field but it takes a long time to get established and to find your
niche. Van Gogh never sold a painting in his life! Hopefully I will have
a more enjoyable and lucrative career than him but there is a lot of
luck, and sometimes politics in the subjective artistic field.
Are there any photography jobs that you won’t do?
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Frankly I don’t
take on jobs if I don’t have a passion for my subject. I shoot girls
that I see as cute or beautiful. If I feel that they don’t appeal to me
or that I cannot give them the quality they deserve I simply decline to
do the work. I don’t rely on photography for my livelihood and so I have
the luxury of being able to make choices. But I am not frivolous about
it. A more direct answer to your question is that I seldom shoot
children, products, fine art or frankly even much fashion. I stay in a
fairly narrow band of glamour work.
What’s the best part of being a glamour photographer?
What’s the worst part of being a glamour photographer?
Failing to live up
to the expectations of my client and of myself. In addition I try to
reach a new plateau each time I shoot. Accordingly it is very hard to
come up with an original concept, particularly on a limited or zero
What do you look for in a model?
The first thing is
whether I see her as having a cute or beautiful face and a body that
will look great in a bikini. The second thing I look for is her attitude
and energy level.
What makes you accept a model assignment or turn it down?
I shoot girls that
I think I will succeed in making sexy and glamorous and that I would be
proud to have on my web site.
Click On Photo To
When people look at your work, what do you want them to see?
gallery of beautiful and sexy girls presented with a distinctive and
Of all the models that you've photographed, who do you think yielded
your best work and why?
I have always loved
my close up shots of DIA who was one of my first models. She has one of
the cutest faces I have seen. She recently married one of the Tennessee
Titans, Samari Rolle so I am delighted for her.
How big a factor is sex in the modeling business?
I am no saint but I
am frequently surprised by how few of my photographer friends hit on
their models even though they have the opportunity. The truth is that
shooting and modeling are pretty intense and exhausting activities and
so there is probably less sex going around than one might suppose.
Are you married? Single? Have a significant other?
I am single and
have no particular significant other at present. I am a happy bachelor.
I love getting to know some of my different models and have dated a
few. Hollywood is notoriously shallow when it comes to relationships. I
like the single life and I think that that probably derives from a deep
seated fear of being vulnerable to being hurt or of disappointing
someone else by failing to live up to their expectations.
Does being a successful glamour photographer affect your personal
Click On Photos To Enlarge
I don’t think so. I
am grateful that I meet more eligible girls than most men dream of. I
think it makes both men and women intrigued. Since I am very upfront I
wouldn’t want to date a girl who was insecure about what to me is my
passion and a very pivotal part of my life. If they can’t accept that
Take us through a typical day with Richard Franklin. What time does
your day start and when does it end?
I am an early
riser. I like to be busy and I go to sleep late. I usually work out in
the morning and if I have a shoot planned usually meet up with the
model, stylist and make-up artist around. I usually start shooting at two and go on until we run
out of ideas. I then enjoy editing the shoot and that can go on until
two or three in the morning. Like anything else this is work and is only
glamorous to outsiders who don’t know any better.
Would you say that photographing black beauties is your claim to fame?
Well it’s certainly
what I am known for in the photography world as it’s the only type of
work that I do. I am proud of the fact that I took a stand and decided
to focus on that. It gave me a pretty unique and pleasurable niche that
made me stand out. If I was more of a general photographer shooting men,
children, fashion, portraits, black and white etc, I suspect I would be
unknown. I am proud of other things that I have achieved in my life that
may never have fame or fortune attached to them but were deeply
meaningful to me. Personally I am not a religious person but am very
motivated and optimistic nonetheless. I see life as essentially
meaningless other than the meaning we personally choose to give to our
lives. Then it becomes totally and overwhelmingly meaningful. I have
stood for ideas and for causes that were often stressful and lonely. But
by taking a stand I achieved distinction in my own mind and at the end
of the day that is the only place where it counts.
I get the sense that you feel more comfortable with black women and
black people than any other group. If this is true, why do you think
that’s the case?
Ok you asked for
it! I am a Jew and I think the Jew’s are a colored race. We both share
a terrible history. My people suffered for two thousand years at the
hands of the same people who brought slavery to your people three
hundred years ago. We know all there is to know about ghetto’s. The word
ghetto comes from 15th century Venice
and describes the area that the Jews were forced to live in. Although I
am a very secular Jew I wish that more black people would look at
Judaism as a more logical alternative to some of the other religions
being shopped around. It’s not my nature to generalize, particularly
about an entire racial group but I am definitely more physically
attracted to black girls than white and I like the warmth that I have
found in much of my interactions with the black community.
How would you describe your style of photography?
“Sexy and classy
photographs of beautiful women of color.”
What advice would you give to people who want to make a living in the
Develop your eye
and develop your mind. Study your craft by reading photography books and
learning to duplicate other shoots in order to hone your skills. Make
friends with other photographers in order to learn from then. Develop
your own unique style by allowing out your inner passion and creativity.
Create a website that tastefully showcases your work. Put together a
portfolio of your best work, printed by a lab and not from your home
printer. Relentlessly take it to potential clients such as model and ad
agencies. Keep hope alive!
By Ted White, Black Men In
America.com Staff Writer
would describe Marc Patrick as a person with great
confidence. I had an opportunity to see Marc
Patrick headline at a comedy club in Centerville
Virginia called “Lafter Hours“. When Marc
came onto the stage, I was unsure of his ethnicity.
As if reading my thoughts, Marc says, “I know what
you’re thinking. He’s not a Black comic.”
Marc Patrick boldly proclaims, “I know I’m Black!”
I have two dark skinned parents who told me, “You are
growing up in a Black house, you’re living in a Black
neighborhood, you are Black!” Marc goes on to
perform a funny routine about being adopted. The
routine transcended race and culture by posing the
question, “What if I had been adopted into an Oriental
family?” While watching Marc’s routine, you see
his confidence in his performance. I witnessed his
sense of timing, delivery, and body language. Marc
Patrick performs clean comedy.
style of humor is self-revelatory. He tells
stories and performed routines you can relate to.
He also talks about the joys and pains of raising
children. The difficulty of understanding the
opposite sex, and the harsh realities of managing money.
He is a comedian for all people. Here's the rest
of my interview with comedian Marc Patrick.
BMIA: What made you get into comedy?
I was in the Air Force for twenty-three years. I
was an Air Force recruiter. High School kids would not
listen to you if you were boring. So, I started
telling jokes to get them to listen. In 1996, one
of the teachers selected me for an open mic night.
I performed open mic night and a couple of weeks later,
I entered a competition. I received third place
for my performance. My comedy career went on from
BMIA: When did you first realize you were funny?
Marc: I never knew I was funny
until I performed in my first competition in 1996.
I performed the same material I did for High School
kids. I changed the material so it would be
appropriate for adults. I knew I had a lot of
material because I have a lot of experience to draw
upon. I am able to do an hour of clean comedy.
I do all Black material, all Hispanic material. I
can perform for all kinds of audiences and keep it
clean. I have learned one lesson in comedy and
that is, know your limitations. I am out of my
element in comedy rooms that want to hear the dirty
BMIA: What was your first professional gig as a comic?
My first big break or show came about six months after I
started doing comedy. A friend of mine name Sam Bam put
together a comedy event in Stockton California called
“Drop Your Drawers.”
It was in the Stockton Civic Auditorium which held
approximately 600 people, which to me was the greatest
number of people I had ever performed in front of.
I did physical comedy and dancing. I had an
amazing show. That was the greatest high I have
ever had in my life. I sent that tape to Michael
Williams in L.A. who connected me with Comic View.
I did Comic View in 2002. My next big
comedy opportunity was The Bay Area Black Comedy
Completion. I performed there for two years.
I performed in front of many prominent Black promoters.
Even though I did not make the finals, a lot of people
enjoyed my act.
BMIA: Who are your comic inspirations?
I enjoy the comedian Sinbad. Sinbad was
also in the Air Force and performs a clean comedy act.
I also enjoy Richard Pryor. Richard
Pryor was such a comedic pioneer.
BMIA: Which comedians if any have helped you?
One of the comedians who have helped me is Chris Thomas.
Chris has given me opportunities. T-Rex has helped
me also. The promoters of the Washington Improv
have helped me also. I admire people like
Bernie Mac, Cedric the Entertainer and George Lopez.
These guys have performed comedy for a long time.
The comedy business is about persistence. You have
to be active in putting your tape out there, doing guest
spots and taking chances.
BMIA: What was your worst experience in comedy?
I performed in a USO show at Hanson Marine Core Base
in Okinawa. There were four hundred marines, age
nineteen to twenty-five with like fifteen women.
They wanted to hear the Def Jam type of comedy
which was not my forte‘. I was booed off the
BMIA: What was your best experience?
Comic View was good but I don’t consider that to be my break
out performance. I have gotten a lot of validation
from shows like the D.C. Improv. I’ve done
shows at the
Black Rock in Germantown, Maryland an all Black
audience I did great shows there, everybody love me.
A lot of people told me how well I performed but I
haven’t really had a show that I want to hang on my wall
as my best show ever yet. I’m doing a Christian
Comedy Show in San Diego April 25 with Lester from
BET. I am looking forward to that.
BMIA: How would you describe your comedy?
My comedy is real. After I have said something, I want
people to say; “I’ve done that.” Or, “that has
happened to me.” When I do my bank routine,
(bouncing checks) or my Kool Aid
routine, most people love that stuff. I
want people to think that the comedian is talking about
them. I want to make the audience a part of the
show. I don’t do a lot of current events. If
your audiences are not into current events, they are not
going to get the joke. I don’t do Michael
Jackson jokes either because so many comics are
doing those jokes.
BMIA: If you were not in the entertainment
industry, what would you do to earn a living?
Sales, because I can sell anything. I’m really good
BMIA: Being a comedian is hard, is it harder being a
I have a harder time sometimes with Black audiences because
I have to identify myself with belonging there.
When a White comic goes before a Black audience and he
says something Black, some people respond: "This
guy is cool.” But with me, I have to give myself
credibility to talk about Black stuff. That's why
I do the adoption comedy routine first. It is
easier for me to talk with mixed audiences. I am a
comedian for all people.
Is there anything Black Men In America.com can do to help your
Let people know I’m out here. Let them know my show is
about real reality where people will be able to relate to my
comedy as their story.
Thanks Marc this was great.
Thought: The final word I would use to describe
Mark Patrick he is illuminating. His boldness and
confidence in sharing his story (in a funny way) opens you up to
like this guy. You can appreciate that he has come far in
a relative short period of time. You see his work ethic,
which he has carried over from twenty-three years of service
with the United States Air Force. You can see Marc’s
strong sense of family. Yet, he struggles with being mixed
and adopted into a Black family. You see his struggle with
being separated from his kids. His material might be clean
cut, but all men can relate to his struggles with pleasing and
displeasing the opposite sex. His drive to be a top comic
allows a confidence to shine through his comedy. We can
look into Marc’s life through his comedy and laugh with him as
we laugh at our lives and ourselves.
She describes herself as a Black Christian Woman, living the
Christian Experience. She is Serene Bridgett Hollingsworth, the driving force behind Bahiyah Women Magazine(Bahiyah pronounced
a Swahili word meaning beautiful). Known to her friends around the web as Bridgette,
Hollingsworth holds no punches when she disclosures the
intimate details and struggles of being a single black
woman, mother of four, and how she is managing to climb the
slippery slops of entrepreneurship. We had the
pleasure of speaking with the woman behind the pages of
and we were quite impressed with her profound interest in
sharing her experiences.
Our Midwest correspondent Staceé Hardiman caught up with Bridgette in
Chicago to learn more about the journey that this
entrepreneur has traveled and the sistah-friends who have
helped to shape her along the way.
Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did
you grow up? Level of education?
I am a born and raised Buckeye; Columbus Ohio is my
hometown. I attended Columbus public school system and
graduated from Ohio State University. It was my desire to
major in advertising, but there was not a program for
advertising at the time. I majored in communication,
which allowed me to have an advertising focus. I
thought I was going to be an advertising executive and move
to New York and make bank!
I got a taste of the advertising business through an internship and
it was there that I realized that was not the field for me.
I was totally disillusioned, when I realized what
advertising really was, which was to create a need in people
for something they didn’t need and probably didn’t want, but
we had to create a desire.
When I saw how they did that for us, black folks, and people of
color, I said to myself, wow, I don’t know if I can do that
and I don’t know if this is what I want to do forever.
I tried it for a while, but I realized that I did not want
to be a part of this market and if I wasn’t going to be in
advertising. Then I said to myself, well what will I
do? Armed with a degree, some experience, a lot of
creativity and clueless as to what my next step would be.
A friend encouraged me to move to Chicago. Now after being here for
twenty years, its home for me. Although, I did think
about leaving on a few occasions after I went into business
for myself. I didn’t find Chicago to be friendly to
black businesses. I found it very difficult to really
maneuver within the business arena, especially not being a
Chicago native. I wasn’t politically connected, I had
to learn the ropes, in Chicago there is no black business
district, like in Atlanta, DC, Maryland, Houston (Laughter).
But I’ve stayed here and it is working.
How did you learn about spirituality?
My father was an Associate Pastor in Columbus Ohio and I’ve
always believed in God. The colors of the sky, the air
I breathe, the blooming flowers, the blood flowing within my
body, nobody could just make that happen, it takes a supreme
creator to make that happen. I am very open about my
spirituality, and the fact that I am a Christian Black
Woman. We have a lot of readers of Bahiyah who are
Muslims, Jewish, Jehovah Witness, I do things very
differently, and I am very inviting to people of all
religious walks of life. I am also very firm in the
fact that I am a Black Christian Woman who lives the Black
Christian experience. I can agree to disagree with you
and I would love for you to be where I am, but I can also
respect where you are. I have that spiritual
foundation from my dad.
Have you always wanted to be doing what you’re doing now?
I can recall when I was in college and I said to a friend of
mine, “one day I’m going to have my own magazine.”
However, I thought it was going to be a fashion magazine. I
use to cut out pictures in the different magazines like
Right On, Ebony, and Essence with the thought of my own
magazine in mind. Years later, after two marriages,
two divorces, comes the birth of Bahiyah magazine.
I have a love for black women, just to see us succeed and excel,
and to get places that we’ve never been and to make our
dreams a reality.
Bahiyah affirmation is a reflection of my spirituality. It is
very personal and I expose an element of me that is very
intimate. People don’t always understand, there is
this illusion that I’m all of that and I’m doing it. I
like to keep it very real and share that I have the same
challenges as everyone else, financial, relationships, and
People call us the best kept secret. I don’t like that.
I don’t want to be the best kept secret anymore.
BMIA.com:Did you have a difficult
time starting Bahiyah?
Yes. I’m still having a difficult time starting
Bahiyah. We are four years old and in the magazine
world that is still very young. It’s a tough business;
it is not for the weak at heart. You can’t go into
this industry with thin skin, you need to have some
alligator, hard tough skin. There will be times that
you are let down, your numbers aren’t where you would like
them to be, and once you are in this business, it’s very
hard to get out. It consumes you from all angles.
The work in publishing a magazine is never done, you are
always way ahead of the game, and I’m already planning for
February 2006. You are never really in the moment. You
have to work hard and create a balance with your family life
as well. Especially, if you are dating or married, the
demands of this industry are hard for your significant other
to understand the demands of the business. You should
probably have a significant other that really understands
publishing and somehow bring them aboard, keeping the bond
is important. Having your family involved when you are
in the publishing industry is paramount.
Let’s talk about the Bahiyah Woman Magazine Auxiliary
Projects. How did this come about?
A few of the Auxiliary Projects are Bahiyah Women Magazine
live on LIBRadio.net, Monday 9pm-11pm CST, now preparing for
our third show; Bahiyah Woman Magazine Dialogues, which is a
talk show, kind of on an Oprah scale. We’re at African
American Images Bookstore every 4th Saturday.
We are trying to make Bahiyah available because we
understand that everyone is not going to go online to read
the magazine, everyone is not going to buy the print copy,
but some people listens to the radio and others love to be
out in the community. We are trying to cover the bases
and that is the heart of the Auxiliary Projects.
What do you hope to accomplish by branching out into radio?
Bahiyah is for black women and men. I know we have
readers who are Asian and Caucasian and that’s great, I love
it. However, it is a magazine for black women, written
by a lot of black men. We give, what I call a quality
voice to black women and black men, because it doesn’t
exist. We are not an underground media; we are an
independent black media. Our goal is to become a media
mobile, an independent media mobile; where I don’t have to
depend on CBS, ABC, or NBC to do what I want to do.
Brownstone is our online drama that has an ongoing story
line that we would to see produced and on television.
We get emails all the time about Brownstone, our Managing
editor is a phenomenal writer and we collaborate and define
these characters, Brownstone is awesome.
Do you have any mentors?
My dad, before his Alzheimer’s, there was nothing he didn’t
know about, he had 3 or 4 degrees, a writer, an artist, a
business man, and he is spiritually grounded. He’s
just a phenomenal brother. I could always look up to
How important is it to have mentors and role models?
I think it is very important to make the connection and have
someone to learn from. I think that is one of the
things I think I missed a lot of, I would love to just call
Oprah and say, Oprah look, you don’t have give me any money,
but can I come over there and sit next to your editorial
director and see how thing is really done, when you really
got a lot of money to play with. Oprah, can I just
call you once in while, run an idea by you just to see what
It’s very difficult in this industry because a lot of people don’t
want to give up where they got where they are, unless they
write a biography and you can read about it.
In your opinion, is the road to success, however you define
success different for women than men?
BMIA.com: How so?
If you are married and if you are married with children that
is different. As a woman there is just another dynamic
adding to your lifestyle. Most black women in business
will not forego, or forsake their children and marriage to
make something happen. There is that attitude of I
want to do it all and it is very difficult to do it all.
Most of us have children and have been married and it is
very difficult to be an entrepreneur given these
Entrepreneurship as a single black woman with children is very
difficult because you have to keep food in your babies’
mouths and a roof over your head. Where if I were not
with children or if you were not married, where I lived
wouldn’t necessary matter, I wouldn’t have to worry about
the school district, I could just live in a little whole in
a wall, be there 24 hours a day and do my thing.
If you have a husband, you have another component, you want to make
sure that relationship is tack that you give him his time,
you take care of him, and he’s able to take care of you;
that you have that quality time together and you are going
on dates and live is still good. All of which takes
times, and being an entrepreneur is like having another
husband or child, you have to nurture it and do the
I will say this about entrepreneurship, at least there are lots of
books written and you can find a mentor. Raising
children and having a husband is a bit different (laughter),
not a lot of good books written on that.
I don’t think black men have it quite as hard. Expectations
of the relationship is that he is the man that goes out and
bring home the bacon, and we’re not expected to go out
traveling all the time. Women are expected to come
home, cook, clean, take care of the children, and go on
field trips. There is a difference. I wish we could
get to a place where black men and black women worked
I noticed that you speak very passionately about
relationships and how important it is to have a balance with
your business and your mate, tell us a little about you in
that areas, starting with, are you single and available?
(Laughing) I’m single, I don’t know how available I
am. Relationships are very important to me. The
relationship with my children, friends and family members
are very intimate and personal for me. I’ve been
married twice, both very good men, and I was really ready at
the time of the marriage. We were both Christians and
I thought we should have been able to make it, but we
weren’t. We were able to maintain a healthy
friendship. I one day hope to have a healthy
relationship with someone of the opposite sex. I don’t
want to grow old by myself.
When I hear people say there aren’t any good black men out there, I
disagree with them 100%.
BMIA.com: Why is that?
I believe my God hasn’t made a shortage of men. Before
I can make a list of what he has to be, I have to make a
list to make sure I am all that I can be. I don’t go
looking for a man either. I believe when the
Bible says he who finds a good wife, finds a good thing.
So I expect him to come knocking on my door, or he will know
me when he see me.
What do you enjoy doing in your limited free time?
It is very limited. I am an avid reader, I will get a
hotel room, with a pool, and take three books, and I am in
heaven. The water, the books, and relaxation. I
also enjoy time with my girls, the movies, or just some time
together, that is great to me.
What has been your biggest challenge in life?
Raising my children and making them positive and productive
girls, with good self esteem.
How important is it for black women to see someone who looks
like them achieving success?
On my scale of 1-10 it’s a 10, we need it and have to have
Do you feel a sense of responsibility to the black community
and do you see yourself as a role model?
SBH: Absolutely. If we don’t, who does? If I look
across the street and the broken down house, I have to say,
what can I do to help. We have to make the support our
What is the connection with Bahiyah and black men?
You cannot have a black magazine for women that don’t
embrace black men. I don’t know how we have done it
for some many years that we can have a full magazine devoted
to women’s issues and it doesn’t include anything about
black men. Essences will do something annually, but
Bahiyah does it with every issue. We have article
written by black men for our black female audience and then
we have conversations with black men who speak unedited from
their heart about issues from fatherhood, politics, and
relationships, and these brothers are on point.
Why is this (the connection with black men) important?
I have brothers who are Black men, I hear so often, where
are the black men, and I need to put them in the faces of
the people who are asking the questions. More women
than men read Bahiyah. I have a duty to present to us,
men that look like us, read, think, and live in our
communities. I can’t wait for someone else to do it; I
am obligated to present black men who are doing their thing.
What’s the best part of being Serene Bridgett Hollingsworth?
I would say my honesty. The ability to just tell
people where I am, this is who I am. I’m not Oprah,
I’m not Susan Taylor, and I am cutting out my own piece of
the pie in this world.
It’s time for our Famous Hot Seat. I will shoot a few
questions at you, and you just select the answer that best
suits you and your personality, Ready?
(Laughing) Okay, let’s do it!
If given a choice what would you prefer: A blind date
or reading a good book?
A Good Book!
Listen to Luther, Maxwell or Will Downing.
Maxwell, I love Will too.
Mikaylah Simone, James Ellis III, these are real
contemporary writers, Nicki Giovanni, Toni Morrison. I
love the poets.
Favorite musical group.
I like old school. Let me go old school on yawl, I
like the SOS Band, The Isley Brothers, I do like Will
Downing. I really like the old school.
If you could go anywhere tomorrow for a vacation, where
would you go?
Barbados! That’s my favorite place.
What are the biggest challenge facing black women in
Financial stability, familiar stability, keeping our
families in tack.
What are the biggest challenge facing black men in America?
The same as the women, keeping our homes and family in tack,
raising our children, and being present.
BMIA.com:Where do you see Bahiyah 5 years from now?
It’s taken us 4 years to get to where we are today, so five
years from not, I like to see us with our own studio
production, where we could do our own taping and filming of
Brownstone and other quality programming; where our talk
show could be filmed live. I’d like to be able to
offer scholarship to students, I’d like to see us supported
by readership and not dependent on advertising. It is
our magazine, for us, written by us, and we should support
it and I’d like to see us there.
BMIA.com: How can people reading this interview support you?
SBH: Visit Bahiyah Women Magazine online
frequently, purchase a copy of the print edition, we have an
Annual Collector’s Edition; it’ comes out in February 2006,
it’s a 150 page full color magazine filled with inspiration,
information, and resources for women and men of color.
A must have for every home or office! It’s limited printing,
we suggest that the readers reserve a copy early by visiting
We also have an opportunity for our readers to support us by
giving a monthly donation. They can come to site and
click on the link and make a minimum donation of $5.00.
I tell our readers all the time, if our entire readership,
donated just $5 a month, we would be printing monthly.
I mean $5.00 a month, we spend triple that a day on coffee,
snacks, and other vices. If we could do just $5.00 a
month that would help us tremendously.
BMIA.com: Okay, that’s a rap! On
behalf of Black Men In America.com, thank you and I look
forward to reading the issue of Bahiyah Woman Magazine.
SBH: Thank you and Black Men In America.com
for the opportunity to be featured.
Bridgett Hollingsworth is
available to speak at your next event. More than
inspirational, "she is real and brings gut wrenching power,
humbleness and truth to her experiences."
Click here to book Bridgett now!
interview was conducted by Staceé Lewis, Midwest
Correspondent for Black Men In America.com.
She Quit The Apprentice and
Sparked An Already Hot Debate About The Portrayal of Blacks on
An Interview with Verna Felton
Verna Felton is an accomplished
Business Manager and Communications professional. Some of
you may be asking: “Who is Verna Felton? Should I
know that name?” If you watch the hit NBC TV show, you
know that the third installment of
pits college graduates against entrepreneurs with only a high
school diploma. The winner of the competition will be
granted a job with The Trump Organization and a hefty six-figure
salary. With all of that at stake, Verna, a member of the
“Book Smarts” team quit the show. That’s right, girlfriend
Apprentice" premiered Jan. 8, 2004 and immediately became a
cultural phenomenon, scoring the highest ratings for any new
series introduced throughout the 2003-04 season and outscoring
every established series in the key adult 18-49 category except
continues to deliver the
strongest concentration on primetime network television of
upscale viewers in such key categories as adults 18-49 living in
homes with incomes of $75,000 and more.
and wondered why Verna walked off
the show. I wasn’t sure if she let her team down or if she
was justified in walking away. I figured that there was
more to the story and to Verna than what was portrayed on
the diva from the first season who many blame for backstabbing
shared some insights about
what goes on behind the scenes on reality television shows and
how black people are portrayed. In a February 16, 2005,
press conference, Omarosa said black participants seemed to be
ignored by the cameras if they don't fall into a certain
stereotype. She specifically cited Verna’s quitting the
show as one example. She said the depiction of Verna as a
quitter supported her theory of black folks being purposely
portrayed in a negative fashion on reality television.
Omarosa also said that Verna being portrayed as a quitter made
her cringe "in the biggest way."
way to find out what happened with Verna was to go directly to
the source. Before I contacted Verna, I checked around and
the word on the street was that Verna was intimidating. I
didn’t get that sense at all. Verna Felton is
straightforward, thoughtful and engaging. Verna also
impressed me as being very smart and aware of the realities of
Felton grew up learning how to dream. She is goal oriented
and her experience on
has only strengthened her ability to reach her dreams.
Verna has created her own dreams, and enjoys living them every
day with her two children and husband.
thoroughly enjoyed my interview with Verna. Whether you
agree with her or not, you know where Verna stands on an issue.
What impressed me the most about Verna is that she doesn’t make
excuses. Verna Felton accepts responsibilities for the
decisions that she’s made and moves on. The sister has no
Verna may have quit the show, but she ain’t no punk.
Today, Verna works for one of the largest technology companies
in the world, and is always on the lookout for that next "big"
opportunity. If you want to know about the logic that
drives this sister’s behavior, her views on reality television
or just want to be inspired, you must read this interview.
BMIA.com: Hey Verna. Thanks for taking the time
to talk with us. You’re probably best known for your
participation on The Apprentice #3. You were the first
participant to quit the show. We’ll talk about that in a
few minutes. I want to start off talking and learning
about Verna, the married woman with children. Tell me
about your background.
I thank God for blessing me with not only a successful career,
but with a happy family life as well. Growing up, there were a
number of successful business and entertainment figures that I
looked up to. Although I don't think my parents consider
themselves "successful" in the typical sense, they are very
successful people when it comes to knowing what is important in
life and being able to live without worrying about petty things.
They taught me to create my own American Dream. They showed me
the importance of family, health, and a strong belief in God.
There are no better role models I could have asked for.
BMIA.com: Before you joined the cast of The
Apprentice, you worked for Microsoft in the IT (Information
Technology) field. What are you doing now? Are you
still working for Microsoft?
I do still work for Microsoft and have been there for a number
of years. Through my experiences I have learned how to move up
the corporate ladder, how to be the best at what I do, and how
to strive to compete with the top minds in the industry.
BMIA.com: Before you joined the cast of The
Apprentice, how did you define success?
I define success as being able to take care of my family and my
life's needs - enjoying each day as it comes. Looking at my
children and knowing that I am teaching them how to be good
people, driven, and to have goals in life. I define success as
looking forward to each day, and being considered the best at
what I do. When people can look at you to fix their hardest
problems, and have no doubts that you are able to do it... you
have achieved success. When you can face each day with
anticipation of what's ahead, instead of dreading what's to
come, you have achieved success. Success to me means that I
don't have to wait for things to happen, but I am the one who
can make them happen.
BMIA.com: Now that you’re off the show has that
definition changed? If so, how?
That definition has not changed. I still hold my values and
beliefs very high. Participating in a TV show cannot and did not
change who I am. I think that every person’s definition of
success is personal to him/her. Each person has to look at their
life, and see how they want to make it better, where there is
room for improvement and growth. I too have examined my life,
and truly believe that success comes with satisfaction. If you
have a life that is full of the joy and laughter that comes with
happiness, and you do not have to worry about paying the bills
or struggling month to month, in my opinion, you have achieved
success. Some of the richest people are not happy; can you tell
me they are successful? Success has to look beyond your pocket
BMIA.com: OK, let’s get right to it. Have a
seat. This is the Black Men In America.com “Hot Seat.”
This is where I fire rapid questions and you respond with
rapid-fire answers. Are you ready?
I’m ready… go for it!
BMIA.com: You obviously watched The Apprentice before
you were selected to go on the show. What were your
expectations and what were you told before you became part of
I had actually never watched The Apprentice. I had heard about
the show, but figured, why watch TV to see what I live and
breathe everyday. Because of my background, when The Apprentice
auditions came to town, my brother convinced me to go out to the
casting calls. The producers loved me and obviously felt that I
had the professional background, along with the personal
confidence needed to succeed in this type of competition. After
I made it on, I went out and bought the Season 1 DVD set and sat
down and watched it from beginning to end. My expectations going
onto the show were that I was going to be competing in the
ultimate business arena. This was going to provide me a chance
to combine my two greatest strengths… my passion for business
and drive for competition. Boy, was I in for a rude awakening.
BMIA.com: Specifically, where was “the disconnect”
between your expectations and the reality of being on the show?
I decided to move forward with participating on this show
because I wanted an opportunity to demonstrate the skills and
strength that have made me so successful in life. This was my
chance to showcase my talents, and get the “opportunity of a
lifetime” to do it with (supposedly) the best and brightest that
America has to offer. However, in my opinion, it turned out that
the show was not about demonstrating business talents, rather,
something altogether different. It is evident that these shows
try to bring out the extremes in people. Whether it’s only
showing you when you’re emotional, or getting the cameras in
your face when you’re angry, or filming you while you’re
sleeping and showing that as the majority of your footage to
show viewers that you’re lazy. There are things that go on
behind the scenes of “Reality TV” that I discovered and did not
want to be a part of.
BMIA.com: What happened? Can you give us some
kind of build up to help us understand why you left the show?
Yeah, why don’t I just do that and break my NDA (Non-Disclosure
Agreement). That sounds like a good idea. Oh, by the way, as I’m
moving my family out on the street, and all of my worldly
belongings get confiscated, why don’t you get that spare bedroom
at your house ready, because my family and I will be moving in
What I will
tell you is that I have built my expertise around sales,
marketing and communications. This show was the perfect
opportunity for me to showcase my business savvy and strengths
when it comes to competing. I do not bow down to anyone. I hold
strong to my beliefs and do what it takes to win… In this case,
nothing changed. The only thing that is different is the way
that I have defined winning. To many, winning would have been
staying in the game and fighting with the other contestants for
the (smirk) pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Instead of
this misguided belief of what winning was supposed to be, I
examined the real situation and determined that winning would be
holding strong to my morals and convictions and not taking part
in something that I felt went against that. If you think that I
am lazy or weak, you need to think again. I am not that little
pitiful person that you saw walking across your TV screen. You
can either take me at my word or not. Your choice. Either way,
it doesn’t detract from the fact that I know I am the real
winner for not putting up with that situation.
BMIA.com: OK, you made that point crystal clear.
I’ve heard from a number of black folks who are wondering what
goes on behind the scenes on that show with respect to black
women. So far, there seems to be some sort of drama
associated with black women. In the first installment
there was Omarosa, we don’t need to talk about her. The
second installment involved Stacie, who was portrayed as
mentally unstable. And for the third installment many felt
that you were portrayed as somewhat unstable or having a nervous
breakdown. Do you have a response or reaction to this
I personally do not believe there is conspiracy to make black
people look bad on these shows, or to even demonstrate that they
don’t “fit in.” However, I do believe that the producers are
trying to play up common stereotypes that make for entertaining
TV. When I sat down and watched the show at home, I used to
think, my goodness, these people have serious problems. Now that
I truly understand what “Reality TV” is all about I have a
completely different outlook on the situation. I don’t sit in
judgment of others who participated in these games. Instead, I
sit back and observe what they’re doing with their 15 minutes.
That is a truer testament to who they really are. If you are
going to capitalize on being an evil witch, then so be it. No
one can look at you and think any different. However, if you are
going to go out and truly represent the person that you are, the
strong, level-headed, business-minded qualities that supposedly
got you onto the show, that is altogether a different story.
BMIA.com: What did you learn about teamwork on the
During my brief stay on the show I did have a chance to mingle
with contestants from both my team (book smarts) as well as the
other team (street smarts). Looking beyond the “people” who were
competing on this game show, I was able to have some real
conversations with them as well. I found a group of very
likeable people, whom I continue to keep in touch with. The main
lesson that I learned from participating on the show was that
you should not let the situation shape who you are. Instead,
your personality and demeanor should shape the situation. I came
out of my space to play the game. Luckily, I realized that it
was not worth it to be something that I did not want to be, to
go against my integrity. So, I quit. To me, it does not matter
if the other contestants were aware of this or not, or even if
they were able to share this information if they knew. What
mattered is that I learned a personal life lesson. If nothing
else, this experience was worth it just for that. I think the
entire cast are good people. I look beyond how they are being
portrayed, or even how they are trying to present themselves to
win in this game. I enjoyed each and every one of them as human
beings, and wish them all continued luck and success.
BMIA.com: What was your most significant personal
learning as a result of being on the show?
This experience has taught me so much. Mainly, it has taught me
to never watch TV the same way again. I have no regrets about
doing the show, just like I have no regrets about quitting.
However, if you ask if I would do it again, I would have to say
absolutely not. There is so much that you do not see that has
nothing to do with "reality." I went on this show, because this
was supposed to be a different kind of "reality TV" competition.
It turned out, that it is just like all of the other TV game
shows out there. I would do this show, just as quickly as I
would go out for a show like "Real World" or "Trading Spouses."
If you're looking to compete in business, this show is not
looking to showcase that talent. I have no hard feelings though.
It is about entertainment. If people were entertained, and found
the show interesting, the producers are doing their jobs. All
that glitters isn’t gold.
BMIA.com: Did you learn anything about yourself that
you weren’t aware of?
The Apprentice has taught me that so many people wish for
something they don't have, and then you finally get it, and only
wish to go back to what you had. The Apprentice has taught me to
value and respect people as individuals. Don't get so caught up
in the game that you become something that you are not. And
lastly, The Apprentice has taught me that just because it
glitters doesn't mean it's gold.
BMIA.com: What are your impressions about Donald
I had liked Trump. Every interaction that I had with him was a
positive one. He is doing his job, as you would expect, but also
seems to me to be a very likeable person.
BMIA.com: How much of the show is real? How much
of an impact do the cameras have on your behavior?
I see “Reality TV’ very similar to watching horror movie
sequels. Remember the rules? The first time you play by the
rules to get the audience hooked. Second time, you try to break
the rules to keep them coming back for more. The third time
there are no rules, you’re going for shock value. Although I
cannot tell you how much of these shows are real, how much of it
is all in the editing and splicing…I can tell you that these
people (producers, editors, etc.) are really good at their jobs.
I didn’t appreciate the skills that they brought to the table
before going through this experience. They are truly amazing and
I have to respect that talent.
BMIA.com: How big a factor was editing in how you were
portrayed before the American viewing public?
Of course there were things that the viewers missed that made me
finally say, "enough is enough." I am not that little weak, lazy
girl that they tried to depict on the show. I would not have
made it on the show or have had as much success in my life if I
were simply a person who would give up because I couldn't handle
the pressure. I deal with pressure, stress and working in
ambiguous environments everyday. There is so much that the
viewers don't see, because there is so much that the viewers
aren't supposed to see. I simply tell people to get over it and
don't take it so seriously. This is entertainment. If you are
entertained by the show, then they are doing their jobs well. If
you think you can tell everything you need to know about a
person based on a 45 minute edited TV show, there is a lot more
you need to learn about life.
BMIA.com: Can you talk about the support you received
from your husband and family?
My husband and friends were completely supportive of my decision
to leave. They know what kind of person I am. I am a strong
person, with a good head on my shoulders. I have always been
blessed with making good decisions in my life, which ultimately
work out for the best. My friends and family understand that if
I decided to leave the show, there was definitely a good reason.
They don't even question it. I do not bow down to fatigue. I do
not stop just because something gets "hard." Rather, I fight
until victory is won. In this case, I did just that. I fought
until the victory was mine...that victory was that I was able to
keep my integrity and moral values to remain true to myself and
BMIA.com: How has being on The Apprentice changed your
I am a strong, determined, spiritual person will not let others
dictate my action. Not only do I think about how this experience
has changed my life, but I hope others can learn from my lesson
as well. There are other people out there who will come to a
crossroads in their life, and need to make a decision about
which direction to go. For these people, follow your hearts.
Don't wait for the door to open, you have the power to open the
door yourself and determine which direction to take. In the end,
if you trust in yourself and trust in God, you will be lead down
the right path. No one else has to understand your reasoning, if
you have no regrets, walk with your head held up high. You are a
strong beautiful, unique person and no one can take that away
BMIA.com: Let me wrap up by doing a quick word
association. Just share the first thing that comes to your
mind in terms of your preference.
BMIA.com: Read a good book or watch a reality TV
I have always been a fan of a good book. Curled up in the bed or
on the couch, I don’t think anything can beat that.
BMIA.com: Untold wealth and riches or Family and
Both. I strive within my life to have a balance. I want to be
successful, want to be able to live that carefree life with my
family, and provide for my children many of the things I’ve
never had. To me, you don’t have to give up who you are to
achieve success. As long as you hold true to yourself and your
loved ones, success and all that goes along with it is just
around the corner.
BMIA.com: Steve Forbes or Donald Trump.
Verna: Would I
choose Steve Forbes or Donald Trump? Well, that completely
depends on the situation and opportunity. Let me read the fine
print first though!
BMIA.com: OK, favorite singer.
My favorite musician is Elton John. Call me crazy if you like. I
am also a child of the 80’s, so I can sit down and listen to
just about anything that came out during that time.
BMIA.com: No, that’s not crazy. What’s next for
I have been blessed to have many accomplishments in life. I will
continue to stay focused, keeping my eye out for the next big
thing. I don’t let one supposed “failure” get me down.
BMIA.com: How can we support you?
I appreciate all of the support that people have sent, but I
also have understanding for those who do not support my
decision. I knew going into this race that my image and the way
I would be perceived were all in the hands of the production
crew. I signed up for that. So, ultimately, if I wanted to get
mad at someone, who could I get made at? The people who believe
what is being shown to them on TV, or the person who signed up
to be portrayed in whatever way the production crew saw fit. I
have no hard feelings--this is TV. I take it for what it is. I
know who I am; I know what skills I bring to the table. That is
what matters to me.
Verna. You are officially out of the Black Men In
America.com Hot Seat.
So what do you think? If you would
like to respond to this article
and sign our
to leave a public or private
She’s A Little Bit
Country: An Interview with Vicki Vann
you name a black female country singer? (The Jeopardy game show theme song is
playing). Typical answer: “I don’t know.” In preparing for this
interview, I asked dozens of people the same question and no one had an
answer. I can’t name a black female country singer. Well after
reading this interview, you will have an answer. So the next time you’re at a
party and someone tries to stump you and asks: “Can you name a black female
country singer?” You will pause confidently, look at them and respond: “Is
that the best that you can do? The answer is Vicki Vann.” That’s
right boys and girls. Vicki Vann.
In a little more than a
year, Vicki Vann has caught the collective ear of country music fans from
California to Nashville. Her voice has earned her a reputation as one of the
newest talents of country music. Vann’s debut self-titled CD reflects a
refreshing collection of country flavor tunes. Her unique phrasing along with her soulful
interpretation of songs has given Vicki Vann a distinctive sound. I’ve
listened to her music and she definitely has a country sound. Country music
experts and aficionados say they hear the influences of Barbra Striesand and
Crystal Gayle. When I listen to Vicki Vann I’m reminded of Deniece Williams.
Vann’s song “This Wall,” reminds me of Williams during her “It’s Gonna Take A
Miracle” days in the late 70’s and 80’s. Whatever you hear, make no mistake
this is country music and Vann represents a bridge between the past, the
present and the future style of country music.
is Vicki Vann and where did she come from? Vicki Vann was born in Los
Angeles, California as Vicki Denise Turnbough to a Baptist Minister/Pastor and
a bookkeeper/homemaker. Her father is from Mississippi and was an
original member of the gospel group, The Mighty Clouds of Joy. She
earned a degree in Psychology from Occidental College in Eagle Rock, CA
mother, originally from Oklahoma, sang in the choir at church on Sundays, every
Sunday from sunup 'till sundown. The family consists of her parents, Art and
Carol Turnbough, Rudy an older brother, and her younger brother Rick. They
lived in suburban Los Angeles on a few acres of land with horses, chickens,
rabbits, dogs, cats, and a mule. The Turnboughs, a very spiritual family,
always looked forward to Sundays where they would spend the day at church with
family and friends. Vicki sang throughout school and idolized Patsy Cline,
Dolly Parton, Aretha Franklin, Crystal Gayle and Barbara Mandrell. In the
sixth grade, Vicki entered her school talent show and took first place along
with a standing ovation.
said that she realized early on that she had a special gift from God. She’s
maintained this gift by successfully balancing the demands of career and
family, and not sacrificing her values. She can keep her music country and
“keep it real” at the same time. "I sing so I can feel. When I can really
feel it in my soul - I know my music is coming across the way I want it to,”
Our own Gary Johnson caught up with Vicki Vann for this
illuminating interview. So without further adieu, here is the Vicki Vann
BMIA: Tell us about your debut CD “Vicki Vann.” How has
the CD been received?
Vann: My debut CD consists of 11 tracks and a bonus track. All the songs
were handpicked through thousands of songs we listened to. I felt a deep
connection with each and every song that made the CD. The CD has been quite
receptive. I think people can relate to the songs. There’s a little
something for everybody. For example, two favorite tracks among most female
fans are, “Wednesday Kisses”, and “He Was Leavin’ Anyway.” We’re hoping for a
nationwide release in October.
BMIA: When did you
first know you wanted to be a singer and how did you end up singing country
Vann: I first knew I wanted to be a singer when I saw Barbara Mandrell on TV
getting picked up and thrown about all with her microphone still intact, and
smiling. She looked like she was having the time of her life! I fell madly
in love with country music mostly because the songs tell real stories! I’m a
storyteller!! I began writing poems and plays at age seven or eight. I got
one of my poems published in the local newspaper, and there was something
grand about seeing my thoughts, in print. At that point, I began writing
songs from my poems. I’m a literary fool! I can relate to hearing and
telling a story from beginning to end. It makes me feel comfortable, like
being at home. Country music fit well with my personality.
BMIA: You describe yourself as being “spiritual.” Can you elaborate on that?
Vann: Sure! I am a spiritual person in that I take God with me in everything
I do, and everywhere I go. I’m not so much of a religious person because
often I am out of town and away from church and cannot go, but I’m never
without God. That was instilled into my skull by my parents at a very, very,
young age and I’m so glad they did. I meditate daily to start my day, and I
look at the Bible as my manual for life. In addition, I always insist on
praying before we go on stage.
BMIA: What was your
earliest or most vivid recollection of being “different?”
Vann: My earliest recollection of being different was when I was about five
or six years old and I would perform at the drop of a hat for anyone who
asked, even though I was painfully shy. I craved so much attention!! My
whole body would just shake until I got passed the first line of the song or
so, and then well, IT WAS ON!! The applause made me glow. I became addicted
BMIA:From listening to your music, I get the sense that you’ve had influences
outside of the country genre. Who are some of your musical influences?
Vicki Vann: My musical influences include: Celine Dion, Mariah
Carey, Aretha Franklin, Stephanie Mills, Anita Baker, Luther Vandros, Peobo
Bryson, and the late, great singers, Donny Hathaway, Ella Fitzgerald, Phylis
Hyman, and Sarah Vaughn.
BMIA:Who is your favorite singer and why?
Vann: My favorite singer is Celine Dion because she does not sing a single
note without some type of emotional thought process behind it. She takes you
(the listener along with her for the ride) throughout the duration of her
performance, which is my goal whenever I sing.
BMIA:Are there any other female country singers of color of note? If so, who are
Vann: No, there aren’t any that have reached major stardom and, or popularity
to represent people who love country music who have brown faces, like me.
BMIA: The music business is a hard hustle. Is it harder for a black woman to be
successful singing country music? Is it harder than singing pop or adult
Vicki Vann: As far as my audiences are concerned, no, I feel it
isn’t harder and harder is the operative word here, for a Black woman to be
successful singing country, but I believe as for the music industry and
industry professionals making all the decisions it’s extremely difficult to
break new ground because here I am trying to do something that hasn’t been
done before, ever! The industry in a sense is afraid of me. I think it would
be easier, or perhaps it would be a more expedient road to worldwide
recognition and super stardom singing pop or adult contemporary because that
is what Black female singers before me have done, and have been successful, to
the heights of mega stardom, because it’s always easier to follow someone
rather than step out and create your own way. That can often take a little
while and maybe shake a few people up along the way.
audiences react differently to you?
Vicki Vann: My audiences don’t expect me to sing country! I guess
I don’t appear like a typical female country singer, you know, Anglo, with
serious twang and all. However, once they experience my songs and my show,
they’re ready to stand in line for CD’s and pictures to shake my hand and say
“Wow! You oughta be on the radio! You’re just as great as any female country
singer out there!”
there an advantage being a country singer of color?
Vann: Yes, the advantage of being a country singer of color is it’s
‘refreshing’ to see something different. People are curious, and their
curiosity pulls them in, makes them listen and then, the gifts that I’ve been
given and Blessed with take over from there. So far, it’s all been extremely
good and well received.
you feel like you have to work twice as hard to get recognized or is the
playing field for you level?
Vann: I feel as though I do have to work twice as hard because of the work
ethic my mom taught me. She always said, “There’s always gonna be somebody
prettier, who can sing better, dance better, and charm better who probably
woke up much earlier than you and is way ahead of you, so put your best out
there plus whatever else is left to create your own path.” I believe the
playing field is level if you know the rules to the game and have many angels
along guiding your steps.
BMIA: What do you want people to “get” as a result of listening to your music?
Vicki Vann: I want people to come away from listening to my music
with some heartfelt emotion. I want people to be able to look past the music
and hear my soul, because it’s my job to present it. The emotion they feel
can be happy or sad, or even remembering an experience, or an experience of
someone else just to be able to relate and feel connected with me for
BMIA:How much of your personal life is reflected in your music?
Vann: Very much of my personal life is reflected in my music. For every word
I sing I have either been there, done that, or I know some one well enough who
has. It’s how I can make the soul connection.
you have any professional ambitions outside of music?
Vann: My ambitions outside of music include acting. I’ve always considered
myself an actress. I love writing, screenplays, etc. I’d also love to be a
spokesperson for a worthy cause I believe in like animal rights or be a
children’s’ advocate for literacy or adoption! I’d love to write a book
BMIA: How would you describe your sound?
Vann: My sound can be described as.....The Vicki Vann sound!! I don’t sound
like any one else really. It’s a unique blend of country soul, sprinkled with
southern gospel and rhythm and blues.
BMIA:Tell us about the Vickie Vann Band. Are they like family to you?
Vann: The Vicki Vann Band is my local band that I perform with in California
only. We perform at local venues. They’re very much like family whom I care
about. I admire them for their expertise and for putting up with me.
BMIA:What’s the best thing about being Vicki Vann?
Vann: The best thing about being Vicki Vann is waking up each morning and
seeing the gift of another day to possibly share my gifts with those I care
about, and I have some pretty cool jeans to wear!!
there a down side to being Vicki Vann? If so, what’s the down side?
Vann: The only down side I have is I can be a perfectionist with a hurry up
and wait mentality. However, I remain an optimist.
BMIA:How often are you on the road performing?
Vann: We’re currently not on the road because we’re finishing the CD for a
major release soon. We’re fine-tuning all the small details for the next few
weeks. But typically, I’m out for a few show dates a month. We completed a
great show in Switzerland recently, and we had a fabulous time rockin’ the
house!! We tore it up!!!!
BMIA:You are very talented and attractive. What is your ethnicity?
Vann: Thank you!! I’m all mixed up like a mutt! Actually, I have black,
French, Spanish, American Indian, and German roots from my parents. My father
hails from Mississippi and Louisiana, and my mother originates from the
Oklahoma Texas area.
BMIA:How involved are you with the business side of your career?
Vann: I’m very involved with the business side of my career. I feel that it
is extremely important for every artist to be. I’ve researched and studied
many facets of this business and therefore I am equipped to make professional
and positive decisions about my career.
BMIA: How much can you share about your personal life? Are you married? Single?
Vann: As far as my personal life goes, yes, there is someone very special!!
BMIA:What does the future hold for Vicki Vann? Where do you see Vicki Vann 5 years
Vann: I see myself in the next five years selling so many CD’s that they
can’t keep them on the shelves, bringing a whole new untapped market of fans
to country music all at the same time while I’m driving down the highway, in
my huge tour bus, to play a show, and being so excited about seeing my fans
like it’s my very first gig!! I see myself being just a breath of fresh air
in an industry and in particular, a genre of music that’s gone a little
stale. And, of course, I’ll be at the Grammy’s, to win!
BMIA:What are the most important issue facing black men in America? Black women?
Vann: Deep question. The most important issue I see facing many black men,
in America, is gaining the ability to claim their worth, on a widespread
front, and view themselves as God views them, and continuing the fight to keep
HOPE ALIVE! As for all black women in America, we must see another sistah and
give her MUCH LOVE & SUPPORT to the point that together, we will move
mountains, and ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough....’
can we support you and your career?
Vicki Vann: You already have by printing this interview and asking
great questions! Oh, you can send your readers to my website at
to buy my CD!! Thanks!!
BMIA:What advice would you give to young singers?
Vicki Vann: Advice I would give young singers is; realize you will
only be as successful as your dreams will travel. So, pack your suitcase
early, get your passport ahead of time, and prepare yourself for the voyage of
your life, but keep God close by always, and you’ll never, ever fall, and if
you do, know He’ll be there to catch you and pull you up again to start over.
Thank you & God Bless! See you on the road!
Click On Photo To Enlarge
Dorien Wilson: Sexy,
Single and Syndicated
Actor Dorien Wilson
celebrating an exciting career. He'll appear on the big screen in
B2K’s new movie, “You Got Served” slated to open at the end of
January 2004, and he’s enjoying the success of his fifth season as
Professor Oglevee on UPN’s hit comedy show, “The Parkers”,
which is now also syndicated. In fact, the NAACP Image Awards
have recognized the engaging actor with a nomination for Outstanding
Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Sexy, syndicated and now
nominated, Dorien Wilson is hot property!
No stranger to network television, the veteran actor has consistently held
roles for the past decade, including his stint as Eddie Charles in HBO’s
“Dream On” and the Reverend Franklin Goode on UPN’s “Goode
Behavior.” In addition to “You Got Served”, Dorien will
also appear in the upcoming film “Gas,” written by Ralph Farquhar,
directed by Henry Chan and starring Flex Alexander.
The recent NAACP Award nomination is especially gratifying to Wilson.
“Professor Olgevee has been one of my most endearing roles. I
literally can't cross the street without someone recognizing me or asking
me, ‘when am I going to get with Nikki Parker,’ who is played by
Mo'Nique on the show. Mo’Nique and I are like brother and sister in
real life, and we have a blast taunting each other on the set.”
“This season is an exciting one for the cast. There are all kinds of
surprises in store for our long time fans, so my advice is that they not
miss an episode!”
Nikki Parker is nobody's
fool. Laugh if you want, but Nikki has relentlessly pursued Professor
Oglevee for four straight television seasons for good reason. As millions
of viewers of the highly popular UPN series, "The Parkers" can attest,
Professor Oglevee is good looking, single, intelligent, funny and charming.
What more could a woman want?
"The Parkers" will enter syndication this fall in conjunction with
their fifth season, which launches Monday, September 15. In addition
to the new episodes, the show will begin airing five days a week on stations
throughout the country.
"I have worked consistently for over a decade here in Hollywood," says
Wilson. "So I feel very blessed.
Wilson has demonstrated Hollywood’s most elusive trait: Staying power.
“The Parkers” is his 3rd television show.
'Television audiences have embraced me as
family, and it is a sincere delight," expresses Wilson.
Wilson's screen characters embody
intelligence, wit and professionalism with a keen sense of humor, all
qualities that make him a positive role model. He
may also be remembered
for his comic turn on HBO's "Dream On," as the smooth-talking, womanizing
talk show host Eddie Charles, a role for which he received a Cable ACE Award
nomination. Other television credits include starring as Franklin Goode in
UPN's "Goode Behavior" with Sherman Hemsley and recurring roles on "Living
Single," "Friends," "The Steve Harvey Show" and "Sister, Sister." He has
guest starred on "Seinfeld," "Moesha," "Friends," "The Fresh Prince of Bel
Air," and "Martin."
caught up with Wilson last week and found him to be a down-to-earth brother
who is truly humbled and feels blessed to be successful. Wilson remembers
the struggles and the sacrifices that he made to get to this point in his
career. During our conversation he recalled paying his dues by teaching
acting in the Bay area and his 10 years working in theater. Wilson was a
student of the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts in Santa Monica, CA
and the prestigious American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. Working
hard and paying his dues has garnered Wilson a very stable and established
career. “There’s no substitute for hard work when it comes to success,”
Although I didn’t spend any time talking with Wilson about him being a sex
symbol, I was well aware that the brother is in the 2003 Alayé Mens
Calendar. We spent most of our time talking about his career.
asked Wilson to describe the down side of being an actor. “The worst part
of being an actor is giving up part of yourself, especially when I’m with my
children. I appreciate the enthusiasm of fans who want to meet me but
sometimes folks can get excited and over due it with their enthusiasm.”
Wilson clearly accepts the good with the bad. “I try to be as gracious as I
can. When I’m by myself it’s much less of a problem.” Wilson also talked
about the best part of being a celebrity. “The best part of being a
celebrity are the perks – clothes, reservations in restaurants, invitation
to clubs and feedback from fans. I always feel good when I can bring a
smile to the face of his fans.”
also asked Wilson to describe what it's like working with
Mo’Nique and doing the TV show "The
Parkers." He immediately got excited and said: “That’s my girl man.
Mo’Nique is my heart--she’s the best. She's like a sister to me. What you
see is what you get. She is truly a beautiful person.”
the crew with making the set feel like home. “I feel like I’m going to work
every day and playing with my friends all day long and still getting a pay
check,” said Wilson.
In my opinion, part of Wilson’s success is because he’s a talented actor who
appeals to both men and women. The women love him because of his talent and
good looks. The men can relate to him because of his consistent depiction
of the professional working man.
Wilson attributes his charisma as probably being one of the key elements to
his success. He says his parents are his mentors because they taught him
that he could achieve anything in life. When I asked him to name some of
his favorite actors, Wilson cited Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Denzel Washington,
Cicely Tyson, Sidney Poitier and James Earl Jones as some of the people that
he grew up admiring.
When I asked Wilson to talk about his accomplishments, I expected him to
talk about his numerous awards or something along those lines. Instead
Wilson boasted that his two children are his proudest accomplishments. He
said: “I swear from the bottom of my heart, my kids are my proudest
accomplishment. I pride myself on being a great Dad.”
You can see Dorien Wilson on “The Parkers” on UPN on Mondays at 9:00 p.m.
Makeda Smith from
Jazzmyne PR for arranging this interview. Original interview conducted
November 2002 and updated January 2004.
Click here to read about the
"best kept secret in Hollywood."
Karibu Books: A
best in black book and the black book experience, you must visit Karibu
bookstores, either live or online.
When I walked into the
Karibu store in Bowie, MD, an immediate sense of pride came over me.
That is one impressive store. Karibu's Lee McDonald wanted to know if
Black Men In America.com would be interested in doing a feature on the store.
Many of the authors featured on this site have book signings at one or more of
the Karibu stores. When I arrived I was warmly greeted by Rico Morris
(pictured above), the Store Manager. The Bowie location is impressive.
The atmosphere was great. I had a great time. Thanks to Lee,
everyone can benefit from knowing more about this black owned business.
BMIA: When and how did Karibu Books get started?
Yao Ahoto started vending oils,
incense, etc in the DC area in 1992. In early 1993, Simba Sana joined and the
focus shifted to books. Karibu was the name chosen and it was incorporated in
March. Yao and his wife Karla and Simba
are the owners of Karibu. The original vision was to open one store in
Southeast DC. Karibu is a DC corporation but is still working on a store in
DC proper. Infrastructure, infrastucture,
Infrastructure! We stay away from the hype and keep our noses to the ground.
Also, location, location, location. We have a large selection of
black literature. We really focus on customer service. We have stores in
malls which offer consumers convenience. We also offer nice-looking stores
that use the latest bookselling technology.
Karibu has four stores in PG
County Maryland (Prince George’s Plaza, Bowie Town Center, Iverson Mall,
Forest Village Park Mall) and one in Arlington Virginia (Pentagon City).
How many employees?
Over 40 full and part-timers.
Who selected the
name Karibu? What does it mean?
Simba approached Yao with the
name since he was studying Kiswahili at the time. Karibu means “welcome,
come-in” It was chosen to emphasize good service.
Who are some of the
authors that Karibu has helped launch?
Omar Tyree, Darren Coleman, Zak
Kondo, Brian Gilmore. We have also completed a poetry/jazz cd project with
poet DJ Renegade.
What can we (the black
community) do to support Karibu?
to buy books and give us feedback on good and not so good experiences so we
know how to move ahead.
Photos To Enlarge
Seven years ago, EMI
Gospel recording artist, Darwin Hobbs was working at Saks Fifth Ave. in
his hometown of Cincinnati, OH. He decided to move to Nashville, TN, to
break into the music business. Shortly after arriving in Nashville, he became a professional background/studio session singer. Today, Hobbs
is pleasing gospel music fans with his new CD “Broken.”
is my best work yet. It’s the best of both worlds. Groove and Worship,” says
Hobbs. In the midst of what Hobbs’ calls his “incredible journey,” the album
title itself captures where the much sought after vocalist is in his life both
spiritually and creatively. This release, Hobbs’ third since signing with EMI
Records six years ago, follows his 1999 debut, “MERCY” and sophomore follow-up,
This may be Hobbs’ third
CD but he’s no newcomer to the music business. “I sang on over 700
records/sessions during my 4 years in Nashville,” explained Hobbs.
Hobbs says the new CD is
different from his first two releases. He explained, “Broken is different
because I'm different. Broken displays my writing
and producing skills that
have never before been shown.” Hobbs wrote three songs and used some of
today’s top musical producers including Tommy Sims (Amy Grant, CeCe Winans,
Kenny Loggins), Kevin Bond (Donnie McClurkin), Mike City (Brandi, Sunshine
Anderson), Bernie Herms (CeCe Winans) and Danny Weatherspoon (Tri-City
Singers, Shirley Murdock). A talented songwriter, Hobbs enjoys listening
to CeCe Winans, Mary Mary, Tommy Sims, Usher, Luther Vandross, and Kirk
All of that talent
explains the wide range of musical tastes that are evident on “Broken.” When
you listen to the CD you’ll get your “praise on.” You’ll also hear ballads,
R&B, and even hip-hop grooves!
Hobbs hopes that the
mixture of songs included on the CD will appeal to today’s modern Gospel music
audience. The discs’ diversity is demonstrated in songs such as the first
single, “NobodyLike Jesus,” a luscious duet with
label mate Shirley Murdock that features a mix of gospel, pop and R&B.
Hobbs has a nice
philosophy about him when it comes to music. “I believe music serves several
purposes. Some music is meant to assist you in your private worship
experience, while other music is simply great for mood setting, like vacuuming
your house, or riding in your car on a sunny day,” says Hobbs.
Hobbs said he grew up in
the church singing in the choir. “I didn’t do it by choice, my mother MADE me
join the choir.” I asked Hobbs who helped him to get to this point in his
career. I figured he had several mentors. Hobbs explained it this way, “I
had a mentor named John W. Stevenson in the area of worship, but other than
that, I really had no mentors to speak of, especially male mentors, but that’s
another interview.” Hobbs made it clear that when the rubber meets the road
he draws his strength from God and his wife Traci. When I asked Hobbs to talk
about the best part of being Darwin Hobbs, he responded as follows: “The best
part of being Darwin Hobbs is being married to the most beautiful black woman
in the universe--Traci Rene Hobbs. We've been best friends since 5th grade.
She knows enough about me to condemn me, but chooses to love me instead.”
Hobbs thinks about his
future and believes that 5 years from now, his fans will see growth in the
form of more music, more production and writing. Hobbs is even considering
public speaking engagements and partnering with his wife Traci to mentor
others and instill positive energy into marriages.
For those of you who
want to get into the music business Hobbs suggest the following: “Make sure
you pray and ask God where He wants you. Are you supposed to be a label
artist? If so, you need to network to get to know the right people who can
help catapult you. If you're digging for oil, get to an oil field for this
business like Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta. Go to where the
atmosphere is conducive to what you're trying to accomplish.”
I asked Hobbs what could
his fans do to support him. Hobbs replied, “Pray that I'll walk through every
door God opens for me. Visit my web site and keep in touch with what I'm
doing. And, encourage others not to download music--purchase it! We artists
have to buy groceries and pay rent just like y'all do.” Amen to that!
interview was conducted by
Gary Johnson with a special thanks to Robyn Ryland-Sanders of GQ Media for her
help in arranging this interview.
So what do you think?
If you would like to respond to
and sign our
to leave a public or private comment.
Foster Brown: Sister 2 Sister and Family Too!
Brown is the publisher and sole owner of
Sister 2 Sister magazine. She is
also the celebrity news personality on the syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show. She has won
numerous accolades as a trailblazer in the entertainment industry. Her talent and toughness have made her one of the most prominent African-American
women in entertainment journalism and her monthly publication a staple for
entertainment industry insiders.
I found Jamie Foster
Brown to be one of the nicest people that I’ve ever interviewed. She was
very gracious with her time and was a delight to talk to. I caught up with
Brown last week. I must tell you this is a very well rounded woman with a
wealth of life lessons and experiences that have given her the tenacity to
persevere and succeed during tough times.
Since launching in September 1988,
Sister 2 Sister magazine has grown
exponentially. In addition, Ms. Brown has significantly influenced not only
the entertainment industry, but also the entertainment audience. She has
proven herself to be more than just another female journalist with quick
wit. Her open moral outrage over the excessive violence in "gangsta" rap
lyrics and its increasing negative influence on young people served as the
catalyst that began the dialogue between members of the African-American
leadership and music industry moguls.
Because of her high
visibility in the entertainment world, this 15-year veteran is frequently
quoted by major news organizations. Newsweek magazine, lauding Ms. Brown’s
influence, recently listed her among the nation’s top “buzzmakers” along
with such notables as talk show hostesses Oprah Winfrey and Rosie
As an extension of her
magazine, Ms. Brown founded the syndicated radio show, “The Sister 2
Sister Celebrity Update,” which aired on 46 radio stations including the
BBC in London, and reached over a million listeners. Jamie airs every
Tuesday and Thursday in an entertainment segment of the popular “Tom Joyner
Morning Show” reaching an audience of over 9 million on over 100 radio
stations across the nation.
Simon & Schuster recently
released Ms. Brown’s first book, "Betty Shabazz: A Sisterfriends’ Tribute in
Words and Pictures." In the book, Ms. Brown amassed some of America’s most
prominent women, including Dr. Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, Whitney
Houston, Myrlie Evers-Williams and Dr. Dorothy Height, who in their very
personal essays commemorate the life and accomplishments of the late Dr.
Not bad for a woman who
used to be Bob Johnson’s secretary. That’s right Bob (BET Billionaire)
Johnson. She later moved up to produce two of BET’s flagship shows, “Video
Soul” and “Video LP.”
Having appeared on national
television outlets such as, “48 Hours,” “The Leeza Show,” “Sally Jessy
Raphael,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “The Maury Povich Show,” CNN, and BET,
Ms. Brown is held in the highest esteem by her peers in recognition of her
work. She also received the Anheuser Busch Eagle Award, the Martin Luther
King, Jr. Scholarship Award for Outstanding African-American Women in the
‘90s and the IMPACT Super Summit Award, which is one of the most prestigious
music industry awards in the country.
Ms. Brown’s career in the
entertainment business began in 1979 when she founded the Washington Theater
Group (an entertainment service group focusing on theater group sales.)
Later, she worked for Black Entertainment Television (BET) and at one point
served as Bob Johnson’s secretary.
asked Brown to identify her “big break”. She struggled with the question
and after thinking for a few moments
acknowledged that there was no one big break, but a series of little steps.
Brown says she had no mentors along the way, and explained that Sister 2
Sister magazine was never planned. “I was told by some people in the music
industry that I had a knack for writing.” Brown started writing for Impact
Magazine and other publications. Brown’s writing style was conversational
and engaging. She continued to generate interest in the industry. When it
comes to her success, Brown made it clear: “Black people put me in
business. I’m in love with black people.”
quit at BET, Brown borrowed money from friends and called on her industry
contacts for advertising revenue. Soon after, her husband, Dr. Lorenzo
Brown, an economist, who worked at the Energy Regulatory Commission helped
out by buying a computer. Dr. Brown taught himself how to use the computer
and although her publication at the time was just a hobby, Dr. Brown quit
his job in 1992 to work with his wife. Today, her two sons also work in the
business to make it a true family affair.
asked Brown to talk about what its like to be Jamie Foster Brown, she
credited her parents. “One thing I’m very, very happy about is that I had
great parents and they taught me a lot and along with my grandparents gave
me the foundation for what’s right and wrong. Now I have my life somewhat
complete and I feel that if I were to leave this earth today, I would be all
right. That’s the best part of being Jamie Foster Brown.”
credits her mother and father with having the most influence over her. “My family
background has really paid off. My sisters and I were raised with honesty
and integrity and we know how to receive people without judging them. I
also lived in Europe for 9 years. I had my children there and I was
educated there. Ms. Brown is a graduate of the University of Stockholm in
According to Brown, although Sister 2 Sister Magazine is doing well and many
consider it to be a success, she feels like it will be a success when she
can do more things to help black people. “Right now, I’m still building and
growing. I can’t spend the time and the money the way I want to, says
Brown.” “I want to grow black businesses and help people along the way.
I’d also like to see more black people save their money and direct that
money toward their own business.”
Foster Brown has a vision that many black folks don’t have. She’s
developing a legacy for her children to take over and manage. I asked Brown
if she had any advice for people who wanted to start their own business.
She stated, “If you want to start a magazine, you have to have an advertising base. I
had an advertising base in the music industry.” I interpreted this as
another critical skill that successful people use daily. Folks, a
large part of Jamie Foster Brown's success is that she
knows how to build and maintain relationships. She also noted that you
must have good credit to be successful in business. You have to pay
asked Brown if there was a person (outside of her family) that has
influenced her more than others. Her answer: “No. They’re all about the
same.” Brown did single out Bobby Brown. That’s right, troubled
R&B singer Bobby Brown.
According to Jamie, Bobby helped her during a critical time with her
business and he did it for FREE. She says Bobby Brown is kind, thoughtful and not
self-centered. Why the kind words for Brown? It's simple.
Jamie Foster Brown is loyal to people who have been kind to her.
Brown is a graduate of the University of Stockholm
in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2008, she received a
Doctorate in Humane Letters from Bennett College.
Originally from Chicago, Illinois, she currently
lives in Maryland with her husband, Lorenzo Brown,
who is an economist and the managing editor of Sister
2 Sister magazine. Their two sons, Randy and
Russell Brown, are, respectively, associate
publisher and business operations manager for Sister
This interview was
conducted by Gary Johnson in September 2003. A special thanks goes
out to Robyn Ryland-Sanders of GQ Media Public Relations who arranged this
Makeda: Hollywood’s Best Kept
What do Tonight
Show bandleader Kevin Eubanks; Queen of Comedy Mo’Nique, comedian
Brown, actor Dorien Wilson and Black Men In America.com have in common?
They’ve all worked with the “secret weapon.” That’s right, the secret
weapon – “Makeda.” How do you think I manage to get these celebrity
interviews for the web site? Certainly not with my charm and good looks.
Makeda Smith has been instrumental in helping us bring you features on folks
Ronald Jones and Mark Bush, inventors of the
SongPro Player, the hottest electronic product on the market and Real
Estate mogul “Boss
Several months ago
I told Makeda that I thought that she had a story worth telling. Smith has
a harmonious spirit, and she’s always upbeat and positive. Talking to her
is a ‘high energy” experience. Like me, she spends much of her workday at
the computer or tied to a telephone or some other form of electronic media.
I caught up with Makeda and got her to share some aspects of her life that I
In 1988, Gwendolyn
"Makeda" Smith resigned her position as Associate Director of West Coast
Publicity at Hervey & Company, a public relations firm headed by music
industry veteran, Ramon Hervey. Shortly thereafter and with a simple press
release she launched her firm,
Jazzmyne Public Relations, named for her oldest daughter.
As the president
and sole owner of
Jazzmyne Public Relations, this former welfare mother decided to develop
a personalized approach to the vast and hectic world of entertainment public
relations. That decision paid off. A home-based operation,
Jazzmyne Public Relations has consistently boasted a client base that
competes with the major firms. Specializing in publicity, media management
and management consulting, Smith has been instrumental in launching,
establishing and maintaining several highly visible publicity campaigns over
the years. I do business with a lot of people and Makeda Smith is at the
top of my list. She’s one of the best at building and maintaining
relationships. I love doing business with her. She’s thorough and
professional. If she commits to something, you can count on it!
Many of us are
familiar with some of the names on her client roster. Comedians J. Anthony
Brown, co-host of the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show, TV star
and Queen of Comendy, Mo’Nique, A. J. Jamal, and Paul Mooney to name a few.
Other clients include the Tonight Show's bandleader, Kevin Eubanks; child
actor Michael Pagan from "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" and actor Dorien
Wilson from the hit TV show “The Parkers.”
Interestingly enough, Smith didn’t know
anything about entertainment public relations. In fact, she walked away
from a regular paycheck. “I worked temp for about 6 months and was
extremely frustrated job hunting. A guy I was dating at the time located an
ad in the USC school paper (where I had just completed graduate school) for
a non-paid internship at an entertainment pr firm in Hollywood. I told him
he was crazy and there was no way I was going to work anywhere for free (my
oldest daughter was 2 at the time.)” Smith was uncomfortable working at
night with a young daughter. “I felt like my daughter was going to grow up
without me.” Smith really wanted to be home and decided to take a leap of
faith and venture out on her own. She did this with no savings or formal
“I’ve known that I wanted to be a public
relations person and entrepreneur since high school. The field of PR has
always intrigued me. With regard to entrepreneurship, my late father was an
entrepreneur and he would always say: “You don’t want to work for someone
else, you want to be your own boss.”
"The fact that I'm
a single mother of two, African American, and a woman, has always served to
make me work even harder. One, because I believe all these factors offer me
a springboard of strength and empowerment, and two, because I believe in
dispelling people's stereotypes and exceeding their expectations," offers
the Chicago native.
Armed with a
Master's degree in Communication's Management from the University of
Southern California, and a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations from
Boston University, Smith admits that the life of an entrepreneur has been an
uphill battle. "Like Whoopi Goldberg and Roseanne, I also was once a welfare
mom. Unyielding faith and perseverance have gotten me through the roughest
of times," reveals Smith.
It’s those rough times
that also keep Smith focused and grounded. “I would have to say that I am
influenced and motivated by the struggles and accomplishments of Black women
in general, throughout history, named and unnamed. I can’t name just one
person.” I think the success of this woman is due in large measure to her
mindset. For example, Smith does not acknowledge failure. I find that this
is the case with most successful people. She defines success as attaining
inner peace and noted that Erika Badu’s music calms her spirit. She says
her biggest business success is that
Jazzmyne Public Relations is 15 years old. On the personal side, she
recently purchased her first home.
Jazzmyne Public Relations is a home-based business. A typical day for
Smith is going downstairs to her office in her pajamas and working on the
computer. “E-mailing and phoning is 85% of my workload. Talking to
clients, networking folks, coordinating interviews, tracking press, etc.,
that’s a typical day at home in the office.”
I could not resist
asking Smith to give me her reaction to the recent Whitney Houston interview
with Diane Sawyer, which many people viewed as a PR nightmare (including
yours truly). Here’s what Smith had to say: “I love and respect
Whitney Houston. I believe she held her own in the interview. This
business is a tough and cruel one. I applaud her for standing by her Black
man (“they” don’t want to see us do that) and for holding her ground with
Sawyer. She didn’t break down, she broke it down!”
Is there a down side
for Smith? You bet. “The worst thing I have experienced and still
experience is clients not having a full comprehension of the scope of my
work and therefore not appreciating it. That and clients not paying their
bill is THE WORST!”
believe that everyone does something better than everyone else. Smith says
her ability to “read folks” is her gift. According to Smith, intuition is
power. “Peace is my constant mantra, inner peace. On those days where I
really don’t want to get up and face whatever, again, I channel the energy
of all the sisters before me, their struggles and accomplishments; and then
whatever I’m going through pales in comparison. I channel that energy and
strength through prayer and then I know, Goddess has my back and I’m going
to be alright!”
Of all the funny people that she works with Smith says her boyfriend is
probably the funniest. He’s the one who makes her laugh. I asked Smith to
share her thought on what it takes to succeed in show business. “Succeeding
in show business (in front of the camera) takes more than just talent. It
takes savvy, perseverance, knowledge and faith, combined with talent. My
best advice is to learn everything you can about the business and keep
reaching for your dream or goal.
rappers to celebrities to special events,
Jazzmyne Public Relationshas publicized a wide
range of projects and personalities. "I'm told that most small businesses
don't make it past five years. I'm blessed to still be here and going
strong!," asserts Smith. And I’m blessed because I can still land that
occasional celebrity interview—thanks to Makeda, the best-kept secret in
Mo'Nique: More Than Just A Funny Lady
Mo'Nique, winner of the 2001 and 2002 NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding
Actress in a Comedy Series (The Parkers), stars as Nikki Parker, a bold,
big-hearted single mother who attends college with her daughter Kim
(Countess Vaughn) in the UPN hit comedy series THE PARKERS. When
television’s long running show, “It's Showtime At the Apollo” decided to
revamp for the new season, Mo’Nique emerged as the natural contender for a
show that is also a staple in African American households.
Mo’Nique shows that she’s more than just a funny lady. Mo’Nique is also a
savvy businesswoman with a new book
entitled, “Skinny Women Are Evil” (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster), a
new comedy CD in the works, her own clothing line, (BBLI - Big, Beautiful
and Loving It), and a signature fragrance to launch soon.
asked Monique to recall when she first realized that she was funny. “I
first realized I was funny when my brother Steve told me I was funny. A
lot of people assume that I was the class clown. No. I was very prissy in
high school. I wore my heels, my skirt and had my briefcase. My brother
Steve, who’s been my manager for 15 years, tried to be the family comedian
and was horrible. He went on stage at the Comedy Factory Outlet in
Baltimore. Steve got out there and got booed. They cut the microphone off;
they cut the lights off, so I teased him the next day. I told him what I
would have said. I did a 40-minute routine. So Steve dared me to go down
there the next week and get on stage. Well I did it and got a standing
ovation. And somebody offered to pay me $25.00 to do a hair show. Steve
negotiated that I get an additional $5.00 for gas and we became
manager/client. The rest is history.”
have never written a joke --- ever,” Mo’Nique reveals, “because I'm not a
typical joke teller. I just talk about my life. ” The technique worked as
Mo’Nique soon found herself headlining the Queens of Comedy tour. The
female counterpart of the highly successful Kings of Comedy Tour, fronted by
Steve Harvey, Queens of Comedy was one of the most successful all-women
comedy events ever. With audiences reaching 40,000 upward, the album
version of the tour earned a Grammy nomination for Best Spoken Comedy Album.
She’s also starred in the movies "3 Strikes", "Baby Boy", and "Two Can Play
That Game." I asked Mo’Nique if there
were any similarities between her and the character she
portrayed in the movie “Two Can Play That Game.” “No!
Monique is very opinionated, very outspoken, but she’s not quick to fight.
The character I played in the movie was quick to fight. I related that
character to my best friend Michelle. I had to put me and Michelle in that
character because my best friend Michelle is a fighter. Other than that the
character is very real.”
In September 2000 Mo’Nique launched a new fashion line based on the
custom-made designs of her stage clothes. Managed by her sister, Millicent
Imes, MO'NIQUE'S BBLI, (BBLI standing for Big Beautiful and Loving It), is
"The Classy Fashions for the Lovely Full-Figured Woman!"
I want to change the standard of beauty in this
country,” she states. I was a fat baby coming out and I'm going to be a fat
baby leaving. I've always been comfortable with that.
I wasn’t a
size 2, I didn’t have hair all the way down my back. I was very okay with
who I was as a size 22 and with all of my curves and rolls. I wasn’t
willing to eat carrots and celery sticks all day to make you like me. I’m
okay with Mo’Nique. I think it was time for people to see that I’m the
norm. Size 2’s are not normal Gary. Hollywood women are not normal
people. They get a lot of work done. I’m not getting a doctor to cut shit
off of me. I put it [the weight] on and if I want it off I’ll take it off.
(Laughing) Mo’Nique hopes that her fashion line
will be in major department stores, such as Macy’s by next year.
Last month, I interviewed Mo’Nique’s TV co-star Dorien Wilson. She
talked about working with Dorien. “Dorien
is my baby. We have so much fun doing something we love and we get paid a
lot of money to do it. When you’re around good people that you love it
makes the job so much easier. Dorien is my shoulder. When I first came
into this show it was my first TV show. I never had a TV show, let alone
the starring role and it was so many things that people thought I should
know. I didn’t know shit. It was new to me and Dorien was the one who took
me by my hand and walked me through it.”
Mo’Nique is very excited about her new book,
Women Are Evil: Notes Of A Big Girl In A Small Minded World.”
She kept telling me that skinny women were evil. The book is scheduled for
release on April 1st. “I’m really excited about the book. The
book was co-written by Sherri McGee. I wanted to use another word for women
in the title but they [the publisher] wouldn’t let me, so I just used the
word women. It’s a funny book that compares the differences between skinny
women and big women, about traveling, sex, eating, exercise and everything.
The book is hilarious!"
One of the things that impressed me about Mo’Nique was how grounded she was
when it comes to reality and success. When I asked her about this, she
attributed her outlook on life to her family. “I credit my parents for my
outlook in life. I grew up in a middle class environment where my parents
had to punch the clock. My father told us that whatever we wanted out of
life we better go get it. He said: ‘Never call on Moses, cause Moses gotta
get back to you. Call on Jesus. He’s the one who has the answer.’”
Mo’Nique is also close to her siblings. “My brother’s my manager and my
sister Millicent runs the clothing line and she’s also my Personal
Assistant. When all of this goes away, they’ll still be my brother and
sister. I don’t trust nobody else with my shit. I can’t kill them, but I
can kill you Gary.” (Laughing).
Professional comedy is a highly competitive business. I found it
interesting that Mo'Nique doesn't compete. When I asked her to clarify
this she reiterated: “First of all I don’t compete. What God has planned for me you
can’t do anything with that. I never compete. I never say: ‘I gotta beat
them out.’ No, never. I think that my greatest challenge was when I
performed at the Georgia Dome and there were 44,000 people. It wasn’t even
a challenge it was uh, overwhelming because Atlanta was really where I got
started doing comedy. So to go back in front of 44,000 people that was my
own personal challenge. As far as competing against men, let me say that
for so long it was a lot of white men doing comedy, because that’s all that
was accepted. Then you had Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby. These
guys were brilliant, but as funny as they were, there was still a double
standard. If Bob Hope said “mutherfucker” he was brilliant. If Richard
Pryor said “mutherfucker” he was dirty. It was always a different
standard. I think now when it comes to men and women, women have positioned
themselves to a point where they can say: ‘I don’t care if you’re black,
white, whether you where skirts or pants, funny is funny.’ It’s not just
that black men are funny if they are really, really dirty. Now we’ve
reached a point in comedy where funny is funny.”
Persistence, hard work and dedication to your craft have always been the
formula for success with most people. When I asked Mo’Nique what advice she
would give to people trying to break into show business, I was not
disappointed. “Never have a Plan B. Only have a Plan A. When you have a
Plan B, it makes it easier to give up on Plan A. If you have Plan A, and
Plan A only, you’re either going to make it or die trying. I made it 15
years ago. Nobody knew it. I did. My big break didn’t happen when I
landed the TV show “The Parkers.” All of this shit right now is gravy. My
big break happened when I packed up my desk at MCI and said: ‘I Quit’ with
a baby in my arms. That’s when my big break happened.”
When asked about her preference of television, stand-up or movies, Mo'Nique
“Hmmm. I’m gonna say, stand-up. Stand-up keeps you sharp. It keeps you
sharp for television and movies. Have you ever noticed when comics stop
doing comedy, they’re not funny anymore? That’s because they’re not sharp.
Stand-up is the dance that got you to the party. I love being on stage.
Stand-up keeps you real because the people will let you know that night if
you were funny or if you weren’t. They don’t give a damn about you being on
TV, they don’t care about you being in movies. All they know is: ‘I paid
$40.00 to come see your ass, and you better make me laugh.’ That’s the real
test. When you do television and movies, someone yells ‘cut’ and you do it
again. By the time you see it, I’m at my best. On that stage, that shit is
live action right then, right there. You either do or you die. Stand-up
gets me in my gut. Look at Jerry Seinfeld. That’s six generations of
wealth. He’s not back on the road for the money. He’s doing it for the
passion because he’s a comic. That’s what we do. When you get people who
say: ‘I don’t need to go back on the road. I’ve made it.’ Well, they’re
shit ain’t really funny anymore.” (Gary and Mo’Nique laughing).
So what’s next for Mo’Nique? “I’m hoping that the book will be a bestseller
and staying prayerful that my movie career will continue to do what it’s
doing, staying prayerful that “The Parkers” will be around for another 3 or
4 seasons. There are a lot of things that Mo’Nique wants but I will be with
God and what he has for me. Mo’Nique wants to do a lot of things but it
ain’t my call. Today may be my last day. I will be wherever God will have
me to be. I hope he don’t take me no time soon, God knows I ain’t asking
for it. But wherever he’s going to have me is where I will be.”