Black Men Arrested At Starbucks Settle With Philadelphia For $1 And $200k Youth Program

By Posted on 0 2 m read

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, two black men who were arrested last month for sitting in a Philadephia Starbucks without ordering, has settled with the city for $1 each and a promise from city officials to launch a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.

Nelson, Robinson, and their lawyer told the Associated Press that the settlement was an effort to make sure something positive came out of the incident.

“We thought long and hard about it and we feel like this is the best way to see that change that we want to see,” said Donte Robinson. “It’s not a right-now thing that’s good for right now, but I feel like we will see the true change over time.”

Rashon and Donte were arrested after a Starbucks manager called the police and accused the young men of trespassing. The men, who had not ordered anything from the coffeehouse chain, said they were waiting for a friend to arrive before they began their business meeting, which is not uncommon at Starbucks.

Following the incident, which sent the country into a rage over its ongoing issue of racial profiling, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson came to Philadelphia to apologize to the men. He also announced that more than 8,000 Starbucks stores in the U.S. would close on the afternoon of May 29 so nearly 175,000 employees can get training in unconscious bias.

“I am pleased to have resolved the potential claims against the city in this productive manner,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. “This was an incident that evoked a lot of pain in our city and put us under a national spotlight for unwanted reasons.”

The entrepreneur program will be for Philadelphia public high school students and according to USA Today, their arrest record will be expunged as part of the deal.

Cicely Tyson Honored At TCL Chinese Theater’s Hand And Footprint Ceremony

By Posted on 0 2 m read

Legendary actress Cicely Tyson was honored at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood with a hand and footprint ceremony on Friday (April 27). The ceremony took place during the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival, which celebrates the representation of the written word on the silver screen.

Over the course of more than 60 years in the entertainment industry, Cicely was nominated for an Oscar in 1972’s “Sounder,” and won Emmys for “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” for Best Lead Actress In A Drama. She also won Actress of the Year for “The Oldest Living Confederate Widow” a Tony Award for “The Trip to Bountiful.” 

Winning the nation’s highest civilian award in 2016, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, I believe we can all agree that Cicely Tyson’s legacy in the industry is unmatched.

“To fully appreciate the magnitude of the impact Cicely Tyson has had, listen to Angela Bassett, currently starring in ‘Black Panther,’ list the women who’ve influenced her most profoundly. Bassett names Shirley Chisholm and Barbara Jordan, two pioneering African-American members of Congress, along with an actress – Cicely Tyson,” said Ben Mankiewicz, TCM Primetime Host.

“For decades, Tyson has been at the forefront of a shift away from clichéd, stereotypical characters of color to playing multi-dimensional, strong black women,” he added. “Whether she’s playing a beleaguered mother-in-law on Broadway in ‘The Trip to Bountiful’ (and winning a Tony), or a woman who endures the black experience in America from slavery to civil rights in ‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman’ (and winning an Emmy), or the proud and resilient matriarch of a depression era Louisiana family in ‘Sounder’ (and earning an Oscar nomination), Cicely Tyson has set a standard of excellence for actresses of all backgrounds on the stage and screen.”

No tags

The Smollett Family Release ‘The Family Table’ Cook Book

By Posted on 60 1 m read

The Smollett siblings are most known for their acting and musical talents but they have another side of creativity, cooking! Today Jussie Smollett announced on his Twitter that he and his siblings wrote a book about the bomb food they ate as broke ass youngsters!

The Smollet’s have appeared on the Food Network for their Smollett Eats series, where the fans got a peek into the siblings’ food-loving lives. Before the family became multi-dimensional stars in their own right they traveled the U.S and moved coast to coast 12 times. No matter where they were the one thing that remained constant was their family feasts. This is a perfect cook book to enjoy with your family. A family that eats together stays together. The book is written by Jussie, Jazz, Jake, and Jurnee and it is available everywhere! You will find delicious recipes which include:

  • Crispy Beef Lettuce Wraps
  • Potato Crab Au Gratin
  • Brown Butter Lamb Chops
  • Honey Sriracha Chicken Skewers
  • 7th Ward Gumbo
  • North African Chicken Stew
  • Cast-Iron Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

Head over to Amazon.com to purchase your copy!

 

Yara Shahidi Launches ‘Eighteen x 18’ Initiative Encouraging The Youth To Vote In This Years Midterm Elections

By Posted on 59 2 m read

Our girl, actress, and activist, Yara Shahidi has just turned 18 and for the big 1-8, she has decided to activate a voter initiative entitled #EightenX18. Eighteen X 18 is a creative platform to engage the younger generation to speak their truth, get active and vote! It is designed to uplift generation Z and encourage them to take action into their own hands. Through this platform, they will be able to discover the issues that impact them through their own stories and experiences.

“It’s more clear than ever that young people have both social and political power in our country, and it’s so important that everyone turning 18 this year engages in the political process,” Shahidi said in a statement.

The platform will include features on candidates and young people who are taking a stance and shaking things up. It will help explain how the U.S political system works and segments that break down issues like criminal-justice reform, immigration, the environment and gun reform.

The project is in partnership with NowThis, a social-activism agency. The president of NowThis Athan Stephanopoulos has compared the campaign to MTV’s Rock the Vote.  “Yara is an incredible influence and a leader among her peers, and we couldn’t be more excited to partner with her to bring Eighteen x 18 to our young and engaged audience,” he said.

We can’t wait to see the content and change that is developed through this initiative. Like Oprah said, Shahidi’s future is so bright it burns our eyes. Keep creating change for your generation Yara!

Follow the movement on Snapchat: @eighteenx18 and head over to the website for more info: www.eighteenx18.com.

Vanessa Williams Honored By The Hollywood Chamber Of Commerce With A Lifetime Achievement Award

By Posted on 48 1 m read

Vanessa Williams has been honored by The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Williams was given the award on Thursday at the Sheraton Universal Hotel in Universal City, Calif. The event was founded in 2000 to 2000 to “recognize celebrities who’ve made a difference in Hollywood.”

“I ended up doing musical theater in high school and some theater in college and Broadway was the tangible goal for me,” Williams said as she accepted her award. “Hollywood was never on the radar because it was one of those things that were unattainable.”

Williams did more than just make a name for herself in Hollywood, the actress was the first Black Miss America in 1983 and 1984. She also has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and has been in many films and television shows.

“Even though I feel like an outsider because this is all a dream, the fact that I can look at my life and see my achievements and know that Hollywood was such an integral part of what made me and what’s helped my career, I thank you.”

25 Black Owned Coffee and Tea Businesses You Might Not Have Known About

By Posted on 0 3 m read

There has recently been a uproar since a Philadelphia Starbucks employee called the police on two Black patrons. Their crime? Waiting for a friend. While that situation is still being dealt with, we are providing you with a few black owned alternatives that you might want to consider for future business.

Black Owned Coffee and Tea Businesses

Uprising Muffin Company (Washington DC) offers homemade muffins, coffee, sandwiches & salads served in a relaxed setting with comfy seating.

Northwest Coffee Roasting Company (Clayton, MO) is an artisan coffee roaster that embodies the legacy of coffee by unifying communities, stimulating dialogue, and providing hand roasted and brewed full city coffee.

Teatopia (St Louis, MO)  offers 70 different teas as well as other small food items that will leave you amazed and wanting more.

My Cup of Tea (Memphis, TN) offers over 30 varieties of specialty tea from all over the world. They have a substantial customer base in retail, wholesale and in gift packaging.

Ain’t She Sweet Cafe (Chicago, IL) is a casual, cozy eatery offering counter-serve sandwiches, smoothies & house-baked desserts.

Cafe Dejena (Oakland, CA) is a local Eritrean café that offers dine in meals all day, grab & go for those on the run, and catering for small events.

Beyu Caffe (Durham, NC) is an upbeat, bohemian hangout offering coffee, all-day American fare, a full bar, live jazz & free WiFi.

DC Conscious Cafe (Washington, DC) is “more than a cafe”. They offer good food, dialogue, entertainment, civic engagement and advocacy for the good of our community.

Serenity Tearoom (Frederick, MD) is on a mission to provide an elegant and professional Traditional Afternoon Tea, with tasty food, hospitable service and fond memories.

Serengeti Teas & Spices (New York, NY) introduces the history, magic, sumptuous taste and exotic flavors of Africa via signature coffees, teas, cocoas & spices.

Ivy’s Tea Co. (Online) is a pop culture and Hip-Hop inspired holistic health brand. They provide handcrafted, locally sourced herbal tea that is made small batch by an herbalist and herb-infused honey for millennials.

Black Momma Teas (Online) offers gluten-free loose leaf tea selections, biodegradable tea bags and organic flavored agave.

Sip & Savor (Chicago, IL) offers the finest certified fair trade coffee from around the world, as well as a wide selection of teas, mochas, lattes and blended drinks. They also serve delicious pastries and small bites from local bakeries.

The Terminal Cafe (Nashville, TN) is an unassuming coffee shop serving breakfast & lunch in a tiny, traveling-themed space.

Gullah Girl Tea (Online) offers delicious original healing tea blends, made by hand with love with a mission to promote healing and wellness.

Crazy Coffee Co. (Lenexa, KS) offers a variety of drip coffee flavors suitable for any home coffee maker. They offer offer 6 flavored coffee selections per month, that changes every two months.

My Coffee Shop (Atlanta, GA) is a coffeehouse offering all-day breakfasts alongside sandwiches & baked goods in quirky surrounds.

Rise and Grind Café (Milwaukee, WI) offers hot and cold sandwiches, soups, breakfast items. They also offer catering and meal planning services.

Breukelen Coffee House (New York, NY) is a cozy coffeehouse providing brews & baked goods in a space that invites lingering.

Café ULU (Atlanta, GA) is unapologetically centered on  the culture of our people and more specifically, on the historical and current influence of coffee and the coffee trade.

Friday’s Coffee (Atlanta, GA) tantalizes your palate with some of the planet’s most unique and rare coffees.

Red Bay Coffee (Oakland, CA) is building a global community through our commitment to sourcing, developing, roasting and delivering the best and most beautiful coffee to the people.

Urban Grind Coffee House (Atlanta, GA) is a hip coffeehouse with cafe menu & free WiFi holds film screenings, poetry slams & other arty events.

Grant Park Coffeehouse (Atlanta, GA) is a neighborhood coffeehouse serving light breakfast fare, sandwiches & pastries in chill, compact digs.

Just Add Honey Tea Company (Atlanta, GA) is a sophisticated twist on a southern tea tradition we offer thoughtfully blended loose leaf teas made in small batches to ensure the perfect cup cheers!

Black Mamas Matter Alliance To Launch First ‘National Black Maternal Health Week’

By Posted on 47 2 m read

Did you know that black women are three to four times more at risk of a pregnancy-related death than white women? According to a 2017 CDC report, 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications.

Bringing awareness to black maternal health and the factors causing these pregnancy-related deaths in African American women is The Black Mamas Matter Alliance, an organization combating the poor black maternal health outcomes within the U.S. health care system.

They will be hosting the first National Black Maternal Health Week from April 11 to April 17. During Black Maternal Health Week, organizers are hosting community events in California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Texas to raise awareness about the racial gaps in maternal health and to discuss solutions to closing them.

“The goal of the week is to deepen the conversation around black maternal health and amplify black women leaders who are working on the issue,” says Elizabeth Dawes Gay of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance.

According to Mic.com, events will include screenings of Death by Delivery, a documentary about black maternal mortality, panels featuring black women advocates, and educational workshops on yoga for birth and postpartum stages.

During an interview with Vogue, published earlier this year, tennis superstar Serena Williams recalled a very traumatic ordeal of her own following the birth of her daughter, Olympia. Serena experienced several small blood clots that settled in her lungs. She initially requested a CT scan and blood thinner medicine, but doctors had not listened and performed an ultrasound of her legs instead. After the ultrasound revealed nothing, Serena was sent for her requested CT scan, where the blood clots were then discovered. Returning to surgery due to the opening of her c-section wound from the intense coughing spells caused by the pulmonary embolism, they found that a large hematoma had flooded her abdomen.

“There is a different level of care afforded to people of color, indigenous people, poor people and trans people,” says Lynn Roberts, co-editor of Radical Reproductive Justice and professor at CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. “I think that is systemic. And that devaluing and that stigmatizing gets in the way of quality care.”

Visit https://blackmamasmatter.org/ to learn more.

66 Young Black Elected Officials Release National Agenda To Combat Police Brutality And Gun Violence

By Posted on 0 3 m read

In an effort to combat police brutality, the National Black Caucus of the Young Elected Officials Network has released a national agenda to not only put an end to the police killings of young people of color, but calls for a joint approach to gun violence as well.

The open letter, signed by 66 young black elected officials, calls out both President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who they believe has abandoned the Justice Department’s legal and moral responsibility to uphold core constitutional principles.

“Police brutality is a national issue,” said Baltimore City Council Member Brandon Scott. “President Trump’s comments to the contrary, that this is just a local issue, are disrespectful. If we are truly going to solve this, we need the Department of Justice to invest nationally in body camera technology and law enforcement training.”

The national agenda was released following the recent killings of 34-year-old Shaheed Vassell (left) and 22-year-old Stephon Clark (right), both at the hands of the police.

“Yesterday (April 4), police in Brooklyn needlessly killed Saheed Vassell, a mentally ill man who was well known in his community,” said Svante Myrick, mayor of Ithaca and head of People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Official Network. “Two weeks ago, Stephon Clark was murdered in his own backyard. This violence won’t stop unless we make it stop, by demanding more accountability and a change in the way we police. Today, young black elected officials are coming together to say never again to police brutality, just as last week we said never again to gun violence.”

The Young Elected Officials Network calls for change and accountability at both national and local levels. Their list of demands include:

  • Federal, state, and local prosecutors to prosecute police misconduct. We expect prosecutors to achieve justice and use their power to monitor police abuse.
  • Local prosecutors to create a local civil rights unit dedicated to investigating and prosecuting police misconduct fairly, transparently, and independently.
  • State attorneys general to provide recommendations and guidelines for local prosecutors and investigators of misconduct to ensure police accountability.
  • DOJ as well as state and local prosecutors to launch systemic investigations when agencies are suspected of engaging in “pattern or practice” violations and discrimination.
  • Local mayors and city councils to create civilian oversight structures, select police chiefs who prioritize building trust with communities, conduct de-escalation and life preserving trainings, develop protocols to ensure these trainings are observed, and support alternative mental health interventions.
  • Every police department to reflect the diversity of the communities they serve and reject misguided practices such as “broken windows“ and “stop & frisk.”
  • Explore regulations on police use of firearms.

“From Saheed Vassell to Stephon Brown, what is happening across our country right now does not reflect a just America for all. As prosecutors, we hold the power of law in our office and with that comes a heavy responsibility. I urge my fellow prosecutors across the country to show our nation that we value every single one of our constituents, including the lives of people of color, by prosecuting crimes by police officers against them. When we were elected to be public servants, we took our oaths with the understanding that the tasks ahead would not always be easy. Fighting for justice must always be at the forefront and we must strive to always do what is right for our people no matter how uncomfortable or trying the road may be,” says Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales of Portsmouth.

Read the open letter here: http://yeonetwork.org/a-joint-open-letter-to-end-police-violence-against-black-communities/

Michigan Announces Ending To State Distribution of Free Bottled Water To Flint Residents

By Posted on 0 2 m read

After four years of lead contamination, the state of Michigan announced on Friday (April 6) that the health of Flint’s drinking water has been restored and the state distribution of free bottled water is ending.

According to a news release by Gov. Rick Snyder’s office, water distribution centers will close as soon as existing supplies run out, prompting residents to rush to area depots that were scheduled to close at 6 p.m.

The surprising announcement immediately drew outrage from Flint residents who say the water is still unsafe to drink. “It’s too quick,” said Flint activist Melissa Mays of the group Water You Fighting For. “They’re putting dollars and cents ahead of Flint residents, which is how we got here in the first place,” she added.

In 2014, Flint, Michigan’s drinking water became contaminated with lead as the result of a state-appointed emergency manager switching the city’s drinking water supply from Lake Huron water treated in Detroit to Flint River water treated at the Flint Water Treatment Plant.

While Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Tiffany Brown believes there is a four to seven day supply of water left available to Flint residents, Ari Adler, a spokesman for Gov. Snyder says the supply may run out quicker than expected due to Friday’s announcement.

“We would encourage people to be civil with each other, and not take water that they don’t need,” says Adler.

According to Detroit Free Press, the state says Flint’s water has tested below federal “action levels” for lead for nearly two years, and four consecutive six-month monitoring periods. Although this may be the case, in a letter to Snyder, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said that while the water has improved, trust must also be restored before free bottled water is cut off.

“This is not what I want for our city and I stand by my position that free bottled water should be provided to the people of Flint until the last-known lead-tainted pipe has been replaced,” Weaver said in the letter.

The state has reportedly been spending about $650,000 a month on bottled water for Flint. Nonprofit groups have also been distributing free bottled water at Flint churches.

Flint switched back to Detroit water in October 2015, but some risk remained because of damage to the city’s water distribution infrastructure.

Three Things We Learned About Tyra Banks From Her Memoir ‘Perfect Is Boring’

By Posted on 0 3 m read

Tyra Banks has teamed up with her mother to release her latest book, Perfect Is Boring, which mixes in lessons for mothers and daughters as the duo trace Tyra’s journey from start to top model.

Here are three things we learned about Banks from the book.

She had a nose job

Banks, 44, says she “tweaked” her nose when she was younger.

“I had a Pinocchio nose: It just kept growing. Though instead of growing long, it continued to grow left and right in the area between my eyes. And that spot felt itchy all the time,” she wrote.

She says she didn’t have an issue with her nose (besides the itching), but decided to seek out a doctor after a makeup artist made a comment about it when she started modeling.

“He told me he could stop the itching and sculpt my nose with his philosophy — to preserve ethnic features,” she wrote, after explaining she turned down a previous doctor who wanted to give her a “straight-up-too-thin-too-point-too-WTF” nose. “Did he keep his physical promise and did the itching stop? You nose it.”

She was in the running to become Princess Tiana

Banks also says she was in the running to become the first black Disney princess but lost to Anika Noni Rose, a Broadway singer. The news crushed the model/actress, who loved Disney and was trying desperately to break into the music scene. 

“My dream was over. Done. Was not gonna happen. I was devastated,” she explained.

But it wasn’t all a loss. During a lunch with her (third) music manager not long after, an even better idea of how Banks could connect with people came to them: a talk show.

And so, The Tyra Banks Show was born. 

“Tyra wasn’t meant to be the next Katy Perry or J.Lo,” London wrote. “But the girl could talk and had a gift for helping people see the inner and outer beauty they couldn’t see in themselves.”

She is really good at saving money

“Even before my career, I was a saver. My brother was a spender, I was a saver. I would hold onto it forever and dole it out slowly. My mom explained to me the importance of real estate and that typically in Los Angeles it’s going to appreciate. While a lot of models were partying it up and going shopping and buying a closet of designer clothes or staying at the top hotels during fashion week, I was at the Doubletree or Embassy Suites, saving my money, and bought a house at 20 years old. She explained to me investing is super important.”

Also, when I was 19 years old, I was a new star on the rise. My mom said “You’re starting to make some money. It’s not a lot, but I’ve read about this investment banker and I want to meet with him and tell him that he should start managing your portfolio. So she went to meet with him and he was like, “Look, I don’t take anything below a million dollars to start.” And my mom’s like, “Look, here’s $10,000. They say my daughter is going to be a star and that she’s going to make a LOT of money. And you will not regret this.” And he said yes. And to this day, he’s still my money manager.

I was always conservative. I was always more interested in experiences over things. Things didn’t make me happy. I saved saved saved. But I saved to a fault. About 15 years ago, my accountants pulled me aside, and they were like “Tyra. You’re not spending money. Nothing. You’re just giving it away to the government. You need to spend some damn money!” So we created something called the “F Account.” Which was the “frivolous account.” And I had a budget to spend frivolously for the year, every year. I needed that to feel safe.

#LiveCivilInterview: ‘Star’ On Fox’s Ester Lou Weithers Talks All Things Screen Writing & Creating

By Posted on 0 12 m read

There has been a wake and revolution of African-American creators, writers, producers, and all around game changers. With the recent success of creators like Lena Waithe & Issa Rae, we have all been curious and intrigued by Television and film creators. Seeing relatable black women create successful, tasteful, and lucrative TV has inspired many of us to shoot for the stars. These monumental moments in cultural and entertainment history have opened our eyes to a world that we never thought we would see ourselves a part of. The television and film industry is notorious for being run by white men. In 2017, it was reported that only about 5 percent of TV writers were African-Americans. If African-Americans only consist of 5%, we can only imagine how many of them were black women.

During Ava Duvernay’s press run for A Wrinkle In Time, she emphasized that this is only the beginning of true inclusivity for people of color. We have come so far but we’ve got some ways to go. Over here at Live Civil, we pride ourselves on providing our readers with resourceful content. We wanted to get the scoop for you all on what it takes to write and create a hit TV series so we sat down with creator & screenwriter Ester Lou for the gems.

Ester Lou is most known for her role as a writer on the hit FOX series, Star. Star is an American musical drama television series created by Lee Daniels and Tom Donaghy. It revolves around three talented young singers who navigate the music business on their road to success. Star recently took over Wednesday nights on TV by attaining higher ratings than ABC’s Modern Family. Her career in entertainment began after college when she worked at Lifetime in their corporate communications department. Since then Esther has worked in scheduling and programming at VH1, was an assistant at Nickelodeon, a PA on House of Lies, and an intern turned co-creator with Black & Sexy TV.

Ester got her big break through a fellowship with Fox where she went through a 4-month intensive process of working on a new pilot and learning how to pitch. The fellowship ended with a pitching contest where fellows were able to pitch to Fox executives. Ester won the fellowship and got her first staffing job on Pitch, she then went on to land a position with Empire and now Star. In this interview, Ester walks us through her personal journey to becoming a television writer. She talks about what it’s like to be a woman of color in the writer’s room, how to pitch, how to get good at script writing, the sacrifices that she had to make to become successful in the industry, and much more.

Walk us through a typical day as a TV writer on the set of Star… 

At the start of the season before production we are discussing the season, the characters, everyone is pitching ideas for what we want to see for the season. Typically the showrunner has a vision and we’re just pitching ideas to help execute that. That happens in the first week or week and a half. After that, we start settling in on some specific ideas and the big moments that we want to see happen in the season (The creation of story arcs and character arcs happens during this time).

As we get closer to production we start making the ideas more concrete and that’s when we start talking about what happening episode by episode. We’re all sharing ideas and we are all pitching different ideas. It’s very free-flowing. It is my favorite part of the room because it is so chill and anything is possible! When it’s just about time for production episodes & scripts are assigned to different writers. This is when people start to leave the writers room to go write their script alone in their office.

Once we start shooting, people start going to set to actually produce their episodes. This is when the pace and energy begin to heighten because the clock is ticking. At this point, we’re thinking about production, budgets, actors, and schedules. It’s a little more hectic towards the end but before you know it the last episode is being filmed!

What type of stories do you like to tell? 

I love to tell stories about people who are accidental heroes, who weren’t necessarily trained or positioned or elevated to the status of hero but life happened and extraordinary circumstances brought out the best in them and before they know it they become a hero to themselves and the people in their lives.

How do you handle rejection when it comes to pitching your ideas?

Your job as a writer is to fulfill the vision of the showrunner and creator of the show. It is not your show. Unless it is a show that you actually created, it is not your show. You can pitch an idea and see how the room responds to it. If they don’t like it and you happen to feel very strongly about it, you can find an opportunity to strategically pitch it again later on. If that doesn’t work you have to move on and let it go.

If they don’t receive the idea then it’s not received. Someone else can even pitch something similar to your idea with a tweak and it would work. At the end of the day, you have to not take it personally unless you feel like someone is batting down every idea you have. If they don’t accept your idea it is cool, that is not the story that they want to tell and that is fine. Go back and think of something else.

When working as a PA, how did you go about letting the company know that you were interested in screenwriting?

I was always writing and working on a script as a PA. However, when you are a PA in the writer’s room it was understood that you are an aspiring writer. If you happen to get a job further away from the writers you should always be writing. When I worked for House Of Lies, the writers knew that when the set was closed Esther was in the office because she is working on a script. Every job I had known that I was working on a script. They knew that when I had downtime that is exactly what I was doing and that is what you’re supposed to be doing. People are always watching you, even if they don’t comment on you or anyone else they are watching you.

I would also as if I could read a script or come in for a table read. Sometimes they said no but at least they knew where my interests were and that I was trying to grow and expand my knowledge. Always ask questions because you never know until you say something. Aspiring writers should also find someone who had a similar path, those are the people who will look out for you. The writers PA in my room at Star is my homie because I have done his job and I understand what it is and what it takes. Especially now in this climate, there are more black writers, people are looking out for each other.

You didn’t stay at a job that didn’t fulfill your creativity. You constantly took risks throughout your career until you were satisfied. Can you talk about the importance of taking risks even when they feel uncomfortable?

Your best life is on the other side of comfort. It does not live within the confines of comfort. There are going to be people around you who don’t understand what you’re doing and don’t understand what you’re chasing. You have to be able to have enough confidence and enough strength in yourself to not let those people and their fears and the confines that they place on their life influence you. As long as you have a plan for your passion it will pay off.

What was your biggest risk?

Moving to LA because I loved New York. Television writing is one of those careers where you have to move to LA. You can do production in other cities but if you want to work in television specifically you have to live in Los Angeles. There was not a lot drawing me there but I realized comfort would be my prison and years from now. I did not want to look back at my life and wonder what would have happened if I moved to LA.

What made you take the big leap?

I just got to a point where mediocrity was just so unsatisfying and disgusting. I felt like I could do more and that I could be more. When that happens you’ll be willing to take that risk, no matter what. If you chase it and fail, I guarantee that you will get some benefit from it or you may end up on another path that you didn’t even know was out there for you. There is never any real failure at risk, only divergent paths.

What do you suggest people do before quitting their job and risking it all?

Make sure you work your pocketbook. I’m not going to get into anyone’s pocketbook but make sure you figure that part out. I emptied out my 401K, I would not recommend that to anyone else. It’s paying off now but it worked out. Sometimes when you take a huge risk it places pressure on you to be super focused and disciplined because you’ve already risked it all. You don’t have any other choice but to succeed because failure is not an option.

We love how extreme and intense Star is, it always takes the viewers on a crazy roller coaster. What do you love most about writing for Star?

One of the best things about working with Lee Daniels is that you have the opportunity to tell stories that aren’t always told on television and you get to do it in a way that is exhilarating. We always go for it. I have also always loved music, I planned to work for a record label in college so it’s cool to show up on set and it’s a fictional record label. It feels like I made it in the music business after all!

The young ladies are also amazing, Jude, Brittney, and Ryan. They put in serious work. They rehearse back to back, learn lines, and choreography. So to live that girl group fantasy through them is really amazing. I have a great time doing that.

Why do you think that it is important for companies to have writers of color in the writing room? 

At the end of the day, you want to have representation in the writer’s room so that you can have a true representation on the screen. Where we are in our culture right now there are so many so many different people of so many different backgrounds that have amazing stories that have yet to be told. I think we are moving in that direction more and more, the politics and the profit have proven to be has proven to be lucrative for companies. They are understanding that the money is there and they are being shamed when the representation is not there.

S/O to Black Twitter, we will call you out and I so appreciate that. I think that is a major part of the reason why we are seeing that shift. Companies are learning, some are embracing it and some are learning the hard way. Either way, we are here and we are not going anywhere. Our stories will be told, we will tell them ourselves and we will do it with excellence and authenticity.

Have you ever been the only woman of color in the room? Can you tell us about that experience?

I was the only black woman in the writer’s room on Pitch, which was about a female baseball player. That was my first show so I wasn’t really sure what my role was in the room. I knew our show was about a black woman and that I was the only black woman. I felt a sense of responsibility and expertise but those two things have to be weighed within the context of the job that you are hired to do. It’s a balancing act of working with the story that they want to tell vs. what I thought the story should be. That was a balancing act for me and something that I had to learn.

Fortunately, in that room, my thoughts and my ideas were very receptive. I have had colleagues who were in the same scenario and their ideas have not been receptive. It can go either way, every writer’s room is different. I put a lot of pressure on myself but I had a writing group full of black women supporting and letting me know what was realistic and what wasn’t.

Talk to us about your experience when it came to working with other people of color who were not black?

I have been in situations where I have been in a room and I have spoken up for another character that was a minority but not a black woman. People looked at me like, “This is not one of yours. Why are you speaking up?”. There are similarities and a community. At the end of the day the mainstream is typically white caucasian and then there’s the rest of us. So we look out for each other. If I see you saying something wack about a Latino man or a latino women I am going to comment on it.

What are the complexities that come with being a television writer and woman of color?

My counterparts can just pitch an idea. They don’t have to think about anything else if they have a good idea they can just go for it. I would always have to pitch an idea but I would have to think about if it was good on the black front, woman front, immigrant front, etc. I juggle all my critiques so that they can be constructive and received well.

What advice do you have for people of color in the writer’s room who want to speak up but don’t know how?

Understand why you were hired, some people are hiring you specifically because they want your black voice. Some rooms, unfortunately, you will realize that you were hired because you are simply there to check a box for HR purposes, and you see that they really don’t want to hear what you have to say. The first thing you should do is figure out what is your role in the writer’s room and find a way to strategically do your job and find ways to make sure those characters are authentic and complex.

Your diplomacy game and your political strategic communications game have to be on point because it will be hard to get your point across if you’re just attacking people in the room. So you have to find a way to fix problems with a story solution. Know how to communicate to the people in the room so that you can get the result that you want.

How do you feel about internships and/or working for free?

I interned on a lot of jobs for free. You must be clear about what you want to get out of it. Work hard to get that thing out of it and then be out. When I interned I let them know that I would work for free if I am able to shadow the director and the editor. Internships are supposed to be an exchange. Know the worth of your values. We joke sometimes in the writer’s room if someone has a good idea, they say they are going to save that for their pilot. All though we are joking it really isn’t a joke at all, you know you’re golden egg and gold mine ideas. Don’t ever give that up! The idea that is going to take you to the top, don’t share that with anybody.

What’s next for you?

I am working on some of my own material right now, production on Star is coming to a close. I am very excited to write dramatic thrillers starring black women so stay tuned!

What do you want the world to know about Esther Lou?

I want to expand the spectrum of blackness in the world and in pop culture. I feel as though we are in an amazing time where there are a variety of black woman on the screen in literature, small or big. The spectrum of blackness is expanding people are seeing more of who we truly are, the different sides of us, the different versions of us and I am so excited to be apart of that. That is my goal in everything that I write, whether it is my own idea or someone else’s.

What type of stories do you like to tell? 

I love to tell stories about people who are accidental heroes, who weren’t necessarily trained or positioned or elevated to the status of hero but life happened and extraordinary circumstances brought out the best in them and before they know it they become a hero to themselves and the people in their lives.

 

Zoe Kravitz Talks ‘Big Little Lies’, Group Texts, & Tattoos In InStyle Magazine

The beautiful Zoe Kravitz has graced the cover of InStyle magazine. Kravitz has been killing it lately with her YSL Beauty and Tiffany & Co. fashion campaigns, role on the hit show Big Little Lies, and she has new music on the way. Kravitz sat down with her godmother Marisa Tomei for an interview for InStyle’s May issue. The issue has four vibrant covers.

 

Zoe and her Godmother discussed aging, beauty, how Zoe relaxes and how she regroups. Kravitz will be hitting 30 later this year and nothing is more important to her than feeling centered and beautiful on the inside.

“Beauty is so much what’s on the inside, as Hallmark-y as that may sound.” – Zoe Kravitz

Zoe is huge on self-expression and one of the ways that she shows her inner beauty on the outside is through tattoos.

“I think the fact that they’re permanent is such a wonderfully intense thing. It’s a deep way to adorn yourself, and I think they’re beautiful aesthetically. Even if you get a bad tattoo, it’s like…that’s where you were at that time.” – Zoe Kravitz

Just like the rest of us, Zoe loves her some coconut oil. It is her go-to beauty product is coconut oil.

“I love the idea of putting something on your body that you can eat and that smells like cupcakes … because girls are supposed to smell like cupcakes [laughs]. It’s my favorite thing in the world, coconut oil.” – Zoe Kravitz

Zoe also discussed her co-stars on Big Little Lies. She spilled on who was her “support system” and talked about how the cast kept in touch after the first season via group texts.

“Before we knew we were coming back for a second season, we kept in touch—group texts and emails and stuff like that. And I’ve spoken to [co-star] Reese [Witherspoon], who’s become one of my dearest friends, about so many aspects of my life.”

For more head over to InStyle.com